West of the Moon
A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive
Let It Be
Frodo must make another difficult choice. Sequel to Time To Be.
Frodo awoke, as if from a dream, but it wasn't a restful sleep he was awaking from, but a long, lingering somnolent state that could have been a second or many years. The dream, which wasn't a dream, had rested in a corner of his consciousness and insinuated itself deep into his heart. There had been a silvery veil, and a swift sunrise, and the smell of dew glistening on blades of grass. Soft and dream-like it had been, precious and wondrous, like the moment you kiss your love for the first time. Yet it was not a dream.
Pushing one eyelid open, Frodo saw hazy lights smoothly wandering around him, and the lazy glow of many candles on the periphery of his vision. He was warm, and ensconced in a comfortable position, and yet he had neither a blanket set over him nor a mattress beneath his body. With shaking fingertips Frodo traced over himself, found flowing naked skin and a hard floor that skated over his fingers. And what was strange was that his body was no longer ripened by age's fate, but smooth and delicate, taut and soft beneath his wandering hand. Frodo pulled a thread of hair before his eyes, squinting, and no longer was it grey, but the rich hazelnut tone of his youth.
He sat up, searching around him, finding the lights were elves, silent and grave, sometimes pausing to whisper hushed words to one another. Not shamed of his nakedness, and indeed all around him were in the same state, Frodo stood up, wondering at what surrounded him.
A ceiling pushed high up into the sky, flat and forked with darkened beams of wood. The walls were ripe in colour, spotted with sconces holding wavering candles and clothed in weaves depicting scenes of battle and love and song. Occasionally an oblong-shaped window broke the wall's solemn flow, and through it shone dusty sunlight and a blue sky dancing with clouds. The air was pleasant to smell, somehow light and heavy at the same time, though for all his study and travel Frodo could not discern its flavour. The sounds that reached Frodo's ears were hushed and graceful, ebbing and flowing like waves lapping the shore, and the melody sank deep into his heart and lingered there forever.
Memory caressed Frodo's thoughts: the dream that wasn't a dream, and something before that, something that slipped from Frodo's grasp like sand spilling through his fingers. Briefly Frodo closed his eyes, hiding himself from the mysterious hall, trying to catch the thoughts that taunted him. For all his effort, his fierce concentration, all he was rewarded with was a flash of sensations: sea-tang drifting into his nostrils, the snuffing of a candle, a jolt of pleasure like a climax, grass tickling his skin and brown eyes more lovely and thoughtful than Frodo could have ever imagined possible. Like looking at himself yet it wasn't himself. Perhaps a part of him that could never be torn away? Frodo shook his head, and again opened his eyes.
An elf maid walked past him, her long pale hair covering the delicate bulge of her breasts. Frodo hesitated, then said, "Excuse me, Lady, do you--?"
Forever-deep blue eyes pierced him; the elf maid drew a finger up to her lips 'shh'. Frodo nodded dumbly, feeling his ears warm, but the maid took away her finger and smiled at him, then pointed to the end of the hall. Frodo gazed down the long room, but darkness hid what the elf maid was referring to. When he turned back to the elf maid, she had drifted across the floor, and was talking to a handsome black-haired elf.
As Frodo took a step, sudden realization hit him, made him breathless and dizzy.
He could see through the elf maid. He could see the guttering candles, the wall, and other elves walking by through her skin. And now when Frodo peered down his body, he could see the tiled floor through his legs, and when he held up his hand he could see the ceiling through it. Frodo's body emitted a translucent glow, covering him from head to toe, and his skin was ethereal-like, yet solid beneath his wandering fingertips.
Legs collapsing beneath him, Frodo fell in a heap onto the floor. Tears left salt-streaks on his cheeks. He pulled his legs up, his glowing aery legs, and hugged them to his chest. He was lost, and alone, but from what he didn't know.
"Hush, mortal." A voice startled Frodo. The voice was as soft as gossamer thread, as gentle as a slow-splashing waterfall. Frodo looked up in wonder. An elf, flushed with a lucent light, knelt beside Frodo with kindly sea-grey eyes and hair the colour of coal. "He is waiting for you." The elf gestured in the same direction as the elf maid had. "Go."
Frodo licked his lips, silent in wonder and amazement. He blinked, and the elf had gone. Again Frodo stood on his feet, and, biting his lip, he began the journey down the hall. He passed whispering elves, always talking in pairs, no more, and stepped into sunlight spilling in through the windows, and when the sun's light touched his skin Frodo was solid again, tangible to his eyes. Elves drifted past him, some turning their heads to watch him go by; all were young and fair, and neither age nor wound tainted their forms. In one corner Frodo noticed an elf sitting alone on a settle, eyes lowered in silent contemplation. The elf's hair was raven-dark, his face fair. Suddenly the elf raised his head, and Frodo saw his eyes were piercingly bright, and tinted with grief. Gasping back a forgotten name, Frodo hurried on, deep in thought.
And yet there were not only elves here, but Men as well, some sleeping, some gazing around in fear, and once Frodo thought he saw a dwarf, sleeping soundly, his bearded face encircled with a gauzy light. No hobbits did Frodo see, and for some reason this made him feel oddly disappointed.
At last Frodo reached the end of the hall, and a white light pierced his eyes, and he fell to his knees.
"Look up, Frodo Baggins," a voice commanded. Strong was the voice, yet kindly, but brooking no refusal.
Wilfully, Frodo looked up. A tall man sat on a bejewelled throne, tall and proud. He wore soft-flowing robes, the texture of silk, the colour of pearl and silver. "Thou hast come, Frodo Baggins," said the man, "to the halls of contemplation."
Memory all of a sudden startled Frodo, and he knew why he was here, and how he was here, and no grief struck his heart. He had chosen this, and the time had been right.
"Mandos!" Frodo gasped, voice trembling. "Tell me, where is--?"
"I will not say," said Mandos. Frodo met the Vala's gaze, and was at once humbled and filled with joy. Those eyes were weary with the knowledge of all that had been, and all that will be, save what lies in the free will of Ilúvatar. "He has chosen."
Confusion made Frodo stammer. "B-but why? I don't understand."
"He has made the choice, for those who are mortal yet live at the Undying Lands have a choice before them when they die, decreed by Eru Ilúvatar when the first mortal, Tuor, set foot in the Uttermost West. It is a painful choice for all, and not to be lightly chosen." Mandos' eyes glimmered beneath thick, greying eyebrows. "Thou can choose to stay in my halls in the shadow of reflection unto the world's end, sundered from the fate of Men, or thou can leave the Circles of the World, to whither Eru Ilúvatar has chosen as the fate of mortal kind, without certitude."
Frodo lowered his eyes. "What shall I choose, Master?"
"I will not say, Frodo Baggins. I see all, and know thy choice, but I will not tell thou."
"Can I ponder my decision?" asked Frodo. "I am not sure."
"Thou can," replied Mandos, and he patted his robes, so the material flowed like a river with ice and silver and ivory drifting through it. "Thou hast one year and a day to choose thy fate. Come back to me then."
"A year!" Frodo gasped in amazement. "How long have I been here?"
"Many years thou hast been asleep in my halls. Kings have passed, stars have fallen, fields tilled. Go now and choose thy fate, for a year and a day I deem to be thy time of reflection and contemplation. Do not think this harsh, Frodo Baggins: I know of thy deeds, and I know of thy love. Some I judge will never leave these halls, but to thou I give the gift of choice."
"What did he choose?" murmured Frodo, feeling hot tears run down his throat. "Oh, will you tell me?"
"I cannot, Frodo Baggins." Mandos smiled, and the light radiating off him grew brighter. "Do not fear." The light faded, and soon Mandos was clothed in darkness. Frodo turned away to think.
He found a seat by the wall, and lowered his eyes to the flow of the passing elves. Another decision lay in his hands, as difficult and sorrowful as the other, and now if he made the wrong choice he may not see his love till the world broke asunder, if perhaps then. Frodo tipped his head back, felt velvety material tickle his scalp. He turned and opened his mouth in silent wonder, for before him was a scene he knew better than any other.
Woven on the wall was a ship waiting in long, grey firth, its sails aflutter in the breeze. On the ship stood a short shape, old beyond reckoning, as grey as water-heavy clouds. On the quay stood an elf, bearded and solemn, old and grey. And beside a silvery horse stood a figure, robed and wearing a hat, and on his finger was a jewel as bright as fire. Down on the pier stood four short figures, and sad they seemed, for tears dazzled their eyes, and yet on one relief seemed to claim his eyes. And the one who would soon be finding peace was kissing his golden-haired friend on the brow, and they were sad, for the parting was bittersweet.
Blinking back tears, Frodo turned away.
"That is you."
A fair-headed elf maid had sat beside Frodo, and was gazing at the weave. "It is," Frodo said softly. "How can this be?"
"Vairë the Weaver is Mandos' spouse," said the elf. "She weaves all things that have ever been in time into her storied webs, and hangs them in the halls of Mandos. If you look around, you shall see all that has been."
"But that would take forever!" said Frodo in wonder.
The elf maid laughed gently. "Then you are lucky to have seen this." She looked at Frodo. "I see another choice is awaiting you, mortal. I shall leave you in contemplation."
Frodo searched inside of himself, and knew at once where he wanted to be. Wherever his love was. And what would his dearest choose? To ruminate among the sad elves till it is a burden on the heart, or to seek the Unknown, whether ill or good?
For a year and a day Frodo wandered the halls of Mandos. Forever the halls seemed to span, and Frodo did not venture far. Sometimes he spoke to the elves, sometimes he did nothing but gaze at Vairë's weaves, though he never saw himself woven again, and sometimes he saw Men, though they never lingered long in the halls, and soon after they awoke Ilúvatar summoned their spirits to the Unknown. The raven-haired elf Frodo saw most often, always alone in his reflection, and his sorrow pained Frodo's heart. Once, Frodo had tried to speak to the silent elf, but tears unbidden spilled down the elf's cheeks, and the fire in his eyes was quenched, and Frodo hurried away, and knew the elf would never leave Mandos' halls. But mostly Frodo sat in deep thought, watching the lights passing him, some seeking Mandos to learn of their fate, some drifting in the twilight of their contemplation. At times Frodo thought he saw a stout figure, with locks the colour of wheat, passing him by, but the figure soon disappeared, and when Frodo gave chase he saw naught but elves.
No hunger did Frodo feel in Mandos' halls, and no thirst, and no sleep did he need. The days fell like spring rain, soft and dreamy, and full of reflection. The crash of sea swell seldom was not heard, for the halls were situated at the far west of Valinor, on the shores of Ekkaia, and the dim quiet urged the flow of many memories and thoughts. Much did Frodo learn, of mortal and immortal kind, and of death and hope, and of his heart and mind. He fingered the weaves, marvelling at their delicate stitching and stirring scenes, and all that he had undergone coursed through his mind like the blood that once ran swiftly through his veins. And never straying from his thoughts was his dearest, and the hope of a meeting bloomed in his heart.
One day, at the sunset of Frodo's time of decision, he wept into his hands, for the choice wearied him; and he cried for Nienna, for she it was who counselled the spirits in the halls of Mandos, and brought endurance in hope.
She appeared before Frodo, and he knew she was not an elf, for she was clad in raiment that shimmered like tears, and her hair was jewelled with the dust of diamonds. Her arms were as pale as hoar frost, and her eyes were argent, and such beauty Frodo had seen only thrice before in Arda.
"Frodo Baggins," said Nienna, "thy decision is nigh."
"And yet I don't know what to choose, Lady," answered Frodo, looking down to the floor.
Tears welled in Nienna's eyes, for she weeps for all the misery in Arda, and her tears are the dew of healing. "I counselled him before you, Frodo Baggins, for he as well found the choice sorrowful and difficult. And I said to him: If thou had a garden and it was withered, would thou rather water and tend it in the vain hope that blooms would flower beneath thy fingers, or would thou dig out the lifeless plants, and sow new seeds into the soil, not knowing whether the seeds would grow, nor if it was the soil that had slain the plants? Thou must now choose."
Frodo was silent, and it seemed to him that he was immersed in thought for many days; and when Frodo looked up, Nienna was gone, but her counsel had been good, for she had turned Frodo's sorrow to wisdom
In hardship Frodo made his choice, and when the year and a day were done he sought Mandos.
"Thou hast chosen!" proclaimed Mandos, grave and severe as he sat on his throne.
"Yes, Master, though it pained my heart."
"It pains all, Frodo Baggins, who are wearied with this choice. I judge thou hast learnt the will of Eru Ilúvatar, and that thy spirit is ready. Come kneel before me!"
Frodo stepped forward and knelt in front of Mandos' throne. "Master, do you know my choice?" he said, though Frodo already knew.
"Yes, Frodo Baggins."
"Is it the right one?"
Mandos smiled and leaned forward, placing a thumb on Frodo's forehead. It burned Frodo like a star, and he cried out in fear. Then he was tumbling over and over, and air blew through his curls, and a warm, welcoming light bathed his body. Like sunshine it was, but not, and it was so bright he shielded his eyes from its glare. In his ears the air whistled, and he was flying, and like a bird he stretched his arms and sailed through the light, and the skin over his body smouldered as if torched by flame, yet it hurt not. But the air and light released him, and his stomach lurched, and he dropped down almost forever. And at the last moment he fell upon something soft, something that tickled his skin.
Frodo rose onto his feet, and before him lay a world dazzling with green grass, and high, floating clouds, and trees as far as his eyes could see. The air was fragrant, as if laced with delicate-scented flowers, and the wind caressed his body, fanning the heat dripping off his skin. And then he stumbled, for someone had grabbed him, hugging him tightly as if he would never let go. A soft mouth pressed on Frodo's brow, and smooth skin touched his own, and Frodo laughed in joy. And then lips touched his own, familiar and sweet, and the kisses that he shared spoke of forever.
"Hello, me dear," said Sam, and his eyes were clear and shining, and golden hair framed his face.
"Yes, hello," murmured Frodo, and clasped Sam's hand, and forever it was.
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