“I love you, Frodo,” Lily murmured, upon waking in her husband’s arms.
Frodo sighed, and could not control the deep shudder echoing through him at the sound of his lover’s voice. “Lily-sweet, how I love you...”
His breath caught as Lily trailed lingering kisses from the cleft in his chin, up the strong line of his jaw to the tip of his ear, then back, slowly.
Within Frodo the ever-present longing for her touch leapt up into a hunger as intense as any he had ever known, and he was again amazed at how quickly she could stir and arouse him. His breathing came with more difficulty as he fought to remain still, and let her love him as she would. Already he wanted her...
Frodo began to laugh softly as her kisses neared his lips again, and he opened his mouth to speak her name but he only formed the “L,” and nothing more, for at that moment Lily covered his mouth with hers, and now speech was deserted, forgotten, unimportant...
He tightened his arms around his wife, pulling her closer, returning the heat in her caresses with the fire in his own, past thought, past care, and all that remained was the aching need to be one with her, to love her, and to please her.
Felena served the couple second breakfast on their balcony.
“It is far too beautiful a morning to spend it in the feasting hall,” she declared airily, then bowed, and left the room.
Lily nibbled at a scone, then broke it into chunks, occasionally buttering a piece and eating it without tasting it.
Frodo finished his second scone before he noticed his wife rearranging the untouched bits on her plate.
When Lily did not respond, Frodo gently touched her hand. “Sweet?” he repeated, softer.
Lily startled slightly. “I’m sorry, Frodo-love, did you ask me something?”
He smiled for her. “I’ve not seen you this far away in a long while. May I ask what troubles you?”
“I’m not actually troubled... it’s simply... well, aside from Gandalf, I’ve never actually been alone with one of the Big People before.”
“And Elrond can seem a bit daunting...”
“Well, yes. Were you afraid, the first time you met alone with him?”
Frodo drew his brows together, gathering memories. “I don’t think I’ve ever met alone with him.”
Lily’s eyes grew wide.
Frodo hurried on. “But I have spent plenty of time with Gandalf and Aragorn and other Big People, particularly in Minas Tirith... Sweet, tell me what it is that worries you...”
Lily pursed her lips in thought. “It’s difficult to explain. I don’t notice it so much when I am with you.”
“Notice what?” Frodo could not hide his curiosity.
“Their sadness. It stretches so far back. Some is easily understood, but some is fathomless...”
“I didn’t realize it affected you so... how do you bear it, Lily?”
She smiled. “I follow Gandalf’s advice.”
“And what is that?”
“When their sorrows begin to overwhelm me, I allow your joy to surround me.”
Elrond approached the hobbits’ luncheon table, and Lily glanced up to meet his steady countenance.
The Master of Rivendell felt slightly taken aback as he realized the little mistress was nervous, though she endeavored to hide it.
Frodo softly kissed her cheek and squeezed her hand reassuringly. They shared a smile, then parted in silence; no further words need be said.
Lily glanced back over her shoulder at her husband, before the Elf lord ushered her out into the corridor.
In the Conservatory, Lord Elrond was pleased finally to find himself in the company of the Ring-bearer’s wife. A smile played about his lips. He watched as the hobbit lass gazed about her; now and then she glanced up at him surreptitiously. At length, as she relaxed, she gave him a shy smile.
“Lily, if I may ask, I would very much like to know more of this gift you bear, the gift beyond your second sight.”
Lily startled, and looked up at the Elf lord guardedly. “Gandalf told you of my gift?”
“Only in part. Please, do not hold this against him. I guessed it rightly when he told me of the Ring-bearer’s release from the darkness shadowing him. I too have the gift of healing, but your gift is different than any I have ever known.” He smiled. “And that says much.”
Lily returned the smile but still felt uncertain.
“Sit, please.” Elrond showed her to a low bench, then sat beside her, aware that the bench was far too low for his own comfort, but it did not signify. “Please forgive my intense curiosity, but you accomplished what the power of the Elves could not. I would like to know more, if I may.”
“I don’t know what I can tell you.”
“Tell how you use your gift, and when you became aware you possessed it...”
“Didn’t Gandalf tell you?” Lily endeavored not to sound hurt that her secret had been revealed to this stranger -- for he was nearly a stranger to her, still, wise as he might be.
“When I spoke of going to the Grey Havens soon, I mentioned the Ring-bearer accompanying us. Gandalf revealed to me only that the Ring-bearer would have no need to join us, and if I desired to know more, I must discuss it with his wife. I was very surprised indeed, and though I queried him further, he said only that he had made a promise, and I would need to ask you.”
Lily sighed, relieved Gandalf had not betrayed her trust. “I did not know of the gift until Frodo returned from the Quest. When he was near, I could feel the darkness -- his darkness -- as if it were my own.”
“Were there special words you employed, or prayers?”
“No. I did not yet know what prayer was, Lord Elrond. Not until later, when Frodo taught me. It simply happened. Gandalf says that Ilúvatar planned for me...” Lily paused for a long moment, then met the Elf-lord’s eyes with something akin to boldness. “You... expected Frodo to accompany you to the Grey Havens?”
“Yes. It is the place where Elves go when they weary of this life.”
“Yes, Frodo told me. But Frodo is not an Elf.”
“No, but he was the Ring-bearer. Were it not for you -- or, had you been unwilling to share his burden -- he could not have continued in Middle-earth.”
Lily shuddered. “I despair to think of my life without him... or the thought of him ever leaving his home...” She raised her eyes to meet Elrond’s steady gaze once more. “But -- you had a place for him, all this time?”
Lord Elrond’s look became pained. “My daughter, Arwen, gave him her place when he returned.”
“What if she had not married Aragorn? What of Frodo then?”
“In truth, my gift of foresight saw no return at all, for the Ring-bearer...”
Lily’s breath caught in her throat. “You did not believe he would return from the Quest?”
“He was our only hope the Ring might be destroyed. The Quest would certainly claim his life, though I feared Frodo would be lost before the deed was done.”
Lily swallowed hard and endeavored to understand the meaning of the words. She hesitated to speak, but could not remain silent. “You sent him on the Quest, expecting him to fail? To ultimately be destroyed by It--? You hoped that somehow the wretched Thing would be destroyed, fully expecting it would be at the cost of Frodo’s life?” Lily had difficulty disguising the anger growing swiftly within her heart.
When Elrond gave her only a pained look Lily continued, her tone barely controlled. “Did you offer him hope that he might succeed?”
“I did not tell him everything I feared, but neither did I lie to him.”
Elrond leaned involuntary away from the fury he felt directed towards him.
Lily’s voice grew hushed in her attempt to rein in the fire of feelings searing through her. “You sent him without a shred of hope. How could you? How could you? Frodo speaks so often of how wise you are, and yet you would not give him the one thing he needed most.”
“He had Sam.”
“Yes. He did, no thanks to any of you. Sam insisted he come along from the very beginning. If Sam had not been so devoted, Frodo would have been alone after--” she struggled to recall the words “--after Amon Hen...” She paused as another realization dawned. “You didn’t expect Sam to survive either, did you?”
Elrond lowered his eyes.
Lily felt anger heating her cheeks, and extended her hands toward Elrond, as if to reason with the great lord. “If that was all that was ever expected of him, why could not someone else have done it?”
“The Ring-bearer possesses qualities not found in others.”
“And those are--?”
“He loved the Shire, but was not averse to leaving it... unlike Boromir, who loved his country above all else... The Ring played on that. And Frodo had no noble heritage or destiny, as Aragorn did. Thus the Ring could not tempt Frodo with power.
“Frodo loved learning, not for the sake of gaining dominion over others, but for the simple joy of learning. The Ring did not understand this at all, nor how to twist it to Its own benefit. In truth, knowledge was never encouraged by the Ring, for ignorance served It better.
“And Frodo loved his friends and kin. The Ring did not understand love -- this was another facet of Frodo that the Ring could not corrupt, not at the heart.
“The Ring found itself thwarted at every turn by the very qualities that saved Frodo. It was left only to prey on his fears of failure, so he began to believe it was his place to destroy the Ring... to succeed, and not to fail...”
“But -- I thought the Ring did not want to be destroyed!”
“It did not. It wanted to return to the hand of Its master. In truth, Its power is -- was -- such that the bearer could not bring himself to destroy It.”
Lily was still struggling to grasp all she had been told so far. “So you sent him to destroy the Ring, knowing he could not -- wait! -- You never expected Frodo to destroy the Ring?”
“No, Lily. Frodo was titled the Ring-bearer, not the Ring-destroyer. He was only ever expected to bear It. He himself grew to believe he was also meant to destroy It, though time and time again we have told him he succeeded in his part of the task. It was the Ring that allowed him to believe it was his task to destroy It.”
“But if the Ring did not want to be destroyed... How could that be?”
“The Ring twisted the desired end to Its own means. It served Its own purpose in allowing Frodo to convince himself he must destroy It. It is not so far a stretch from ‘my responsibility’ to ‘my task’ to ‘my own’ to ‘mine.’ It needed time to wear him down, until It could claim him. So, though Frodo continued on to Mordor, where the Ring wanted to be, It grew heavier and more burdensome, wearing away his will. If Frodo were captured, the Ring would be returned to Its master. The Ring anticipated Frodo claiming It for himself; in that case, the Ring would still have been returned to Its master, for Frodo was not strong enough to wield It.”
Lily was silent for a long moment; her brows knitted, then cleared. “So -- the Ring would get what It wanted, with no thought to the cost, no matter what...” Her face reflected wonder and sorrow.
“You see rightly.”
“I do not understand. Frodo was sent to destroy -- that is, to bear the Ring to Mordor, but not destroy It, because he could not... Lord Elrond, it all seems so impossible.” Lily remembered something Sam had told her. “The Ring could not possibly see the turn of events which would lead to Its unmaking.”
“Correct. There was one other on this journey. Gandalf did not know how the poor creature Gollum might serve, but knew he had his own place in this tale, and it was not yet over.”
“Has Frodo not spoken of Gollum?”
Lily sighed heavily. “Only a bit. Sam mentioned him, when he told me the story. It was Gollum who... who... who bit off the Ring...”
“Yes. There have been so many players in this story, as Master Samwise is fond of saying. Now, you are one of those players, and I would know your part, if you are willing to share it.”
“Before I tell you, my lord, I need to better understand... I do not wish to burden Frodo by asking, as I don’t know how much he understands himself. He feels the Quest was a lie, because he knew from before leaving Bag End he could not destroy the Ring... You say you assured he did what was expected, but why have you not explained to him he was not expected to carry out that particular deed? That is, to destroy the Ring--?”
“He has not asked.”
Lily blinked in surprise.
Elrond leaned back as he felt the little hobbit’s ire rise again.
Her voice was strained when she finally found the words she sought. “You’ll not give information unless asked? You know so much. I would think you’d want to share what you know, especially if it might help...”
“One must be prepared to accept what one hears...”
Lily glanced away, fighting to control her frustration. “Sometimes, one does not know what questions to ask, my lord.”
“Finding the questions is part of becoming prepared to hear the answers.”
Lily’s shoulders sagged, and she bowed her head.
Elrond cocked his head in the hope of getting the lass to look up at him, but she stared steadfastly at her folded hands in her lap. When she finally lifted her eyes to his, he smiled encouragingly.
“Lord Elrond, I know in my heart the Quest was not a lie. I have listened to Gandalf and you and the other Elves and Sam, and all of you speak of Frodo with such... awe and respect. Why does Frodo believe it to be a lie?”
“We see the Quest from the beginning to the end. Frodo is still looking at it from the end to the beginning.”
Elrond smiled at the unuttered question he felt from his companion. “He endured much--”
“Indeed, I know...” Lily’s throat tightened. “And I do not know how to help him in this...”
“Yes, dear lady, you do.”
“You’ll tell me?”
Elrond was startled by the constriction of his heart, seeing the light of hope which flared in the hobbit’s eyes.
“Lily, you listen to him.”
“I know that helps, but... only a little.”
“More than you know. Your willingness to listen to him, and believe him, allows him to live through the Quest again, but without the uncertainty and horror. Eventually, it shall provide the way for the Ring-bearer to place the events in their proper order and see the Quest from the beginning to the end, as we do. For now, he is still endeavoring to sort though it, putting each event in its proper order and place. With time, and patience, particularly yours, he shall be able to see his own innocence in the matter.”
“So though he desired the Ring, he did also desire to destroy It?”
“It was that part of himself which saw Frodo through to the end of the Quest. The Ring-bearer knew the Ring must be destroyed. No other voice or power coerced him to persevere as he did, Lily. He could simply have given in to the Ring, and It would have been claimed that much more quickly by the Enemy. But Frodo chose the struggle, the harder way, more difficult than he ever imagined. It was the Ring-bearer who fought to move forward despite hunger, thirst, fear, and so much more...”
“With Sam’s help.” Lily blushed. When Elrond waited for her, she continued. “Frodo told me he would not have made it without Sam.”
“Yes. In truth, their pairing had not been foreseen by myself, but Gandalf saw it from the beginning. Be that as it may, it was the Ring-bearer who carried the Ring to Sammath Naur so It might be destroyed. He is weary from all he suffered, and needs time and care to remember himself completely -- to come back to himself, as it were.”
Lily nodded in understanding, then searched the lord’s face. She laid her hand on his arm. “Please, his name is Frodo.”
Elrond was taken aback.
Lily was surprised to see him blink, and continued gently. “He does not seem to like being called the Ring-bearer, so I would ask you please not to call him by that name in my presence, as well.”
“But it is a title of honour,” Elrond protested wonderingly, his voice soft.
“Mayhap to you, but to Frodo, it is a painful reminder...”
Elrond glanced away. “I am a ring-bearer...”
“Truly?” Lily asked curiously.
“Yes, I bear Vilya, the Ring of Sapphire; the Ring of Air. The Lady Galadriel bears the Ring Nenya and Gandalf bears Narya.”
“Gandalf, as well?”
“Yes. And Frodo bore the Ring that ruled them all...”
“What purpose does yours serve?”
“The three Rings of the Elves helped us maintain our kingdoms.”
Lily traced the design of a white star on the midnight-blue of her skirt. “And the Ring Frodo bore ruled them all?”
“So now that It is destroyed...”
“Our power shall diminish and fade away in Middle-earth.”
Sudden tears filled Lily’s eyes. “That has a very sad sound to it, my lord.”
Elrond looked past her, at nothing, then shook his head slowly and met her eyes again. “It is time; the time of Men.”
“You knew. You knew if Frodo succeeded, all this would end...”
“It would have ended far more cruelly, had he not succeeded...”
Lily nodded in understanding. “But what of this place now?”
“It shall fade.” His face softened with a warm smile. “Long after you are gone.”
Lily suddenly smiled in return. “I forget how long you have lived, my lord. Frodo told me the story of your father, Eärendil. Sometime, I should like to hear the story from you, but now, you would like to know of my gift...”
Elrond’s eyes widened in pleased surprise. “If you are ready to tell me.”
“I was born with the gift of sight, that is, to see into the hearts of others.”
Elrond nodded. “Many Elves possess such a gift.”
Lily pinked. “But not many hobbits. My parents taught me that with such a gift came great responsibility.”
“They are very wise.” His smile turned to confusion. “What is this sorrow I see in your eyes?”
“Nothing. Truly. I was very blessed to have them.”
“I am sorry.”
Lily gazed up the Elf. “Such sadness I see, Lord Elrond... How many you must have seen pass from Middle-earth... I cannot even begin to imagine.”
Elrond lightly shook himself, and smiled warmly. “Tell me more of your gift, for I am certain your gift is much more than that of sight.”
He started when an Elf bearing a tray of food entered the Conservatory. Unsuccessfully, he endeavored to hide his irritation. “I requested we not be disturbed.”
“Yes, Lord Elrond.”
The Elf knelt on one knee before Lily and laid the tray on a table near her. “The Ring-bearer requested food and drink be brought to his lady...”
Lily smiled. “Please thank my husband for his thoughtfulness, ever is he mindful of me and my needs...”
“He said the same of you, my lady.”
She blushed and searched the Elf’s face. “You are from Lothlórien.”
“Adber of Lothlórien, my lady.”
He bowed and offered Lily a plate of food; she accepted with a nod and a grateful smile. She realized Elrond would not be eating, and glanced at the lord for leave to start her meal; he nodded in affirmation.
Lily lifted a slice of pear to her mouth but stopped before eating it, glancing again at the fair Elf who now towered quietly near her. As with all of them, it was impossible to tell his age, but something within her told her he was younger than Elrond.
“Adber, how came you here?” she queried.
“I am journeying to the Grey Havens.”
“Did you come with the company that just arrived?”
“No, my lady.”
“But the only other company of Elves from Lothlórien departed for the Grey Havens a few days ago...”
“Yes, my lady.”
“Did you not wish to travel with them?”
The Elf paused. “No, my lady.”
“May I ask why?”
Adber glanced at Elrond, who nodded. “When I learned the Ring-bearer and his lady were here, I desired to stay and serve. Lord Elrond granted my behest.”
Lily blushed in surprise. “You wished to serve us? But we are only hobbits of the Shire.”
“My lady--” the Elf protested. “Not hobbits only; no one in Middle-earth is more revered than the Ring-bearer.”
Lily heard his earnest sincerity, and opened her mouth to speak, then closed it again when no words came.
Elrond inclined his head. “You see, Lily, when you chose Frodo, you chose all that he is...”
“Indeed,” Lily smiled, and a twinkle appeared in her eye. “And I fell in love with him over thirteen years ago.”
Neither Elf could hide their surprise.
Nor did Elrond hide the awe he felt. “You loved him long before the Quest...”
“Yes, my lord.”
“But he did not speak of you...”
“Nay, for we met only once...”
The younger Elf struggled not to smile as he realized the Master of Rivendell was speechless.
“I waited and hoped, my lord.”
Lily searched Adber’s serene face, as he stood waiting to bear away her empty plate. Then recognition dawned. “You serve us our meals in the Feasting Hall.”
“Yes, my lady.”
“It is my honour to serve.” The Elf hesitated, then met steadily the hobbit’s eyes. “I remember seeing the Ring-bearer, in Lothlórien, my lady. So weary he was! Never did I imagine he might find peace in the world, but you have brought it to him. Thank you, my lady.” He bowed low, and exited the Conservatory.
Lily’s breath caught in her throat as she pondered Adber’s words.
Elrond continued with a gentle smile. “And if I may, I seek to know how this was brought about.”
“I shall tell you what I have learned. I did not know it reached beyond my simple gift of sight until Frodo returned.”
Elrond drew his brows together. “I want to be certain I understand: You are able to read the thoughts of others?”
“Oh, no, my lord. I am only able to see the emotions of others more deeply... almost as if they are my own. I cannot read the exact thoughts of others, but their feelings are clear, and speak of their intentions with far more clarity than their words or actions...”
Lily closed her eyes briefly, before she forged on. “So, when I met Frodo again in the Shire, after the Quest, I felt his pain, as though it was my own, but I did not understand its source. In truth, I did not understand how Frodo bore it, day in and day out. It was not until March that Gandalf explained to me I possessed a gift for Frodo alone.”
“Are you saying you were created for Frodo?” Elrond wondered aloud, his voice hushed.
“Yes, my lord. That is what Gandalf told me.”
“None of us foresaw this...” Elrond murmured.
Lily’s heart tightened in sudden realization. “If Frodo had refused me, my gift would have meant nothing... left unused...”
Elrond shook his head. “Tell me from the beginning, my lady.”
Lily smiled, then began to share the story of her and Frodo’s courtship. When she began to describe sharing their vows, she hesitated, then finally decided to tell the Elf all.
Elrond found himself laying his hand on her shoulder as she described the ugly horror of bearing all the darkness for those few moments after the vows were taken.
He found himself increasingly impressed by the gentle little creature sitting beside him as she finished her tale.
“I have asked him not to question me about the completeness of his healing until after this October. I am certain he expects to be ill then, and I want him to know for himself that he is healed, and I am safe.”
“You are most remarkable, Lily Baggins of the Shire,” Elrond smiled. He hesitated, then continued. “Do not speak to him of it, unless he asks. Remember what I said about needing to be ready to hear the answers.”
Lily knit her brows. “I shall wait.”
“Come,” Elrond offered, standing and holding his hand out to Lily to help her rise from the bench. “We have talked long, and the evening meal is approaching.” He smiled in wonder as she placed her small hand within his large one, then quickly released it once she was on her feet.
Lily brushed out her skirt, then gazed up at the Master of Rivendell.
“Lord Elrond, may I ask...”
The Elf lord smiled indulgently. “Please, whatever it is you wish to know, I could not keep it from you.” His look turned to surprise at Lily’s next words.
“If, many, many years from now, Frodo wishes to -- to go to the West, would he still have a place on a ship?”
Elrond felt the seriousness of the question. “I shall speak of it with Gandalf, but I am certain if that is what the Ring-bearer -- Frodo -- wishes, he would be allowed to go into the West.”
“What of Sam?”
“He was a Ring-bearer, as well, if only for a short time, and would also be welcome.”
Lily nodded. “Thank you.”
Elrond wondered at Lily’s request and noted her quiet calm as he followed her out of the Conservatory, murmuring, “So, you become more and more like the Elves...”
Lily smiled, and glanced back at the Elf. “I learn quickly, my lord.”
Elrond laughed as they strolled down the hall to where Frodo, Bilbo and Gandalf were waiting for them to go in to the evening meal.
“So, what did you speak of?” Frodo grinned.
“You, of course,” Lily replied tartly, then giggled as Felena led her to the table.
Lord Elrond stayed Frodo with a hand on his shoulder.
Frodo glanced up at the Elf lord, then watched as Felena helped Lily settle at her place at table.
Elrond cleared his throat. “Frodo, your lady is remarkable.”
Frodo smiled, but did not look at the Master of Rivendell. Instead, he continued to watch his wife; she had been away only for the afternoon, but still he had missed her terribly. “Indeed, she is. Did she tell you of her gift, and how because of her I am healed? She’s promised to tell me everything this October.” Frodo suddenly felt like a youngster sharing the tale of catching his first fish.
Elrond smiled patiently as Frodo turned his attention away from Lily, to look up at him. His face grew serious, and he spoke softly. “Wait to ask her,” he counseled.
“At least a year longer. You shall know when to ask her, after that.”
The young couple joined the Elves in the Hall of Fire for music and poetry until late into the evening, long after Bilbo retired for the night. Lily clung to Frodo’s hand as she watched the Elves intently, opening her soul more fully to them. She sensed more clearly the admiration they held for her husband. A light blush touched her cheeks when she realized Lord Elrond was watching her from across the room. A quiet confidence stole over her as he inclined his head in her direction, as if knowing what she was doing.
Frodo glanced at his wife and noticed her eyes were growing heavy. He gently pulled her to her feet, and they slipped quietly from the hall, returning to their rooms arm in arm. He wanted to ask her more of what she discussed with Lord Elrond, then decided that if she wanted him to know, she would tell him.
They quietly readied themselves for bed, and offered a prayer of gratitude for each other. To Frodo it seemed Lily’s prayer was deeper, and more intense. What had the Master discussed with his wife?
His lover offered him a deep kiss, and all questions were forgotten; and Eärendil rose in the night sky.
When Lily finally slept, Frodo held her closer and shuddered, suddenly remembering dark starless nights, without her, and he gazed up and gave thanks those nights were gone.