The Adventures
Frodo Gardner

Volume II
Through Shadows to the Edge of Night
By Dolores J. Nurss

Chapter 13, Part 43
Back to the Waking World
(December 12, 1451)

Frodo had no idea how he had gotten through that day. First he had politics to face--so many hands to shake, so many strangers to talk intelligibly to without reference to visionary dreams. Then he had to meet with several bureaucrats in turn before he could learn where to collect the back pay owed him since the King first called him into service. After that he took on the chaos of outfitting his expedition to Mordor, tracking down all the different little shops he needed in a vast and unfamiliar city, while trying to figure out how the post worked in Minas Tirith so he could get his letter sent home.
Frodo had hoped that Bergil might help him, but court demanded the ranger's presence. Eventually pages summoned Frodo, too, to testify regarding the assault against him on the access road; he had to relive in detail the fear, the rage, the grief--and all the while the aftermath of Valinor's light amplified his memory, so that he smelled again the mingled scents of pine and blood, he shivered in the distant snow, and Billie-Lass's neighs of pain reverberated in his head. Then he stood there and endured the brigand heaping counter-accusations on him, until even by the fairest measure the King had heard enough and judged the blonde man guilty anyway. But before Frodo could reunite with his friend, the King needed Bergil for some other errand, while the page showed Frodo out into the streets again, after shaking his head and telling the hobbit no, he had no idea where in Minas Tirith one might buy blocks of eastern ink.
All this Frodo had to manage on a day when he found it challenging even to button his waistcoat without fingering the intensely textural wooden buttons as though they had been talismans of power and import. He stumbled through his tasks in the lingering intoxication of his dream, intensely aware of every least detail of the beauty all around him, yet hardly remembering what he said to whom or how he finally obtained the supplies he did. Had his duties permitted, he could have spent hours contemplating dust motes glinting in the sunlight or the mountainous ridges on a crumpled ball of paper tossed aside.
Frodo could well understand why mortals could not last long in the brilliance of the Undying Lands! But now he also understood that it did not matter, that in that country one lived years in seconds, ages in an hour, that his namesake had lived a rich, full life no calendar could measure, and in some sense his presence had imprinted on the land that knows no stain and no real time, and he had never really died. It could well be, Frodo thought, that years from now a traveler might sail to that shore and set foot into the exact same day that the Bagginses had arrived, and find them both alive.
But that had nothing to do with haggling over the price of flints and steel, or getting the rip in his weskit stitched back up. He had a letter of requisition to take up to the tower buttery for field rations, Sting to take to the armory for attention to that loose bolt in the sheath, and an apothecary to track down, on Strider's advice, for a soap that could repel the biting gnats of Mordor. And Frodo had a blur of forms to fill out, to confirm his commission, to consent to all the details of how he should be paid and what his care should be in sickness or in injury, and how best to notify his next of kin...
How do you pretend that an entire world--and more than that, a whole new way to see--does not exist? How do you go out and act like everybody else, as though life really did revolve around lists and ledgers, as though boredom made up the warp and woof of life and all else added up to nothing more than pigment painted on the surface, an illusion? How do you keep from shouting in the streets, "Look! There is magic in these stones and wood, in the glass and metal and clay, magic throbbing in the living sap and blood, radiating in the sunlight and lurking in the shadows! Listen! All of this is real!" Dare you tell people that they are the ones out of touch with reality, not you? Or do you force yourself to go about your business like the rest, like nothing has changed, frustrated and yet maddeningly in love with all these flawed and homely persons most beautiful of all that a whole new world of miracles has to offer--and not even aware, themselves, of their own glory!
And Frodo had to wonder--how many others out there saw what he did, blending in just like him, praying that the blindness all around them would not infect them, too, begging never to forget? Did Gandalf feel this way, when he walked in Middle Earth? Did the blindness creep over Saruman so slowly that he never knew it happened? How in Middle Earth could such a vision happen to a hobbit?
Hardest of all had been Frodo's meeting with the Queen, for he saw in her face the visage of the healer in his dream. She had said little to him from her lips--courtly words, appropriate to the occasion, not meaning much beyond the assurance that proprieties had been kept, his errand acknowledged, her blessing given. But other communication flooded into him from her, of a kind he had never experienced before, as though his sleeping journey had endowed him with a sense till then unknown. Arwen's thoughts seemed to enter his heart and radiate from there. She told him that his mission mattered more than anyone could put into words, that kings and queens, warriors and masters of lore, existed so that gardeners and farmers could ply their trade in peace, nurturing the land and the people, and so that life, such as he served, could prosper undisturbed.
Then she had motioned Frodo forward, dismissing all of the ladies in waiting and the guards. She had bent to him and laid her hand--her delicate, powerful hand--right over his heart that had told him so much. And she felt there what he now wore suspended on a cord about his neck, and suddenly he understood. "It was well given," she said audibly, and the words sang in his head. "Carry it with you always, you who are beloved of Good-Sprung-From-Evil. The Unloved shall love you, and bear rich fruit for you, to the measure that you love back--so you shall find in the land of Mordor, that all men dread. And so you shall find elsewhere in your life, as well."
Finally, much to his surprise, she straightened with suddenly twinkling eyes and winked at him, saying, "You may keep whatever secrets my husband bids you leave unspoken--but I know all about little Luthie." And with that she summoned back her handmaidens and shut the doors.
He only dimly remembered returning to his quarters after that. He had no idea how much time he'd spent simply sitting on his bed--seeing, hearing, feeling the wool beneath his hands, smelling the air come through the window; everything rushed in on him again as it had that morning. But gradually his perceptions quieted down to something less than the splendors of Valinor; he settled back into being Frodo Gardner, son of Samwise, hobbit of the Shire, and felt content.
(Yet he did not forget...)

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