Chapter 8: The Passing of Bilbo Baggins
Everybody was busy packing things; the three Elven companions---Haldir, Glorfindel and Gildor---organized the Elven crew to gather food, pack other paraphernalia and see that the ship was ready to harbour. Gandalf went and looked after the horses and made sure that they were fit for travel. Bilbo and Frodo were busy with other things. At last when all was made ready, all hurried on deck to see their approach to the Haven of Avalonne, the haven of Erassea. Frodo went up last. All were standing and shielding their eyes against the setting Sun (if you would call that setting, for the Sun merely dipped lower through the vast heavens, but it had no horizon to sink into). Soon the Elves could make out the Island of Eressea, yet there were also other smaller isles about it; Frodo stood quietly and solemnly. Many that saw him, at first smiled, but their expressions changed: for they saw that he was reluctant to depart with the ship.
Indeed, Frodo stood there as still as stone. He wearing what he wore for his uncle's Farewell Party, and indeed he looked more like he belonged in Middle-earth that in the Undying Realm; Sting was fastened around his belt and on his shoulders there was a tattered bag. In his hands he held the Phial of Galadriel. His face was grave.
"You seem troubled, Ring-Bearer," said Galadriel who stood beside him. "You look weary, like you did when left Lothlorien."
"There is a land wholly strange before me. I have left all dear things behind, but my memory, it seems, does not want to depart with them." Answered Frodo; his expression did not change.
Many Elves left the deck and went inside to gather the remaining things for the journey. Frodo was still standing on the prow and went a bit closer to the railing. A wind was flowing through his hair and the golden beams of the Sun were on his face. He was weeping at the last memories of the beloved Middle-Earth before he knew what he was doing, and his fallen tears were lost in the deep-golden sky. The Road now seemed to him dearer than ever. He did no want to part with it, but to turn back.
As the great, white ship flew upon the waves of the Shadowy Sea like a sea bird with the wind beneath its wings, reaching its final destination, it passed between the mysterious Enchanted Isles; no one clearly knew why they were so avoided warily, but none itched to find out. To some, that name meant ill tidings. As soon as they crossed the line at which the Isles were spaced on, a fog went up; it wasn't thick at first, but as their voyage progressed, it thickened, until nothing could be seen within a meter. Frodo looked about the ship with anxiety; no one was around. He was suddenly filled with concern and the foreboding of fear and danger. He called out Gandalf's name in question, but the fog stifled his cry to a hoarse whisper. He tried again, remembering that Galadriel was beside him, seconds ago. Alas! The fog nearly suffocated him with its heaviness. He felt beads of sweat running down his brow; his hair dripped over his eyes.
His heart rate accelerated as he breathed hard, looking from side to side, not knowing what to do, or where to go. This is not good...he thought, fidgeting to move, but not able to. The fog soon veiled everything from sight, and as hard as Frodo strained his vision, he couldn't see. The ship could be seen pearly white and eerie-like---with newly made sails billowing in an unfelt wind and a severed mast---at intervals, where the fog wasn't that thick. It glided across the stilled waters of the remaining Sea. No ripple; no lap; no movement was seen across the strangely glassy black waters, through which dimly, Frodo could make out the puffy clouds and watery Sun on the opposite side. The Enchanted Isles were working their unknown magic, for which they were known.
The ship steered itself without help of wind or Elf, to the Havens of Avalonne in Tol Eressae, or so the wary crew deemed it, panicked by the suddenness of the fog. After almost half an hour of sailing, not reaching its destined grounds, the fog was cleared by great gust of wind, which came almost as suddenly as the mist. The Elves wondered at the weather, and whispered amongst themselves---as if the wind might hear them---that this was not just weather; something else was present too. Randomly spaced out on the deck, prow and stern of the ship, the crew hoped to get a glimpse of the Haven with their keen Elvish eyes, but then the wind escalated to a gale, sending the ship hurtling across the now ruffled waters. Elrond and Gandalf ran to the tiller, hoping to turn the ship in its desired direction, but lo! It was moving at a speed not comprehendible; not even thinking of slowing down, even as the land drew nearer. Glorfindel ran over to help, but still, to no avail. While they fought with the steering, the ship neared a rocky bay, where the shadowed Sea hid the stones beneath its dark waves.
The crew was unprepared for what happened next; the ship collided with the rocks. The stony, cold, mercilessly jagged teeth grinded the ship's bulk that was suspended underwater, breaking the slender wooden boards, creating a gap through which water flowed without end. At the hit, the swan lurched forward and staggered across the stones, sending shivers through the very bones of ship and crew. After a moment, though, it stopped moving all at once, defeated by a hidden enemy: trapped and doomed. A voice of an Elf was heard below deck---a cry of despair and alarm. Water was everywhere, building its height to bring the ship down with the weight it was putting on it.
"Hurry!" cried Gandalf, trying to reinforce order among the panicked Elves. "Go on deck and lower the ropes! I'll gather the others, hurry, Glorfindel! Bilbo, where are you?"
The ship that was moments ago filled with anticipation and excitement was now filled with horror and yelling. Elves were casting ropes over the rails and were descending into the water below. Gandalf was running up and down the ship, gathering things that were left behind in panic and searching for Bilbo. Suddenly he bumped into him.
"We have to get out of here!" said Gandalf.
"I know! I know, but I can't find Frodo anywhere! Have you seen him?" asked Bilbo in a worried tone.
"No I haven't, but I think that he is with Galadriel. Let's go!" cried Gandalf and grabbing Bilbo by the hand, rushed on deck.
The ship was filled with horrified Elves and yells and screams. The horses were by some miracle unharmed and passed through the water with ease, led by the magnificent maeras Shadowfax---a truly born leader and king among horses. When most of crew was already safe on land, the ship creaked and bubbled. Slowly, it began to founder deeper and deeper into the water. Finally, when all the remainder of those that were the last to leave reached the shore, all stood in silent horror and watched the destruction of a once great ship. The horses that had all survived the shipwreck stood a short distance from the water and trembled with fear and cold. Shadowfax, who stood beside Gandalf, felt a deep grief and rearing up on his hind legs, uttered an earth shattering bellow, as of a wounded and angered creature.
"This was not supposed to happen! How could a ship made by the Elves of Cirdan, be lost so easily?" cried Haldir in despair. Galadriel stood silent and all grieved to see a Lady so fair and beautiful, weep; her face had paled to pure white, and her queenly blue eyes were drowned with horror, confusion and despair. All stood with heavy hearts and many Elves turned away from the sight and wept for the loss of so fair a thing. Bilbo, who stood shaken with fear, now came back to life.
"Where's Frodo? Has anyone seen Frodo?" he asked. Many that stood by also repeated the question and looked about, calling the Hobbit's name. Soon, the shore that was silent not long ago, was filled with Elves running about and yelling.
"Lady, have you seen Frodo? Gandalf said he was with you. Where is he, do you know?" asked Bilbo, when he found the Elf Queen.
"I do not know. Last I saw him on deck." She answered wearily.
"No; hobbits cannot swim. If he had left the ship, the Elves would have found him by now. If he didn't, that means that he's---Frodo!" yelling, Bilbo rushed for the water. Elrond and Gandalf ran after him and stopped him. Screaming and cursing, Bilbo tried to get through them, but he was too weak and weary.
"Let me go find him! I know he could not have been lost with the ship! Let me through!" he cried.
"And what then, Bilbo? What will you do if we let you?" asked Elrond.
"I will search and search and will keep on searching until I find him." Answered Bilbo sharply.
"And what will you do if you cannot find him?" asked Gandalf.
"Then I will die trying!" answered Bilbo and pushed through. He was quickly restrained again.
"Let others, who can master the water do the job." Said Elrond softly.
"Yes, and I shall search on land. Come Shadowfax, we have a job to do!" cried Gandalf, as he jumped on his great horse and sped away.
Many hours passed and still no sight of Frodo could be found. The Elves searched and yelled, but their voices were cut off by a howling wind and soon, the searchers grew tired and fell into uneasy sleep. Bilbo was left sitting still on a large stone cross-legged, with his elbows resting on his knees, and his face cupped in his hands; he was very sleepy, but he would not rest until his favorite nephew was found alive. Once or twice, the old Hobbit dozed off, but would jerk and look around at the faintest sound, but every time he was dismayed to find that it was not Frodo.
The morning dawned cheerfully and the sun was blazing when the Noldor and Eldar awoke from a heavyhearted night; the weather seemed to be mocking them with its gloriousness; it seemed a strange thing, that, although the sun was shining, there were still stars in the sky---the Stars of Varda---which would never disappear...even in the daylight.
When everyone awoke, they were still weary and heavy hearted. When they turned towards the water, they turned quickly away, as if they looked upon some gruesome sight. Suddenly, the Elves and Wizard were painfully roused by a loud neigh. Gandalf, Galadriel and Elrond ran to Shadowfax. The great steed of the maeras was standing beside a body and his once imperious and proud posture had a wearied and frightened look to it now, which was something, no one ever saw in such a creature. As they looked closer to what distressed Shadowfax so, they grew terrified; to the dismay of all, the body was Bilbo's and no life was in him.
"Alas! Woe to us all!" cried Gandalf amid tears. "Bilbo has passed away! Now we have lost two beloved friends and there is none like to them. The Ring-Bearer was lost to the great Heavens, before he even looked upon this fair land and the other was consumed by grief the two were akin. Our company shall ever be lonely without them and we cannot hope to find happiness. They were our dear friends. This night and day are filled with grief!" as he said these last words, Gandalf kneeled and kissed Bilbo's forehead. Then he got up and wept. The Elves stood in total distress and paled faces. Bilbo was so dear to them, and they would greatly miss his devil-may-care attitude. The Hobbit had a gift of cheering up even the heaviest hearts.
"The body shall be buried here, where he fell awaiting Frodo's return and thus he shall remain waiting! " He cried.
After many hours of labour, the body of Bilbo was covered in the soft sand of the shore. A stone was set at the head of the grave and many smaller ones were placed at the sides. Then, Galadriel took off one of the flowers woven in her hair and placed it near the great stone. Then Gandalf carved on the stone these words:
Here lies the second founder of the One Ring,
The slayer of Smaug the Magnificent.
Friend to all Elves and Dwarves and the King of Gondor.
Bilbo Baggins- Middle-Earth 2890-1422 T. A- F. A.
After the funeral, where many wept openly, the Elves and the others gathered their things painfully, got on their horses and left the solemn grounds. They did not know where they were headed, but followed Gandalf and Galadriel, nonetheless. Not one of them looked back, for were too sad and pained by their losses.
"We cannot go to Eressea yet," said Gandalf. "We need a place to rest and regain our senses."
* * *
All Frodo remembered before he hit the water was a blur of blue below and terrified yells above. The water was cold and it pierced his body as if many spears were flung at him at once. The Hobbit hit the shallow water and crashed on the stones. He let out a yell, but none heard him and he was soon choked with cold, icy water. Frodo, being an inexperienced swimmer, began to struggle with the shallow to get to shore. Water began filling his lungs and he was getting weary. Finally, his strength gave way and all went black.