Lily could feel that Frodo’s weariness had eased considerably. How grateful she was, for the pleasant turn. Whether or not he accepted the truth, she did not know, but she decided it was his choice, and sooner or later he would choose rightly. She enjoyed their quiet first and second breakfast, grateful they chose to stay in their room.
“Sweet?” Frodo scratched at a spot on the tablecloth.
“Yes, Frodo-love?” Lily felt his hesitation.
He gazed up at his wife, then down at the tablecloth once more. “I should like to seek out Lord Elrond. There is something I wish to ask him.”
Lily sensed there was more to this request than Frodo was revealing. She gathered her courage. “I’m ready.”
Frodo glanced up quickly. He felt tears prick his eyes, and blinked them back. “Thank you for being so brave.”
His heart warmed at the deep blush Lily could not hide, and continued. “Shall we commence an active search, or simply wander Rivendell until we happen upon him?”
Lily sat back. “I think, mayhap, a bit of wandering, for it would not surprise me in the least if he found us sooner rather than later.”
“Indeed, I suspect he shall find us when we are ready.”
Lily nodded, and accepted her husband’s help to stand. They began their hunt, hand in hand, and for the first time since their arrival, barely noticed the beauty of Rivendell all about them, so intent they were upon the object of their search.
Less than an hour passed when Lord Elrond met them in a corridor leading to the Conservatory.
Frodo held Lily’s hand more tightly within his own. He raised his eyes to meet the Elf’s. “Lord Elrond, may we speak with you?”
“Of course,” came the reply, and Elrond gave them a slight bow. He shepherded the couple to a bench in the Conservatory.
He took a seat on a stool, and watched as Frodo helped Lily up onto the bench opposite, then ensured she was comfortable, before sitting beside her.
Frodo took Lily’s hand once more into his own. He smiled encouragingly at her when she nervously tightened her hold on him.
He turned his sharp blue gaze to the Elf lord. “Could you tell us of -- of Sauron...”
Elrond glanced at them and then away, across to the far garden; the spill of its bright colours blurred for a moment within his sight. Then he carefully schooled his voice to a studied calm.
“Why would you wish to know of him?”
“We have both seen him. Lily reminded me recently that fear possesses a life of its own, depriving the bearer of joy. I do not wish for us to fear him the rest of our lives... I believe learning more of him may help us put him in proper perspective. He shall take no more from Middle-earth, nor us.”
“Both of you have seen him?” Elrond carefully avoided meeting Lily’s eyes, as he suddenly understood there were things she had not told him.
Lily bowed her head slightly in acknowledgement of Elrond’s unspoken confusion. “I saw him only briefly, when Frodo was very ill. At the time, it seemed merely a bad dream. I did not fully understand the connection between the truth and my dream, until Frodo spoke of -- the Eye, yesterday.”
The master of Rivendell inclined his head. “Please do tell, what do you already know -- ?”
Frodo gazed at Lily, and nodded. “Since Lily knows somewhat less than I do, she should speak.”
Lily did not hide her appreciation for her husband.
How her smile warms my spirit! he marveled.
“Frodo has told me of Beren and Lúthien, and I remember Sauron was defeated there... but there was a Greater Enemy?”
“That would be Morgoth,” Elrond began.
“He was known as Melkor, when he was Valar,” Gandalf added, as he joined the trio.
Frodo and Lily exchanged wondering looks; the wizard appeared often at need.
Lily turned to stare at their old friend, wide-eyed. “He was Valar?”
“Indeed,” Gandalf replied.
Elrond continued, “He chose to defy Ilúvatar, and was finally driven from Valinor. He wished to be King of Middle-earth.”
“Then... Morgoth and Melkor are one and the same?” Lily wondered.
“Yes, and no,” Gandalf replied seriously.
Frodo hid his smile at Lily’s unconcealed vexation.
“Melkor was Valar; however, Morgoth was not.”
Lily’s frustration vanished. “I see. Though he was the same person in some ways, he was not, in others. Not unlike -- Smeagol and Gollum?”
“Yes, in that context,” Gandalf agreed.
Lily drew her brows together. “Ilúvatar did not accept them, and so He drove them away?”
“No, Lily,” Gandalf smiled gently. “Remember when we spoke of free choice?”
“Yes, last March.”
“Yes... Melkor had free will, as did Smeagol. They chose to turn away from Ilúvatar.”
“Did Smeagol know of Ilúvatar? Why did he know, but not the hobbits of the Shire?” Lily could not hide her confusion.
“No; Smeagol did not know.” Gandalf hid his smile, for he knew what she would ask next.
“Then how could he turn his back on Ilúvatar, if he did not know Him?”
“An excellent question, as ever, dear child,” Gandalf smiled warmly.
Lily blushed, and Frodo endeavored not to burst with his pride in her.
Elrond found himself unexpectedly enchanted by the exchange between the couple. Then he settled himself more comfortably, relieved not to have to answer these questions, and wondered how Gandalf would.
“Lily, is there something within you which knows right from wrong? Without being told?”
Her face was thoughtful. “Do you mean -- like things that my parents told me?”
“I mean things that your parents did not tell you, and yet you knew right from wrong anyway.”
Lily drew her brows sharply together, and then she brightened. “Do you mean like when I would sneak behind my mother’s back?”
Frodo stared at his wife, open-mouthed.
“When I was little!” She laughed. “I remember sneaking a biscuit. I thought it would make me feel older to do it myself.”
Frodo’s own curiosity was piqued. “Did it make you feel older?”
“No. I felt -- selfish.”
“Was your mother angry with you for taking the biscuit?”
“No... and that’s just it. She would have given me it, had I only asked. What’s more, she most likely would have gotten one for herself, as well...” Lily’s eyes misted. “We often talked of things over biscuits and milk. Nothing particularly important; only whether or not I would draw that day, or read, or if we would go for a walk...”
“If she did not scold you, then how did you know it was wrong?” Gandalf queried.
“I felt bad,” Lily decided.
“Ilúvatar gave you that knowledge, and not to you alone,” Gandalf explained, “but to everyone. However, some choose to nurture it, as you have, and others choose to abandon it, to follow their own way.”
“But why?” Lily could not keep herself from asking. “Wouldn’t it be wiser to follow the wisdom of Ilúvatar, the Creator?”
“Yes, it would; but why do you think they choose to pursue their own course?” Gandalf eyed her.
Lily breathed deeply and sighed. “They must believe their path is better. But Gandalf, surely it isn’t...”
“You are wise beyond your years, but you have allowed yourself to put aside your pride, and learn.”
She gazed for a long moment at her husband, whose blue gaze had not left her face. “Gandalf,” she continued, “why have the hobbits not been taught of Ilúvatar?” Lily struggled not to sound ungrateful. “The Elves know of Him, as do Men. Why not us?”
Gandalf’s smile softened. “You are as children, in many ways... in your innocence, and lack of guile.”
“But we did not know whom to thank for our blessings...”
“Yet you lived in peaceful appreciation of the simple things in life. The world is changing, and you shall change with it. Already you are learning of Ilúvatar. It is time.”
Frodo and Lily sat side by side, their hands intertwined, lightly swinging their feet.
Elrond watched with interest as the couple seemed to mull over together what they had heard. Then as one, they sighed and looked up, prepared to continue the conversation.
This time Frodo spoke. “So Melkor chose to abandon Ilúvatar, and His ways, and became -- Morgoth.”
“Yes,” Gandalf affirmed. “And what do you know of Sauron?”
Frodo winced slightly at the name. “That he served Morgoth.”
“Yes,” Elrond answered. “Morgoth was defeated in the War of Wrath, and Sauron escaped, and was not seen for a thousand years, during which it is certain he was pursuing his master’s ways; for when he returned, he claimed Mordor for his own.”
“But that was thousands of years ago.” Lily spoke her confusion aloud. “How is that possible? Was he Valar, or Elf?”
Elrond turned his steady gaze to Gandalf, and the wizard sighed heavily.
“He was the greatest of the Maia.”
Lily stared at the white wizard. She hopped from the bench, and walked to where Gandalf sat. Slowly, she reached up her small hand and placed it on his weathered cheek, as she searched his eyes, her brows knitted.
“No, he was not. He may have been Maia, but would he not have needed to choose Ilúvatar to truly be the greatest?”
Unexpected tears sprang to the wizard’s eyes. His smile was tremulous, as he gently took her hand from his face and kissed the back of it.
“You are indeed a truly fitting companion for the Ring-bearer,” was all Gandalf could think to say. Then he released her hand, so she could return to Frodo’s side.
Frodo hopped down and helped her up once more, then settled himself beside her again. He grasped her hand tightly before continuing.
“We learned from the story of Beren and Lúthien, Sauron could change his form...”
Lily continued the thought, her fear mostly lost when her compassion for her husband bore sway. “Why did he choose an eye of flame?”
Gandalf marveled at her peace, but rather than comment upon it, he answered her question. “It was the form of his sleepless vigil.”
Elrond too hid his surprise at Lily’s serenity. He directed his question to Frodo. “Would you have been as frightened of a Man?”
Frodo considered for several moments before answering. “No, I don’t think I would have. I know so many good Men.”
Lily could not hide her surprise. “So he based his power in fear?” Before anyone could answer, she continued. “What is the source of Ilúvatar’s power?”
Elrond and Gandalf exchanged a knowing glance, and Gandalf asked, “What do you believe it to be?”
Lily looked to Frodo, and they shared a long glance, then Frodo spoke, still holding Lily’s gaze. “Love.”
Gandalf nodded, his blue eyes twinkling. “But is this then how He maintains His power?”
Lily suddenly realized she was seeing the hours of conversations Gandalf and Frodo had shared, with her husband asking questions, and Gandalf answering. She smiled to herself; well, the wizard was answering, after a fashion... Merry would be beside himself; Lily nearly giggled at the thought. She tightened her hold on Frodo’s hand.
Frodo slowly shook his head. “No. Love is of the heart, and can lead one to make unwise decisions, as well as wise.”
Gandalf inclined his head in satisfaction. Then he continued, carefully. “What kept Boromir from abandoning the Fellowship, after he betrayed you?”
Tears gathered in Frodo’s eyes, and he nodded in understanding. “He could have left and returned to his people, but he would not. No matter the cost to himself, he needed to restore what he had lost. His honour.”
“Was he not endeavoring to save his honour when he attempted to sway you to go to Minas Tirith?”
Frodo shook his head. “It was based in a lie. He believed the Ring could help him, but only because the Ring deceived him.”
“So it is honour cloaked in truth?”
Frodo nodded. “Yes, and Sauron lacked both.”
Lily sighed heavily. “So, although Sauron is gone, such evil may rise again -- simply because of pride, without honour or truth?”
“Yes, and that is why it is important for Frodo to write it all down--” at this, he met Frodo’s eyes “--so others may learn and perhaps be less inclined to fall so easily into such traps,” Gandalf finished.
“When we return home, I shall start on it, in earnest,” Frodo affirmed.
Lily caught his glance and held it. “I shall help you, dearest husband, however I may.” She smiled encouragingly for him, until he returned it.
Elrond smiled in satisfaction as he stood and extended his arm, inviting them toward the feasting hall. “Come, we need to feed our friends; it is long past time.”
The rest of the day, Elrond and Gandalf made themselves available to the hobbit couple. And Lily and Frodo enthusiastically drew out stories of the coming of the Elves, and the Sun, and Moon.
9 August 1420sr
Their morning in the gardens had been quiet and peaceful. Though Lily did not wish to mar the serenity of it, she knew their time in Rivendell was growing short.
“Frodo, we have talked of your fight with the Ring, and I believe you accept -- if not entirely, then at least more willingly -- that you did what you could. And yet, something still pulls at you. There is within you -- I sense it -- a feeling of failure. Why?”
He startled, stopping mid-stride. He glanced about, then stared hard at one of the blooms hanging on a nearby May-Pops vine. “In the Mirror of the Lady Galadriel, I saw the scouring of the Shire. She told me it was what would come to pass if I failed... Then we returned home, and all the trees were gone, and the Row destroyed... and so much more... just as I saw in the Mirror...”
Lily blinked in surprise. She searched her mind for the understanding she would need to guide her husband. A sigh escaped her, but Frodo seemed not to notice. She slipped her hand into his and drew him to an alcove shielded by a weeping willow.
Frodo’s eyes questioned hers, but he did not hesitate to sit beside his wife when she patted the patch of grass beside her.
Lily leaned against the smooth trunk of the willow and pulled her husband into her arms, cradling him, with his head pressed to her breast.
He chuckled appreciatively, pulled for a moment from his introspection, then caught his breath when she touched her finger to his lips and gently shushed him.
“Frodo-love,” she murmured softly. “Close your eyes.”
Frodo furrowed his brows, then did as he was told, nestling against her.
Lily sighed silently, smiling. “Soon, we shall begin our journey home to the Shire... Keep your eyes closed, dearest. Tell me of our travel.”
Frodo could not help himself; he opened his eyes to gaze with confusion into his wife’s.
She smiled reassuringly. “Close your eyes, and describe our way home. What does it look like?”
Frodo did as he was told, his brows furrowing again. “We’ll travel through the Trollshaws...” He opened his eyes. “Do you wish to stop at the Stone Trolls again?”
With a single finger, Lily traced one brow, then down her husband’s cheek, searching his eyes. “Do you?”
“It would be pleasant...” He closed his eyes once more.
She heard the hesitation in his voice. “But Felena mentioned yesternight a party of Elves would be leaving for the Grey Havens soon, and it would be wonderful to travel with them, at least as far as the Last Bridge.”
“Yes. I don’t think we could keep their pace much farther than that.”
Lily’s heart swelled, knowing he meant she could not keep the pace, but he did not hold it against her.
“Then that is what we shall do, my love; we’ll travel to the Last Bridge with the Elves. Then where shall we go?”
Frodo paused. “We’ll pass Weathertop...” He swallowed hard. “Lily...” He could not hold back the question in his heart. “Would you -- would you climb to the top with me?”
He sighed, unexpectedly relieved. It took him several moments to gather his thoughts again, and he nestled more deeply into the warmth of her arms.
“After that, we’ll continue on the Great East-West Road... we must stop in our meadow on the way home, and spend some time under our maple tree.” Frodo grinned.
Lily attempted to give her husband a stern gaze, then realized it was useless; his eyes were closed. She stifled a giggle. “Then where?”
“And then we’ll be back at Crickhollow.”
“Will we need to pass through a gate? Or endure interrogation?”
“You well know there is no gate, but I’m certain Merry and Pippin will question us thoroughly.”
Lily smiled, attempting not to laugh. “True enough. Then where shall we go?”
“To Deephallow, to visit Daisy and Hal and dear little Pearl...” Frodo’s eyes flew open, and he gasped, startling Lily. “And you can show me where your hedgehog, Prickles, lived.”
Lily giggled. “Indeed!” She wished she could dwell on these pleasant thoughts, but dared not be distracted from her purpose. “Then where shall we go?”
Frodo closed his eyes once more. “Home... to Bag End.”
“What does it look like?”
“Like Bag End,” Frodo grinned broadly, his eyes still closed.
Lily was mildly surprised that she could see the mischief in his face. “Are the flowers in bloom?”
“The late summer flowers Sam planted will be in bloom.”
“And what of the tree atop Bag End? Have the leaves started to change colour?”
“No, they’ll still be green. They’ll not change colour until after my birthday.”
Lily smiled at his matter-of-fact descriptions. “What of the roses in the back garden?”
“They’ll be blooming, happier for the cooling weather.”
“Frodo, why were they not pulled out, as so many other plants were?”
Frodo slowly opened his eyes, and gazed up into his wife’s. He studied the colours he saw in their depths, and then recalled her question. “They were. Sam replaced them, even before you returned to Deephallow that very first time, back in November...”
“So Sam’s dirt helped them as well. And the Party Field?”
Frodo closed his eyes once more. “The mallorn grows, as you know, and the gazebo’s covered in honeysuckle...”
“So the Shire is, in truth, dressed in greens and golds and reds and pinks and lavenders and blues... the Mill will be grinding the late summer harvest, for winter. Almost as if nothing at all ever happened... but for a carved stone, in a garden, in Bywater...” Her voice caught.
“Your father’s name is carved on that stone,” Frodo murmured softly.
“It could have been my father and my brother, but it wasn’t. If not for you, it would have been so much worse.” She swallowed her tears, wanting to keep her husband focused. “And Sam and Rosie will want to hear all about our travels.”
Frodo smiled. “I have missed Sam, and Rosie... It will be so good to see them!”
“Yes. I look forward to sharing meals with them again.”
Gradually, Frodo sat up, and turned to his wife, searching her eyes once more.
Lily waited quietly, meeting her husband’s steady gaze.
“Beloved Lily,” Frodo whispered. The shadows weighing on his heart, for longer than he could remember, melted away. He opened his soul to his wife, and reveled in the change in her face as she realized. Her blue-hazel eyes filled with joyful tears, and she smiled. He wanted to hold her, but wanted more to simply gaze into her eyes, taking in all she offered, his heart overflowing with the love he felt for her, and from her.