October 6th, the year 3020 of the third age, Minas Tirith.
“…but what of Frodo? Should I have told him all?” thought Arwen, as Frodo’s dread reached out to clutch at her own heart. She stood on the balcony of her sitting room looking out to the northwest over the skirts of the towering Mount Mindolin. Many long miles lay between her and the one she feared for. “Frodo…” He had not gone into the West yet, and her uncertainty was rising with each passing day.
For Frodo was wounded… And long had Arwen known the power of such evil wounds, which though in the mind and body of the bearer, were yet also fed by an ancient darkness that had no cure in Middle Earth. Not unless Eru himself were to crush the evil, would its power be truly broken. Thoughts of another that had been so wounded flooded Arwen’s mind. Her mother had borne a wound like unto his and yet had remained long in Rivendale for the love of her daughter. “Much too long in pain and suffering,” thought Arwen, as she gazed at her left hand. When Celebrían had been wounded, Elrond had saved her from the swift death that such a wound usually brought, but he had known from the first that there was no real cure. Elrond had tried to prepare his daughter for her mother’s departure to the Blessed Isle, but she had wept. She had pleaded that her mother stay and fight the evil. By the time Arwen had seen the truth that the end of such a wound could be only a painful death, her mother was much diminished. Arwen’s thoughts, along with her heart, were drawn back to Frodo. The Ring-bearer had already endured longer than her mother, though he had no elven blood to aid his battle.
When Frodo had come to Rivendell with his grievous wound, Arwen had been drawn to his bedside by the memory of her mother. She had come often while he lay unconscious fighting for his life, staying but a moment when others were caring for him. But in the dead of night, with Sam asleep at Frodo’s side, she had watched and waited and prayed. Though this little one had seemed much too ill to live, he had had a light within that had stirred her heart. So it had been with great joy that she had learned that her father had at last found the shard of knife in Frodo’s breast and he might have a chance at life, however short. She had stood afar after that, but Frodo was often in her heart. A bond was forged, and somehow their fates had been entwined, though she had not known so at the time.
Everything about this hobbit had been surprising: the way he recovered and took up the ring again, the way he bore it to the mountain and then returned, and the way he rallied again from certain death as he lay in the tent of healing on the Field of Cormallen. Arwen had begun to hope that Frodo might indeed escape the fate of his wound, and so she had been anxious to see him again when she had at last arrived in Minas Tirith. But when she saw him, her hope for his healing was quickly dashed, for her eyes had seen what others could not. Great had grown the light of his spirit, and it had blazed before her wondering eyes, but great also had grown his wounds. He would not survive.
…But then, Arwen had looked deeper and beheld another thing–a thing grew in him which could not be, and yet it was. She had seen it plainly, for she knew it well herself: he longed for the Sea as those of elven kind. And in the beating of a heart, she had seen that her loss was meant to be Frodo’s gift. He would go West.
Arwen looked down at the ring on her finger and thought of her own decision to remain with Aragorn in Middle Earth. She did not regret that path for one moment, though she knew that much pain awaited her. In her vision of Frodo’s destiny she had at last understood the slowly growing bond that she had felt even in Rivendale. In Frodo’s loss, she and all Middle earth had gained, and in her loss he would live–he must live to find his peace. Gandalf and Galadriel had readily seen that her plan was indeed the will of the One, and so it had been made known to Frodo, but it was not to be so simple.
Frodo’s heart was turned firmly toward home, for love it was that ruled his life. When Frodo and Sam had lain wounded on the Field of Cormallen, it had taken all of Aragorn’s skill to draw them back from death. Yet Aragorn had told her that his power of healing would have come to naught for Frodo, unless Merry had been brought to his side. Only at the voice of his beloved cousin, had he finally found the will to live. Later, much to the surprise of all, at Pippin’s gentle calling, Frodo had roused from his healing sleep even before the much less wounded Sam. As the summer deepened, Arwen saw that he had indeed been restored thus far by his love for his friends. But now, like her mother before, that same love might be the death of him.
But there was another gift. Arwen’s arm ached and she put her hand to her heart where the jewel had lain hidden for so many years. It was not there now, for it was with Frodo, and they were linked as she had once been to her mother. The crafting of the white stone was long lost to memory, but for most of its history it had belonged to her grandmother Galadriel. It first came to Arwen’s knowledge when it was given to her mother after her fearful wounding. With the gem at Celebrían’s neck, Galadriel could comfort her daughter through the awful distance that separated Lothlorien and Rivendale. The jewel had not the power to stop the course of evil, but only let Galadriel feel her daughter’s fear and pain and soothe her fragile mind, for fear itself was the evil that worked its will on Arwen’s mother. Over time, the fear of the ambush and torture had grown and twisted out of all shape, until it consumed all her waking hours and all joy was swept from her life. When Celebrían had become fearful of even her own daughter, Arwen had at last understood the way of such wounds. As Frodo had stood before Arwen, her piercing eyes had seen the faded shadows of fear and despair waiting to awaken, but he had done another thing that worried her as well. He had hidden his wounded hand that she might not see his missing finger. What should have been a badge of honor, because he had borne the ring far longer than any had dared hope, had become a painful reminder of his broken will. Arwen had known then that shame would be a most terrible enemy.
When Celebrían had at last sailed for Elvenhome, she had given the white jewel to Arwen, who had treasured it for many long tears. And from beyond the seas, she had been consoled by her mother. Arwen had understood that her mother had read not her thoughts but only felt her guilt and sorrow. The Ring-bearer knew nothing of this link he now shared with Arwen, but only that the gem could be a comfort. And so it had been given. That day she had also decided not to tell Frodo that the evil was not wholly defeated, for she knew that with the aid of his friends, he would fight on and on until there was nothing left with which to fight. Then he would die. “He would not for fear of evil turn from love,” thought Arwen. “We two are not so very different. For a passing season of joy we would both dare great loss.” And so she had laid her hope in a growing longing for the sea and in the weariness that would come of his wounds: he might not run from evil, but perhaps he might choose Valinor as a gift. Still she feared the love would be too strong.
When Arwen had placed the jewel in Frodo’s hand, his heart had opened as a flower unto hers. Beauty had flooded her soul, for there love and joy and had abounded. So great had been her delight, that she had not at first felt the small shame, nor the shadows of fear and despair that had been visible even to her sighted eyes. …But as the eyes of her heart had been fully opened she had been as one staggered under a great weight. “What had he endured?” she had wondered, though even now she did not truly wish know all. It was enough to see only the wake left by those passing horrors.
And so in Rohan they had parted, Frodo’s will set by love, the voice of the Sea no more than a whisper. For some time Arwen but seldom had need to comfort his small hurt of shame. As she had sung songs of peace to him, he had easily been put at rest. But early in October the shadows began to stir, and Frodo walked in dark places. His growing fear and pain had stretched out through the distance to meet her with unforeseen strength, and she had bent all her will to soothing him. Through long days, Aragorn had stayed close to her side as she had sung and spoken words of healing to the darkness. “Surely, he will understand now,” she had thought. But, he had cast aside the pain and had grown stronger for awhile.
In March the evil had returned with renewed strength. Arwen had felt the evil sting as well as the guilt and terror that had tormented him. Bringing what comfort she could, she had sung of the Peace of Valinor and the beauty of the Two Trees. She had thought that they would win through, until a new evil awoke, and her song was drowned in a mighty rising tide of desire. Frodo had battled fiercely against it, and long had he withstood, yet in the end he had fallen. Arwen had been swept along as in a flood and then under as it had become, not his desire, but her own. “I claim my rights to Elvenhome and to the comfort of my father and mother,” she had thought to herself. “And Aragorn and Middle Earth are mine as well, for in these does my heart lie. Not even the Valar would dare deny me!” she reasoned against her own knowledge. But as she had tried to grasp all within her hands, she had fallen with Frodo into a pit of despair. Everything had been darkness and loss. She would have neither her kin nor Valinor; she would lose Aragorn, and all she loved on earth as well. Only emptiness would be her part.
Arwen shook away the memory of that evil day; though she knew the peace would be short lived, for Frodo’s dread was rising by the moment. She looked west to see the sun just begin to brush the upper reaches of the mighty mountain. Drawing up her left arm, she gently cradled it with her right. To her mind it had grown very cold indeed though her right hand found naught but warm flesh.
For half a year Frodo had pushed away the evil with renewed love and effort, but the shame he felt for his desire and a will that had been twice broken had grown to a burning fire that seared Arwen’s heart. Though she read not his thoughts, she knew it was the Unmade Ring that he had longed for that day: the Ring whose power she had not fully counted. She had known only of the power of the poison blade, not even of the power of the wound given by the child of Ungoliant. No, she could not know …his wounds were beyond all knowing. And so Arwen had determined that she would not sing at all this day, for in the end it would be of little help. This day she would suffer with Frodo and fall again with him, if that be their fate, but she would not ease their pain. “Better it is that he lose all hope and take the gift that is offered, than to fight to bitter death,” or so she had thought. But doubts assailed her. “Have I chosen the right path?” she whispered to the failing sun.
Arwen turned as she heard the door open behind her, pushing aside the ache in her heart. Aragorn stood there with concern etched in every line of his face. He had sorrowed greatly in the pain she had shared with Frodo the past spring, and he knew that today his beloved would suffer again. Arwen smiled as she reached out her hand to bid him come to her side. She loved him all the more because he would not ask her to break the ties that bound her to Frodo, though in truth, she knew not how, nor whether such a thing were possible. It was a worry that she need not have had, for Aragorn himself could not have asked her to abandon him. Indeed his love for Frodo was not less than hers.
“Does he suffer yet?” asked Aragorn, his mind plagued by the memory of the knife he had failed to stop two autumns ago. He knew that it was but a part of Frodo’s grief, and yet it haunted him the same.
“Yes… answered Arwen, “the evil is upon him, and he is fighting mightily as before. The heart for his friends and the life he once knew is ever present. It is as strong as my own love for you dear one,” she said as she reached out to touch his cheek. “Great is my honor in sharing his heart.” And as she spoke, Arwen turned back to look out across the miles once more. “Without such beauty, I could not for long have endured his pain. There is not another like unto him.”
“No,” said Aragorn, “there is not …yet he sees nothing of his worth. He has borne what no other could, and still he finds no rest.” he said, as his eyes followed hers. “I would that Frodo find his peace, were it to cost my kingdom or my very life.” His hands caught her shoulders and turned her to his gaze. “And yet, I give a greater gift in you.”
“I fear it is a gift of no value on this day,” said Arwen, as Aragorn led her gently by the hand to their chambers to await the fading of the day.
As before, Frodo fought to the brink of the pit and Arwen was caught by the desire that ensnared them both. But at the very moment when they could no longer stand… another came. One who was unseen pulled them both away from the edge they walked. Arwen fell into peace and then into dreams. She walked dark paths in a forest without sun or moon or stars. But she was lost, and knew not the road to take. Then in the distance she saw a small figure beckoning to her. He stood on a path that somehow glowed with a light of its own, or perhaps the light came from the one standing there. Drawing closer she saw that it was Frodo. In his thinness he looked to be an elven child rather than a hobbit, and she longed to take him to her arms and comfort him. And so coming to him, she bent down to look into eyes full of sadness and peace, infinite blue in their depths. Arwen saw then that he was neither elven child nor hobbit …and for a moment, she who counted not the years, felt young. She kissed him on the brow; then without speaking a word, Frodo took her hand and led her along the path. Their way became brighter and brighter, as did the very air surrounding them, until she beheld Aragorn standing before her.
Aragorn looked at his wife as she lay sleeping in his arms. She had sung not at all; but in restless pain had borne the long evening, at times in silence, and at other times crying out. He had tried his best to comfort her and to still his own growing fear. Then suddenly… it had ended, and now she rested in dreams.
“Estel, my beloved,” said Arwen, as she opened her eyes. “I have found you.”
“I have not left your side these many hours,” said Aragorn, as he tenderly brushed the stray hairs from her face. “I have been waiting for you to come back to me. But what has happened? It did not come to pass as before.”
“I do not know …only that another saved us from the evil fall,” answered Arwen, “and now everything is changed. I saw Frodo in a dream. He is at peace, though his sadness fills my heart.” She spoke slowly as one who walked again in dreams. “He has chosen some path, and he will not again be moved. I know not whether we go to his death or whether he will go west, but only that I cannot again withhold any comfort from him.” Tears filled her eyes and Aragorn drew her close.
A fortnight later, Aragorn came into Arwen’s sitting room. She was singing of Eärendil, a song of hope for one burdened by darkness, and as she sang she worked with silver thread a piece of fine embroidery. Day and night now she lifted up her heart in song; and though she was filled with deep sadness, there was a kind of peace as well. Aragorn reached out to take up the embroidery and lay it aside. He took her hands in his. “I have word from your father,” he said. “He has received a letter from Frodo. It was meant for you as well,” Aragorn handed the parchment to Arwen. Slowly she read Frodo’s words.
Dear Master Elrond,
I send fond greetings to you and those that dwell yet in Rivendale. Well do I remember and cherish the blessings of your house. I write this letter with deep respect for the loss that will soon come to you at your sailing. Know I sorrow with you now in some very small measure of understanding.
I have come to see that Lady Arwen was right, and so I will accept her will and sail west with you. I perceive now that I cannot be healed in Middle Earth, as I had desired. Sam found me ill last night and nursed me to health, but the cost to him was great; wounds of his that had begun to heal, have been reopened. I know only that I cannot cause him further pain. Though I am very loath to leave those I love, I do not want to appear ungrateful, for in truth, some small part of me has always felt the call of the West. Perhaps it is as Awen says–that it was meant to be. Even so, please know that I do not lightly take this gift, for I know full well my unworthiness to receive it.
Within the year, I hope to be ready to leave, but in any case not before the birth of Sam and Rosie’s baby in March. His sadness at our parting will be lessened then by his great joy in his little one. I wish also to finish my part in the book that Bilbo began, if that is possible. As to the rest of the timing, that is up to you. I await your word. My path shall be kept secret from those in the Shire so as not to dampen their spirits, but please let Lady Arwen know as soon as possible. I have felt some bond to her since her eyes first fell on me in Rivendale, but it has grown quite strong for reasons that I do not begin to understand. I send her my love, and a grateful heart.
Ever your servant,
Arwen stood still, pondering the words that had come. At last she spoke, “So it was Sam who stood between us and the evil that night. And it is for love of Sam that Frodo will go West,” she said. “Indeed I thought the love too strong to let him leave, and yet it bids him go.” Her bright eyes suddenly clouded with tears, “it is all that I have desired, and yet my heart breaks, for I will be less when he is gone.”
Aragorn’s eyes fell to the floor. “Yes, we all will be less for his leaving,” he said. Then reaching out, he took hold of her hands as he lifted up his eyes now wet with tears. “But we will all be more because Arwen Undómiel will stay.”
Then she smiled, and great was the light of Lúthien in Arwen’s gray eyes.
Sam sat in the study that had belonged to Mr. Frodo for so many years. He looked around at the all the familiar things and for the first time, really saw that they were now his. Reaching into his shirt, he pulled out the jewel that he wore on a chain around his neck, and studied its smooth white beauty. It had been a gift from Frodo on the day they had parted. Somehow it seemed to comfort him whenever he felt the sadness rise in his heart. It was almost as if Frodo stood beside him, smiling and encouraging. Hope too was in Sam’s heart that they would be together again someday, but until then he would be happy. He caught Elanor up as she toddled past him. Today was her first birthday, and he couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the end of the Ring.
I have stirred a little of my own imagination into the world I have gratefully borrowed from Professor Tolkien to create this “history of the jewel.” If you liked this story you should read my other one, “Eyes to See.”
It tells this day from Sam and Frodo’s point of view. Though both stories stand alone, they are closely interwoven, (from the paths of decision that Frodo wanders, down to the “familiar things” that are in the study.) Even the titles fit together “Eyes to See-the Chosen Path.” There is also a poem “written by Sam” called “Circle of light” that can totally be understood only in light of these stories. All comments much appreciated, especially those on my ideas about the jewel.