The Paradise of the West - Chapter 2
Two days had passed without much happening. Frodo grew more and more anxious: where was Gandalf? Frodo knew he came on the ship on the day of their leaving, but now heard or saw naught of him. The ship was great indeed, but Frodo knew where every room was and could walk freely about it, but everywhere he looked, the old man was nowhere to be heard or seen!
So dawned October the 6th, which was a day of dread for Frodo. He was reluctant to get out of bed and had his breakfast there, which was brought to him by Bilbo. Outside, the Sun was shining rather brightly and its rays played on the translucent waters of the Sea. It was very warm, and the Elves were dressed in light garments.
"Why are you so lazy today?" asked Bilbo. His voice was full of concern and question. "It's a wonderful day and you should really go out on deck. The Sea looks a lot better than the last time you have gone and you have no need for your cloak."
"This is the day that I was wounded by the Black Riders three years ago. I fear that Gandalf was right: this is a wound that will never fully heal. Where is the old wizard anyway?" said Frodo, quietly, fearing that his words might awake his pain in the left shoulder. "I would very much like to see the Great Sea. Could you summon Elrond to come here if he may? I have a matter of importance to discuss with him." Frodo sighed and looked outside the window wistfully. Bilbo opened his mouth as if to speak and shut it. With a grave face, the old Hobbit quietly left the room and Frodo shut his eyes. Moments later, (although to Frodo it seemed hours), Elrond came into the room. He sat on the bed and slowly Frodo opened his eyes.
"It seems to me that you wanted to ask me something, but I also feel that you are not all sound. What is troubling you?" said Elrond.
"Good morning to you too," said Frodo half mockingly with a laugh. "Several things troubled my mind me today, actually, that I want to be made clear: Sam was one of the bearers of the One Ring. Why had he not come? Another question is: where in the name of the Shire are we going? The third question: where's Gandalf? I have seen naught of him since the second day of our departure."
"So those are the things that your mind is troubled about; Sam did not come with us, because many of the people of your Fellowship still have to play a great role in Middle-earth. They have to accomplish several things that they have missed when they became your Companions. We have already finished our part so we must leave and let Middle-Earth be like it was. All the songs and tales that ever existed about the Rings are now lost and forgotten. They will never trouble anyone."
"Sam has put them in to the Red Book of the Shire as part of the Shire Records," said Frodo in a sing-along voice.
"That was unwisely done;" replied Elrond with a solemn voice "The land we left should have stayed in peace and like to the place that it was before the Great Shadow came. Now to answer your second question: for that exact reason we have planned a great feast for tonight and that will be explained as clearly as possible. I myself do not know where Mithrandir is, although I am sure that he will be at the feast."
Frodo smiled weakly and tried to get out of bed to come on deck with Elrond; his weariness has eased a bit, after he was deprived of his inquiries. But as soon as he stood up, he swayed and would have fallen on the floor if Elrond had not caught him and settled him in the bed.
"Just as I feared," he said. "I knew that the questions weren't the only thing that bothered you. I feel that your shoulder is giving you great discomfort: for you are pale and slightly cold." Frodo was silent for a while and then:
"Will it ever heal? Can any elf magic heal it?"
"I am sorry, but that is beyond my power. Sauron was too great a Sorcerer and had made his Servants, the Nazgul, nearly as strong. You should lie in bed for a while and sleep if you can. I shall call the Lady of the Wood to see what she can do. She was there before me." With that Elrond left. After some time, into the room walked in a tall and fair woman. She was clothed in pure white that seemed to glimmer like the new sun in daylight. Her hair was long and gold, like a fire that was eternally awake; she herself was as white as snow.
"Well Frodo Baggins," she began and her voice sounded like the chiming of silver bells. "I see that your are in great pain and I will do what I can to ease you. Close your eyes and listen!" With that she began clear song. At first Frodo could not understand what she said, but then he realized that she was singing about Middle-Earth and its wonders in Elvish. The words seemed fair and clear and with them sleep crept over Frodo and he closed his eyes.
* * *
The hobbit awoke to find that the sun was melting in the west like a great glob of bright yellow paint suddenly diffused and that clear evening was abroad; the sky was a peaceful gold far in the west and was slowly turning to a heavy curtain of blue, littered with millions of stars. He sat up and found that the pain seemed to cease for a while. He got up, leaning on a chair and found that he could stand. He looked around, got dressed and went into a great hallway. It seemed empty but for a few elves here and there. He asked one of them where he could find Elrond and he directed him; he was on deck, Frodo gathered. Somehow he guessed it was so. He found the Elf and they talked for a while and then Elrond beckoned to him to come and help set the table.
The table, to Frodo's surprise, was moved on deck and was already covered by a white cloth and several golden candles were also set there. Frodo noticed Galadriel pacing around the table bringing all sorts of food and drink. She reminded Frodo of Goldberry in the House of Tom Bombadil: all clad in white with golden hair. This surprised Frodo greatly and he wondered why had he never noticed it before and if Galadriel and Goldberry were somehow related to each other, but then he scowled at his foolish thought.
"It cannot be so!" he mumbled angrily, scorning himself for these foolish thoughts. "Goldberry is the River's daughter; Galadriel is an Elf Queen, and nothing more."
He helped set and the table and in a half of an hour, all was ready. There was a high seat at the far end of the table for Elrond and on either side there were smaller seats for Gandalf and Galadriel, as Frodo guessed. There were several other High Elves at the table and of these Frodo only recognized Glorfindel of the House of Elrond (the Elf that met Frodo and his companions after the attack on Weathertop), Haldir (the guard of Lothlorien that the Fellowship had befriended) and Gildor Inglorion of the House of Finrod. At the near side of the table there was a seat that was raised on cushions and beside it was another of the same sort. Frodo guessed that they were for himself and Bilbo. The Hobbit, suddenly feeling very small among all these great folk, sat down and hunched over in his seat, tapping his fingers on the tabletop in wait. Presently everyone came; everyone but Gandalf. Frodo bowed his head; where was the wizard?
The food that was served was delicious, seen in the expressions of the many fair faces of the Elves. There were honey coloured draughts, many sorts of wine, fruit, cakes and many things besides! Frodo wasn't hungry; he hardly ate, and sat with his cheek propped against his hand, playing with his fork with the other hand. Elrond soon got up and raised his hand to silence everyone.
"We must begin our counsel without Mithrandir, I fear," he said and looked at Frodo. Several of the elves cried out in dismay. They had hoped that Gandalf would give them greater counsel of where to steer their course. Frodo looked up and in his eyes there was pain and worry; Bilbo cast his eyes down. "Many of you have wondered where we are going and how will we live there," continued Elrond. "I myself do not know too clearly. I know that the land we are making for is NOT in the Circles of the World. We are to come to the banks of Tol Eressae within a year or so, for that is the home of all the forgiven Elves who were pardoned by the Valar and of those who grew tired of Mortal Lands. The land beyond is the Undying Realm; there is not much that I know of it, but I shall share with you whatever knowledge was given to me, by my father and mother---Earendil and Elwing: there is a large strain of mountains at the East shores; these mountains are called the Pelori---the highest mountains in the entire world. The highest peak is Taniquetil, the throne of Manwe and Varda, most favored by Iluvatar. In the Utter-Most West there are the halls of Mandos and the Doors of Night; those regions are prohibited to all. I also know that on the Southwestern shore, there is the second highest peak, Hyamentir, below which is a ravine that is shunned by the Elves: for Ungoliant had marred it with her evil. That region is strange and dangerous, but we shall not be going there.
"We will be traveling now for a while over the Sea and then we will go by the Straight Road, which leads itself to the land of Eressea. We will harbour in the Haven of Avalonne, where we shall be met by the Noldor and Teleri who were pardoned by the Valar." Many Elves cheered; for their kin would be there.
And so Elrond went on talking. Frodo turned his mind away from the journey and that was a relief, but his heart was heavy: he was pale and sweating. He felt sort of sick and his head was spinning. He clutched the little white gem that Queen Arwen Evenstar gave him at their final parting; he did not forget Arwen's words: `when the memory of fear and darkness troubles you, this will bring you aid!' He left the table and stumbled to the wooden rail of the magnificent ship. There he stood and retched; the slow bobbing of the ship had made him terribly nauseous. He wiped the sweat from his forehead, and after a sudden spasm of pain in this left shoulder, he fell down like a dead thing and did not get up.
Meanwhile at the table, Bilbo was getting bored and was nodding (as usual). He was about to say something to Frodo, when he noticed he was not in his seat. He looked around the deck, but shadows concealed the fallen Frodo. He got up, hobbled to Elrond and whispered to him. At that Elrond stopped talking and looked around himself. He was about to send a few Elves to search for him, when out of the shadows came an old man clothed in dazzling, blinding white, and with a tall pointed hat, resting upon his white-haired head. He seemed to be carrying something in his arms; a body.
Elrond and Bilbo ran up to him.
"Where did you find him, Gandalf?" they asked with faces both surprised and grave as they looked upon the body; they were dismayed to find that it belonged to Frodo. Such fright came over them that they had never felt before: Frodo was as pale as he had been when he was brought from the Ford of Bruinen, after the Witch King wounded him. His dark curly hair was drooping with sweat; his mouth open and his hands were colder than ice and hung limply at his side, and no life stirred in him.
"I found him near the rail. I think that he felt a fever, but now I fear worse: today is the anniversary of his great wound. I think you, Elrond, had suspected as much." Replied the wizard.
"I did," said Elrond in a short, hasty tone. "Let's get into my room and I shall tend him as best I can. Glorfindel!" he called. The tall Elf Lord stood up and retreated from the table, where he was deep in conversation with two other Elves. He came trotting up to Elrond and listened for orders. "You shall come with me, and Bilbo, fetch a bucket of hot water and a cloth. A cold-press will not work here. It will only make matters worse." Explained Elrond, as Bilbo ran off and Glorfindel followed his lord. Gandalf walked with Elrond astride, carrying the limp body.
When they reached the room of the High Elf, Gandalf settled Frodo upon a bed and sat on a chair holding the hobbit's cold hand. Presently, in rushed Bilbo with the bucket, nearly tripping over his own feet and spilling the hot liquid. Elrond took the bucket and the cloth. He crushed some herbs into the water that made it bubble. Then, he commanded Gandalf to, ever gently, strip off Frodo's tunic. As Gandalf did so, they all stood in shock: Frodo's left shoulder were paler than anything and a small line, right below the collar bone, which was all that was left of the wound, shone a deathly white.
"I do not understand but one thing," said Gandalf quietly; his brows were furrowed with perplexity. Elrond looked at him with a gaze of quiet question. "When I was traveling west with the Hobbits after the War, we passed near Weathertop on this day, but Frodo showed no such discomfort; at the worst, he was unnaturally pale and a little feverish, but nothing more. Why is his condition now so much worse?" Elrond sighed and sat in thought. His sea-grey eyes were closed as he tried to concentrate on the answer.
"It might be the final attack of the wound; perhaps it is strongest now, because he will never again be bothered by its accursedness. I think, Gandalf, this is the worst that this fit will become. Let him rest." Said Elrond and beckoned for Glorfindel to help with the healing.
Glorfindel took the cloth and after dipping it into the bucket of boiling water, pressed it against the scar. After a while, life returned to the hobbit. All the while, Elrond sat by Frodo's bed, ready to conduct any healing as soon as something has gone amiss.
Many hours had passed and the Hobbit's body was re-gaining its color. Soon his face became its normal rosy color and suddenly, he opened his blue eyes. At first all seemed a blur, but they didn't have time to adjust to their surroundings; they closed again; Elrond had spoken some words that made incredulous drowsiness overcome Frodo. And as his eyes closed, he felt a prick at his shoulder at which he winced in pain. Tears welled in his eyes, but never fell. Then all went black.