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Frodo's Return to the Shire

52nd Day

Frodo is awake before the wake up knock at his door. He doesn't feel fully rested and the full memory of the conversation with Lily doesn't help. He wonders if he should rejoin the festivities, if maybe he should stay away for a while. But no, he'd have to stay away for months probably, in that case. Yule isn't over yet and he still wants to see it finished. Before leaving his room, he pauses. 'Maybe I should just leave here today and spare her the trouble of continuing this. But she has brought light into this time for me, I need to say goodbye. Unless of course I stay... what if she is right? What if she could help heal me?' Too many conflicting thoughts crowd him and he hurries out.

************

"Torold!" Lily calls. "Whatever is keeping you? We'll miss Sunrise!"

"I'll be there, I'll be there!" he calls back. Lily waits by the door, tapping her fingertip on the doorknob. Torold wanders over, buttoning a winter vest.

"It's clear as a bell and cold as wellwater out there!" he says. "Now wait one minute, lass. What was the trouble earlier, when I saw you with Frodo? Both of you looked like your best friend had run away."

"I think I'm losing him," she says, just above a whisper. "I think he never came back after all."

"Lily, that's the way of it sometimes. But I daresay you've made him smile and laugh, and he hadn't done that for a long time, by the looks of him. I know it's not what you want. Is he leaving?"

"No... I don't think so... yet, anyway. He promised to think about the whole thing." She shook her head. "I don't know, Torold. I don't have much hope."

"Hope! Hope is a funny thing, lass. Slippery, determined to go its own way, sometimes. But here it is Sunrise on the last day of Yule, and us standing here like this. Let's be on our way, then. We don't want the Sun wonderin' where we are!"

As they start on the path, they see Frodo come round the hill and wave. Torold waves back. They pick up their pace along with the rest of the late-comers. At the bonfire site, the villagers have clustered as close as they can to the leaping flames. They let Frodo, Lily and Torold in closer and hand them baskets full of the straw and grass decorations. The air is charged as the Sun moves ever so slowly higher. Suddenly some of the youngsters begin throwing their decorations high above their heads, shouting. Everyone follows suit and the first rays of the Sun reach Frodo's eyes. Its light is blinding, brighter than he can ever recall seeing. As some of the decorations fall, they are caught by the fire and blaze for a moment or two. Everyone cheers and claps. The decorations are thrown repeatedly until they fall into the fire or are tossed in. The same song that broke out the previous morning starts up again. The group starts another song immediately to some accompaniment of flutes and small bells. When that ends, there is more cheering and clapping. "First breakfast!" someone shouts, making everyone rush to the tents.

There is so much merriment that Frodo and Lily both start to feel happier. One of the older women comes up to Lily and thanks her for the dress and for the men's clothes she made. When Frodo asks if she is referring to the dress she had on, she beams and twirls around, making the gold threads woven in sparkle. "I hope," she adds before leaving, "That you'll let me come see you again soon, my children need clothes again!"

53rd Day

This morning I decided to ask Torold if I could spend more time helping him, on the basis that since I have a room elsewhere I'm not actually his guest. He took a bit of convincing but gave in. I also explained that it's good for me to do something so basic and unglorified as caring for cows. That made him laugh. Unglorified it is, he said, and sometimes thankless! Well that suits me. Some of his animals are certainly ungrateful, they kick if they decide they don't like the look of you. The next day, I'm told, they may let you do as you please around them. Torold is letting me find out their personalities myself which also suits me. This is something I've never thought about, what farmers go through to get milk. He says they know they're treated like princesses, kept warm all winter and never going hungry. Truly, it makes me grateful when I taste sweet butter and fresh milk!

During lunch Lily told me some of her sewing work will be coming up with Iris, so that she will not have to return to Long Cleeve to do it. I was interested that she told me this in Torold's presence. I suspect she has talked with him before about me and maybe even asked his advice. This was telling me in so many words that she doesn't want to be away from me, and I'm not sure what to make of this. I don't know if she is trying to encourage me or if she is simply trying to find answers like me. She seemed set on what she wanted but then she did say she'd try to accept my word.

This is so complicated! Yet, even as I write that, I hear Gandalf's voice telling me that it is only me who makes it that way. I could simply tell Lily no and go back to Bag End. She might follow me. I could keep telling her no, without trying to explain. But she's been through much pain already, why should I make it worse? She has given me much happiness and that I was not at all sure I would ever feel again. Is it my right to tell her no? I have been merely an instrument for a great Purpose.... my feelings and wishes on it had no place in accomplishing the Purpose. Is now the time for my feelings to matter? Has my will been returned to me now that the Purpose is realized? But then, has my will ever been truly my own.... Is this yet another part of that Purpose, is there something yet for me to do? How will I ever know?

[Frodo leans back in his chair and rubs his eyes. 'I know I must wait for the answers. Waiting does not bother me. Knowing whether or not I will recognize the answers I need is what concerns me.' He lifts the white jewel on its bright chain, looking into its heart. There is a shimmer that no ordinary glass or crystal has ever showed. He remembers Arwen telling him that the gem would bring him comfort in times of need. He is grateful to her for giving it to him, for he has found it comforting many times. It's warmth is unlike any sunlight but more consoling. It is not like the mirror of Galadriel, it cannot show him pictures, but it makes him feel less alone and less lonely. 'Strange that a gem should cause those feelings but there it is. I suppose it is because the gem is Elven. It is much the same feeling as I had in Lothlórien. How lucky Bilbo is, to be always surrounded by Elves. Now there is another curious word, lucky. Whatever does it really mean? Good luck, bad luck, where does luck come from? In some ways I could be seen as unlucky, in other ways lucky indeed since I brought about the fall of the Dark Lord. No, it was not truly I, I was only the bearer, the means to that end. Long ago Gandalf made me understand that there are many more powerful Forces than I. I doubt that those Forces pay me much attention. If things are different in the world it is not because of any greatness on my part.' He stands and looks out at the stars peeking through ragged clouds. 'Lily can't see them so bright, it was not her destiny to be part of the movement of those great Forces.']

54th Day

We no sooner finished feeding the cows than the sky decided it was time to snow, and it was still snowing at sunset. The gaffers and gammers are saying they were wee ones the last timed it snowed this much for this long. I dearly hope it stops soon. Even though the walk to Torold and Iris' is not at all long, it might be impossible if the snow keeps up. Torold said he has some books his father gave him about the early Hornblowers and the first crops of Longbottom Leaf. They were written many generations ago and have never left the family, so there are sure to be stories there well worth reading. I wish I could show them to Bilbo! Failing that, I've decided to at least copy some things for him. Torold has agreed to this. I expect Sam will be interested too.

It has gone all dark outside now and there is no way to see how much snow is there. It is at least still cloudy, as I can't see any stars. I find that gives me an odd feeling, not seeing the stars. I'm growing used to seeing them so bright and when they aren't there I feel I'm missing something. I wonder if it's snowing at Hobbiton... I suspect this much of it would hamper the repairs at Bag End. I can just see Sam fretting about it, afraid the place won't be ready when I come back!

Well, I am still thinking about that. I keep remembering the Sunrise in its glory. I can still see everyone flinging those gifts high into the air, smiling when they got caught in the blaze. This is considered something good, it is like the Sun accepting the gifts. I tried to note where the ones I threw got to but it was hard to tell with so many of them. I did see two or three fall on the edge of the embers and catch. I hope that means something good. Everyone was so excited. It would be good, I think, to see that every year, to make the Sun happy. I think Bilbo would like this... but then he won't leave Rivendell just for that. I wish I could show it to him somehow. I would like to ask his opinion of whether I ought to stay here or not, but I know it's not for him to say. I wonder what he would say if I told him I was staying. He'd be happy, but would he think it a good idea?

Ah, I will never know. The next time I see him it will be on the road to the Havens, whether I come with him or not. By that time my affairs will be of little concern to him. So I must decide things on my own. It would be easy to say yes and not think further on it. But that would be putting Lily at risk of touching the Dark and I don't want to hurt her further. I know she wants to help. I know my indecision is distressing her, but that is nothing against the terrible Dark that is still with me. Like Sam, she doesn't want me to worry about her. Sam was with me at Mount Doom and Lily was not.... How can I expect her to go through even a little of what Sam did? How can I expect she will ever truly understand that? I wonder if I asked Sam.... No, that wouldn't be right either. Sam could only tell her what he saw and thought. That wouldn't be the same as what she might have seen and thought if she had been there. And it would seem like I was trying to force her to accept my word. If she is ever going to understand this, it must come from what I tell her and what she sees and thinks herself.

55th Day

Watching the snow falling, I am interested to realize that while it is daytime and I can see well enough through the white curtain, there are no shadows. The trees and neighbouring hill cast no shadows, and that makes them mysterious. It's not falling much now, and it looks like I should be able to get through. In the common room earlier the gaffers were complaining about how hard it had been to get here, but since they made it the paths must be somewhat cleared. I wonder how we'll do with the cows today? I've heard it's still quite cold so Torold will be concerned about that. Also, if Iris was thinking about traveling, this will slow her progress if it started while she was on the road.

I'm excited about the books Torold has and hope I have time this evening to start reading. It's been so long since I read anything really new.... in fact, it's been long since I read at all. I'm glad we got all the books out of Bag End before turning it over to Lobelia. In the disorder the place endured during Saruman's influence I'm quite sure the books would have been destroyed, and that would have been a very great pity. Many are quite old and may be the only copies left. Especially the Elven writings.... I should like to see those again. How much time has passed since I first read them! Time, like the snowflakes, falls into more of itself and disappears. It's indistinguishable from the time that came before.

I realized too that I'm still dating my entries here by how long I've been back in the Shire. This is how time is marked now. It still feels like a new place, a new time, as it indeed is. It's far more than simply eating and sleeping in a different place than Bag End, it stretches over everything until I will no longer be here. What will happen to these entries then, I don't know, but now it is useful for me. I can tell no one most of these thoughts. Here at least I can say what I wish without fear of harming anyone inadvertently.

Well! I think that is enough for now. If I look back on these pages someday I am certain they will not bring a smile to me, especially what I've just written! Today I've cows to help feed and water, and books to read in the evening. That is worth many smiles.

57th Day

I've finally gotten back to the inn! I'm sure even Bilbo and the Old Took have never heard of a snowfall this deep. And the wind has blown much of it too, so clearing paths is an almost never-ending chore. We thought we'd lost some cows for good in it, but we found them all and have put them in an enclosure. I feel good knowing they are all accounted for.

Torold's books are fascinating, I read several of them completely. I've a stack of notes for Bilbo. Lily helped me with that else I'd be here till Spring. Which is not an altogether bad thought, but there's Bag End and Sam and the notes that Bilbo gave to me, and that will be a lot of work. I have ideas now on how to arrange it, when I first saw everything he had I was afraid it would take me a month to put it all in order. Doing that is something I am very much looking forward to. I want to see it completed while I am still alive so it is done properly. It must be explained clearly and straightforward, there must be no doubt as to the depth of Evil that was in Middle-Earth. I am not sure that it is gone forever. Should anyone ever wonder whether they need to concern themselves with the Dark, this book must stand as proof that it cannot be ignored.

Also I am curious about how Bilbo recorded things. I've read his story before of course, but I know he was adding after I last saw his book. He tries so hard to be accurate and not take credit for things he didn't have a hand in, but sometimes he adds a thing or two. I don't think it's anything that would cause misunderstandings but it's his way, and I'm sometimes quite amused at it. I don't know if I do the same but I expect Sam will tell me!

I've been having a nice time, actually. Looking after cows year after year must be tiring and yet stimulating; they're live animals after all. Some of them have indeed looked sideways at me every day and others come right up to me as if we're fast friends. It's no wonder Torold and Iris both miss the calves they sell. This morning we had a break, and Lily brought us all some fresh warm bread with cheese made from the cows' milk. A simple snack but one that tasted wonderful. Somehow, at Bag End, our bread and cheese don't taste the same.

Or, now that I think of it, have I actually changed that much, that even food is different to me now? [Frodo pauses, considering this new thought. 'Could I be so changed that even food will no longer be the familiar, everyday pleasure it always has been?' He starts to feel lost, acutely aware that he's not even in Bag End right now. 'But up until very recently I hadn't noticed the food difference.... or is it just that it's a gradual change? What else might no longer be the same as it once was in my younger days in the Shire, before the Ring? Ah, the Ring.... what a curse it truly was. Bilbo didn't mention such things and he had the Ring for so long. But then he's been living in Rivendell and probably wouldn't notice these sorts of differences in the Elven surroundings. And he didn't go to Mordor.'

Frodo gets up and paces before the little fireplace. 'Am I so physically different as well as emotionally? What else is different about me?' He looks down at himself, half afraid he'll see something he hadn't before. But there is nothing, except his hand. He studies it. 'I did say to Lily that this is an outward mark of a deep inner wound.... and it is a mark to all who see me. It is a permanent mark. No matter what my feelings and thoughts may be, this is one thing that never will change. I tried to claim the Ring and this will always remind me. If I had thrown myself in, I wouldn't have this reminder and I wouldn't be concerned about what to do with myself in the Shire.'

In Frodo's mind, a picture flashes of Sam's face seeing Frodo throw himself in the Crack of Doom. Frodo winces and turns away from the fireplace. 'Well, I suppose even that would have been the wrong decision. Sam would never have made back here. Merry and Pippin would have been always haunted by it. With that on their minds and in their hearts, they couldn't have defeated Saruman and his cronies here. Bilbo would have been beside himself. Even Gandalf would have been unhappy. Far too many people would have suffered. So here I am.... reminders and memories intact. Friends intact too, thankfully. What then am I to do?'

He goes back to the table, sits down and reads over his last sentences.] Be that as it may, I'm here. Whatever life is left to me I must accept as it is. I can't change what has already happened. There may yet be something left for me to do.

58th Day

Iris sent a note saying she'd be starting back for Oakleaf in a day or two. Torold was glad to hear it, not just because he misses his wife but the rest of his men will be coming back too. She said they didn't get much snow at all but heard about it from travelers who struggled out from under it. There are still some things to do but she said they can wait till Spring when traveling will be easier. The tone of her letter indicates she's ready to put this behind. I'm glad; I don't know her very well but she seems to be a sweet person. I think she'll put her energies into helping Torold recover and the Winter-time tasks on the farm. Torold of course always has his hands full. He's been very considerate to me and I feel I should repay him, somehow, but nothing seems adequate. He doesn't need much money, really, and wouldn't take it anyway. He has enough land and as many cows and Longbottom Leaf as he can handle. I shall have to think of something! To add to it he let me copy from books that are really his family's personal history. I don't know what I could come up with that would be anything near equal to all that but I want to thank him properly.

And Lily, well.... she has changed me, in a way unlike anything else. Her unbounded friendship, like Sam's, is more special to me than almost anything. Here I've found a certain peace. There is work to be done and people willing to teach me; wonderful food, a warm fire and a soft bed. As much as I can be healed I think it's happened here, mostly. Bag End is still in my mind. It's the place Bilbo and I used to live, where Sam and I began our friendship that has continued to deepen. For me there will always be some of Bilbo there. I don't know what Lily would think of that. She has urged me to let go of the past. I don't think she means to let go of the good things and memories of time with Bilbo are good indeed. It's hard, however, to think of those days and not think about everything else from that time.... the walks, the long walks, the reading, meeting Gandalf, walks, reading, a few friends.... it all happened there. Lily's life is different, I don't know if she could quite understand. She's a more settled sort of person. But I'm going to talk to her tonight and then I'll know.

Being away from Sam, Pippin and Merry has let me think. I realise now I've thought a good deal more than was necessary, but I suppose I had to. On the long way back here from Rivendell thinking was about the Shire and the rumours of trouble, and Bilbo and Elrond. I thought about Sam and how happy he was to have Bill the pony back. What a simple way of living Sam has. What a beautiful, simple way. It's not that he can't think past what he sees in front of him, but he can cut off many of the thoughts that cause complications. And now back home, after all he's been through, he still thinks of everyone else first. I'm so glad he has Rosie - I already feel the exceptional energy they'll both share with everyone.

I've written Sam a short letter explaining things, or trying to, anyway. I asked him to tell Merry and Pippin. It would be good to talk to Gandalf, even a little. I suppose I just want confirmation from him.... I wonder if he'd ever just tell me 'yes' or 'no'! That would be asking too much of the old wizard, I expect. He reminds me of Bilbo that way... both have learned a lot over the long years. Since the notes from Torold's books are all in order I've packed them up and will send them on to Bilbo directly from here. I don't expect to hear back from him, but I know he'll read it all, if it takes a while. He's quite sleepy and these notes aren't enough to rouse him for long. That's quite alright, I'm satisfied knowing he'll enjoy it.

I expect tomorrow will be a long day. I'm not going to rush especially since I haven't heard anything yet about how much snow has fallen elsewhere. Now that I've truly made up my mind I don't feel anxious. Indecision can be bad but it forces an examination of the problem. I believe I'm better able to handle anything else that might come up. I feel I don't need to know what might be coming. Should anything bad happen, I'm sure the answer to it will present itself without so much deliberating as I've done. And it may not be for me to decide, anyway.... my part may only be to accept and go along. It's hard to think, though, that Spring will be anything other than good for all. I can picture the snowdrops blooming in the gardens and the yellow daffodils nodding, and I'm anticipating the change. This Spring will be different than any other! Sadness will be behind us, the land will renew itself and joy will be the rule of the day. This makes me truly glad. Now I know that there is much to look forward to.

[Frodo hears a quiet tapping at his door and puts away his writing. He knows it's Lily.]

Frodo lets Lily in, noting she is wearing the flowery dress that she had on when he first joined her, Iris and Torold for lunch. She leaves her cloak on a chair and declines the offer of tea. For a brief moment, Frodo looks at her dark wavy hair loose on her shoulders, the slight smile on her lips, her dark eyes full of caring and a certain mystery..... and that deeper Something that he now recognizes. As he draws breath to speak, she surprises him.

"You're leaving."

He looks at her with wide eyes. She almost feels like laughing, almost.

"Oh Frodo! It's written all over you! As soon as you asked me to meet you here I knew for sure."

"I'm not very good at hiding things, am I?" he says with a sigh.

"No, you're not, and that's one of the things I like about you. And your complete honesty, willingness to work, ability to think things through, the easy way you care about others--"

"Lily!" Now he's starting to feel guilty. He shakes his head. "I was completely decided and reconciled with myself about it before you spoke."

"I'm sorry. But I haven't made you seriously reconsider, have I?"

He looks back at her. "No, I'm afraid not. I've come to realise that if anywhere in the Shire is my home, it's Bag End. All my memories of Bilbo are tied up there. Most of the best times in my life were there. I need that connection. It's so hard, you've no idea, to feel like myself at all. I need to be where I used to be. It won't change anything but it will remind me of the good things. I needed time alone when I came here and in many ways I still do. I can't go forward, Lily. I've tried, oh I've tried! I still hoped I could somehow put it aside and get on with things, but the more I try the more I realise that I can't."

She puts her hand out and speaks quietly. "Stop, Frodo. I know. In a way I understand. It seemed like you might be able to fight it, but I knew at last it couldn't be done. It's hard to let you go this way, I won't say otherwise, but I see that you need to go. You are still compelled. I don't know if you'll ever find true peace except at your home. I know I can't be part of it." She looks down then back up, blinking tears away. She manages not to let any fall. "It hurts me to let you go. You would be much more miserable if you tried to stay, though, so I won't complain. But I hope you will let me give you something."

Without waiting for a response she goes to the chair she had left her cloak on and picks up a small package she had set under the cloak. It is wrapped neatly.

"If you decide you don't want any reminders of me, send it back. No really, I'm serious. I won't be offended. My hope is that the memories will be sweet, but if you decide they only make things more difficult please, please, send this back. The last thing I want is to cause you trouble."

Frodo reaches for her hands. She clasps his for a moment. No words are necessary. Lily pulls back, smiling a little.

"I want you to remember me this way, happy. Spending time with you again has been wonderful. I hope with all my heart that someday, you'll be healed."

She whisks her cloak off the chair and leaves. Frodo gazes at the door. 'Well, something else I've lost. My expectations have had nothing to do with what really happens, it seems.'

He picks up the package she left. It's light and hardly weighs anything. For some reason, he decides to open it. Inside is a bundle of grey cloth. He lifts it out and finds that it's a shirt, very finely woven and decorated with a few of the little sparkly stones they had found at the edge of the Shirebourn. 'Lily probably wove this herself.... Grey, just like I feel.... ah, she knows me! If only I could--'

There is no point in continuing the thought. He brushes the cloth with his lips then puts it into his pack.

65th Day

I'm rather surprised it took me a week to get home. There was snow around Oakleaf but almost nothing north of there. I've been in the Shire for more than two months now, and it still feels like hardly any time has passed. It seems like I spent a day or two in Oakleaf. I'm glad I came back, if I'm still staying at the Cotton's, but I do feel a bit strange about Lily. She knows me well, better than I had any idea of, and she was hurt by my leaving which I was hoping wouldn't happen, but I think this is best for both of us. She understands that. I'm fortunate to have known someone who is so insightful.

Sam and Rosie both met me as I came up from looking at Bag End, holding hands. I really am glad for Sam, he's more-- I can't quite put my finger on it, rounded out maybe. He smiles so easily with her. I haven't seen that for a long time. Bag End is coming along but a snap of cold and windy weather postponed things. I know he's anxious about that especially now that I'm back. I'm not too concerned about it. Sam will see that everything is done right and the Cottons have repeatedly told me I'm welcome for as long as I want. They have a nice place here, cosy at times and still with enough room for everyone. Mrs. Cotton personally looks after my meals. She or Sam tell me everyday when tea is ready, and there are always wonderful treats to go with it. I didn't realise it before but tea here is a little stronger than in the Southfarthing. I enjoy the difference.

I'm giving more thought to starting this book, all the way up here I was imagining it and even starting to write in my head! That is, I see now, my task. It is no less important than anything else I've done. What Bilbo started is mine to finish. I hope that after I'm gone, the book will be what people think of if my name is ever mentioned. To show people that Evil can be anywhere, will use any means for its own ends, that is of the greatest significance. Perhaps I'm the only one who can do this, as I was the only one who could carry the Ring. I'm well read and I think well educated. I've had help along the way but I think, at this point, I'm the one who can put everything together suitably. In my younger days, when I read everyday, I would sometimes think about writing a book. I never did because I couldn't narrow down my interests to one topic at a time. Here, then, is my chance! These entries of my daily life mean nothing to anyone but me, but it does give me practice. It's sort of exciting, actually.

Sam tells me Merry and Pippin have not stopped by at all but he did send word to them of my coming back. I've no doubt whatsoever I'll see them before too long. Sam also says there's many trees down in Buckland that haven't been replaced yet so he'll be off soon to see to that, and maybe even the Northfarthing since he's been hearing about damage there also. He is going to be one busy Hobbit for a few months, and I know he likes to be busy. He asked if I wanted to come along to Buckland but I've had enough traveling. I've my own work I should be starting. I might take a short trip in Spring to see how Sam's labours are bearing fruit; I can think of several nearby spots I knew well that were damaged and replanted. I'm very impressed by his commitment to this. It doesn't surprise me that he wants to help for that is in his blood. It is however somewhat unusual for him to take the lead and I think that reflects the deep meaning it has for him. I'm also quite pleased at the help he seems to be getting. So many people are willing to go get new trees, haul them in, and dig holes, water and mulch under Sam's direction without complaining about his insistence on accuracy. Some are folks I rather expected would resent Sam for taking charge but that doesn't seem to be happening. I daresay Hobbits have learned a good lesson or two! This gives me hope for the continued recovery of the Shire.

And now I think I'll have lunch, which I can smell cooking and it smells wonderful indeed, then start arranging Bilbo's notes. I think I'll have to make some notes of my own before I start actually writing passages. Having read what Bilbo wrote in Rivendell I see it's not just a simple matter of setting pen to paper and continuing till I can't remember any more. The things I read many years ago seemed to flow so easily I never guessed how much work might have gone into them. I wonder if Elves have some of their number dedicated to just writing works, or do most of them contribute in various measures? I wonder what Elves would write about the Shire.... I have to think even Elves, detached as they often are, would be at least a little impressed by what is being accomplished here.

69th Day

Writing something you know will be long is indeed difficult! I'm glad I have Bilbo's work for reference or I should need weeks deciding where to start, the pace, who to mention and who to leave out, and I've only barely started! Mrs. Cotton came in to tell me breakfast was ready and politely asked how long I'd be working on this project- I'm afraid I startled her by laughing. Of course then I explained that it is a very complicated project and one completely new to me, so I have no idea really of how long it might take. She wished me much good luck with it. I'm thinking I will need it!

Pippin and Merry stopped by yesterday, with someone I haven't seen in what feels like many years, Fatty Bolger. I was astonished to see him; I had no idea he was interested in what happened to me. Along with him was his sister Estella. She and her brother, Pippin, Merry, Sam and I sat for most of the afternoon and into the evening by the fire, telling new stories and re-telling old ones. Sam tried to talk about my parts in everything despite my telling him not to bother. He's proud of me, dear Sam, and wishes others were too. Well I must admit I am not much interested in what others think of me. I'm not particularly concerned that anybody know the extent of my travels. I did none of it to please anybody, after all. Sam is somewhat annoyed with that, but it truly is not important that anybody know precisely what I did. It got done, is the point. I did enjoy hearing what Fatty has been up to and I think his sister wanted to hear all about Merry's adventures at least three times. It flatters him; I'm amused by his willingness to repeat everything. I can see he and Pippin will be great sources of information as I progress on this book. They either made their own notes, or have excellent memories for it. I can't quite see them sitting down long enough to make notes however!

They brought some news of the Northfarthing and more details on the damage there; many gardens as well as trees were torn up. Sam made up his mind on the spot to leave for there tomorrow, and in his eagerness and determination missed the slight frown that passed across Rosie's face. But as the talk expanded into exactly what should be done and where and how, she said she was right proud to know the Hobbit who would replant the Shire. He blushed- I always laugh when I see him blush, it's so like him to dismiss himself in favour of what needs to be done. Sam couldn't hide anything of importance if his life depended on it. That's part of what makes him so delightful. I'm very pleased that Rosie seems to recognise that. He really needs someone special in his life and Rosie is a wonderful girl. They are a perfect pair.

Merry and Pippin said they would ride part of the way with Sam then break off to visit the Westfarthing. I asked if they would wear their battle finery and they both pretended to be aghast at the suggestion that perhaps they would not. Pippin confided that he and Merry have just a bit of concern that there might still be some ruffians about, waiting for a lull to strike, and they didn't want to be caught unawares should that be the case. While I believe that, I also think they enjoy being seen in such raiment. I don't begrudge them that. They earned the right to wear it. I've no desire for it myself.... I believe we're well protected here and I'm much more comfortable without mail or sword nearby.

Dinner should be ready soon. I've been asked to tell about my adventures with the cows, now that Farmer Cotton's sons will all be round the table and they all want to hear. They've been out taking care of one thing or another and today will be the first time in almost a fortnight that the family will be together. I'm told Sam will be joining us as well so we should have quite a feast! Mrs. Cotton cooks excellent meals whether small or large. She's extremely versatile.... if we're short of something she makes do and comes up with a meal no-one would want to miss. I've heard her and Sam discussing vegetables and mushrooms and soups; such simple things, but they make me glad. These are just the sort of conversations I love to hear. I'll enjoy talking about the cows. I suppose I'll sound rather ignorant of the creatures but it was a pleasure helping take care of them. I miss it a little. It's good to know the animals are in the proper hands.

Spring may be on its way. I find I'm looking forward to moving back to Bag End, especially in such a fine season. Sam has told me about the kitchen garden he wants to plant and I can almost smell the herbs already. I'll have more space there to spread out notes and paper and pens. I may not write my thoughts down here as often if I spend many hours a day writing the book, but I still want to keep a record. Once in a while, even now, I go back and read something that awakens happy memories. Memories I know I'll never lose. Some I wish I could but others I'll cherish and reading about those moments brings them closer. I rather feel I can go back to them easier than going forward to new ones. Well, there are still some things I'm looking forward to. Bag End should be set back in order and I know I'll enjoy hearing about the fruits of Sam's planting efforts. And there's the call to dinner- I look forward to that too!

74th Day

We received a note from Sam today, explaining that there's more damage in the Northfarthing than he expected, so he plans to stay there at least a fortnight. He apologized to me- silly Sam, apologizing to me when it's Rosie who really wants him back! He asked her to look after me in his place and she's taken that as quite the compliment, knowing he would only ask someone trustworthy. She's been bringing me tea and treats and making sure I have enough pens and ink and paper. Sam will be pleased. I suspect she feels good doing something so important to him. Now I have her and her mother tending me and I am certainly beginning to feel over-indulged. I can still remember, a little, Mother's face smiling as she put me to bed. For a very long time that was a troubling memory, bringing her close but not bringing her back. I can think of her now with a sense of calm and maybe, even, peace. It was thinking about her that made me realise what I saw in Lily's and Arwen's eyes.... mortality. That impression of ending. At very first it made me sad then I realised it's like that with everyone, everyone but Elves will pass away. Leaves pass away in the Autumn, falling round us like our family and friends. New leaves sprout in Spring and new children are born.

Fatty came by again today and convinced me to go riding with him. We rode up and down Hobbiton and Bywater. The wind was bracing and I was glad of the Elven cloak. Fatty, bless him, asked nothing about what I'd done or where I'd been, he only asked how Bag End was getting along and what did I think of the replanting work in the Shire. We had some good conversation. I found I was rather tired after the ride, I suppose I'm getting un-used to it already. I've been home more than seventy days and it still doesn't feel that long. I don't know if it ever will and yet it bothers me less than it used to. There are things to attend to and the Seasons will come and go as they ought.

I was thinking today out on my ride about the times with Fatty and the others, riding and walking about the Shire. They're my memories but it doesn't seem like I was there. I can remember details even Fatty had forgotten but it's- hard to describe, somehow I don't feel I really did those things. I have keepsakes many years old and handling them doesn't give me that sense of absolutely having been there, it's more like borrowing- as if my memories and these items were borrowed from someone else. I'm hoping moving back to Bag End will help me make some sense of it all. Memories of Bilbo don't feel so far away. I don't understand it but there's time- Oh- I just realised, writing that phrase 'there's time', that the feeling prowling way inside my mind, is just that there may not be time.

[Frodo stares at the last few sentences, finally letting his breath out. 'That's really it, that's the thing that's been bothering me, there may not be time..... I haven't made any plans beyond this book and that's why. It is the last task for me. It is the only thing that matters. I need to write this all down because I am as connected to doing that as I was to the Ring. And Lily had some sense of that.'

He rises and walks round the room slowly. 'It is so clear now. This is all I really need to concern myself with, except taking care of passing Bag End on. And that's what Elrond knew, that's why he told me to look for him and Bilbo in the woods of the Shire, he knew I would be joining them to go to the Grey Havens, as Arwen revealed when she gave me this gem. She told me I could pass into the West in her stead and I'm sure she knew that would happen. I only needed to see that for myself.'

He looks out the window at the slope of grey-brown hill just outside and the sleeping fields beyond. 'This place, this village, is still home for now. It's true that I belong here if I am anywhere in the Shire. To be with dear Bilbo again, and Elrond who saved me and knows me well, and perhaps the Lady Galadriel....' Frodo feels a final burden lifting and he smiles. 'I have no idea what it is like beyond the Great Sea but my heart will rest there, that I know. And Sam has Rosie to help him be whole. Merry and Pippin, thankfully, are not troubled with such hardships and will have many glad years. At last, I think my heart will have the leisure it used to have, when I had not heard of the Dark. And truly, I can be free.']