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Last of the Company
by Annael

Frodo woke before dawn. This was not unusual; his sleep was always deep and restful here, and so he did very well with very little. He got out of bed and slowly dressed. He had no plans for the day. Long ago he had stopped making plans. He preferred to let each day surprise him. He wondered what today’s surprise would be.

Looking out of the round window, he saw that dawn was near and decided to climb the hill and watch the day begin. It had been some time since he’d paid his respects to Bilbo anyway. He put on his old grey cloak and took his old staff and made his way slowly up the hill. The wood under his hand was smooth with use. "Faramir," he said out loud, remembering the giver. He wondered if Faramir was still alive. It had been a long time since a ship had come bearing one of Sam’s rare letters with news of all their old friends. The last one had told of the death of Princess Éowyn. Frodo had met the princess only briefly, but he remembered her, and had been sad for Faramir at the news.

The stars had faded in the sky when he reached a hollow in the side of the hill, just below the top. Two markers stood there. One had the figure of a running horse on it, formed of mithril with such skill that one could imagine that the very skin would shiver if touched. There was an inscription on the marker. Frodo murmured the verse to himself:

Even in darkness he shone with light
Swiftest of horses, wisest of friends
Fear could not touch him
Age did not slow him
He strides now in Eru’s hand

A pink light touched the statue. Frodo turned to see the light brightening in the East. He watched until the sun began to peek over the horizon. Then he turned to the other marker and gave it a pat. "Another beautiful day in Aman, Bilbo," he said. "I hope that you can see it." He looked out to sea again. Then he stared. Something was silhouetted against the sun; something small and dark. Frodo squinted, trying to see. The sun rose higher. Finally he could make out white sails. "A ship!" he breathed.

At that moment he became aware of light footsteps behind him. He turned to see a tall, bright being coming down the hill. "You see . . .?" he asked, indicating the ship.

"Yes," said the being, in a voice at once soothing and resonant. "I am going to meet it. Others are too. I thought you might like to come."

"Of course," answered Frodo. He laughed. "I know it’s no good asking you who’s in it, even though you probably know. You like to have your little surprises, Olórin. I’ve just been trying to remember how long it’s been since the last ship. I think it must be over 60 of my people’s years."

Olórin merely nodded and smiled. They went down the path. Frodo moved slowly, but they reached the quay while the ship was still some distance out to sea. Other friends were waiting there: Galadriel and Elrond, and with them a tall Elfwoman with silver-gilt hair: Celebrian.

"Ah, I think I can guess," said Frodo. "Celeborn is coming at last." He turned to look at Olórin, and nearly dropped his staff. An old man stood where the Maia had been, cloaked in white and wearing a blue pointed hat. "Gandalf!" Frodo said, involuntarily. "Why are you in that form?"

Bright eyes smiled at him from under bushy brows. "I thought it appropriate," the old wizard’s voice answered. "You’ll see." He pointed out to sea.

The ship was close now. One by one her sails were dropped and furled as she glided to the quay. There was a moment of bustle as she was made fast, and then a walkway was run out from the quay to the ship. Frodo scanned the deck. Yes, there was Celeborn; a tall Elf with silver hair. Celeborn looked the same as he had done the last time Frodo had seen him. The waiting party greeted him with calls of welcome as he crossed the walkway. Galadriel walked forward and touched hands with him. The two stood, unspeaking, staring into each other’s eyes.

Frodo looked away, touched by the love he saw shining in their faces. There were several other Elves in Celeborn’s party. Frodo looked from face to face, wondering if he would see someone he knew. Looking up at the tall forms, he didn’t see the small person with them until the person had stepped onto the quay. "A hobbit?" Frodo said out loud. "Who can it be . . .Gaffer?" And then the tears came to his eyes as he laughed and rushed forward. "Sam! Sam Gamgee, dearest of friends!"

* * * * * * * * * * *

Years later, on a foggy morning, an Elf climbed the path to the little hollow in the side of the hill. He stood for a while before the statue of the running horse, then touched it lightly. "Your beauty lives in my heart, Shadowfax," he murmured. He turned to the side. Four other markers now stood there: the tombs of the only mortals to live on Tol Eressëa. The Elf bowed his head for a while before them. He looked longest at one, which appeared much more recent than the others. An axe was engraved on it. The Elf sighed. He called up the living memory of nine figures walking across a wide plain towards high mountains.

Someone called his name. He raised his eyes to the top of the hill. The sun was beginning to burn through the mist. The light dazzled the Elf’s eyes. The brightness seemed to shrink then and take form. "Olórin," said the Elf.

The Maia said nothing, but came to the Elf’s side and contemplated the markers. There was comfort in his silence. After a while, still without a word, Legolas and Gandalf went down the hill together.


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