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Time to Make a Change
A/N: I have had to make a very slight alteration in this chapter – being another child for Elanor and Fastred. In “The Adventures of Tom Bombadil” it says that the name “Fíriel” was “the name of a daughter of Elanor, daughter of Sam”. Fíriel was originally not present in this story, but she has now been added.
“Among them the tradition is handed down from Elanor that Samwise passed the Towers, and went to the Grey Havens, and passed over the sea, last of the Ring-bearers.”
“In the spring of the year a message came from Rohan to Buckland that King Éomer wished to see Master Holdwine once again. Meriadoc was then old (102) but still hale. He took counsel with his friend the Thain, and soon after they handed over their goods and offices to their sons and rode away over the Sarn Ford, and they were not seen again in the Shire.”
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, “Appendix B – The Tale of Years”
Epilogue: Last of the Ring-bearers
Elanor Fairbairn was not surprised when she found her father waiting on her doorstep one afternoon in later September. In fact she had been expecting him since her mother’s death earlier that year. But when she estimated Sam’s travelling speed, and from that, the date of his departure, she understood. He had waited until the twenty-second of September, Frodo Baggins’ birthday.
“Well, hullo, Ellie,” he greeted in a tired voice.
“I’ve been expecting you, Sam-dad,” Elanor returned. “Come inside.”
“Thank you, Ellie. It was getting chilly out here.”
“Granddad!” Elanor’s youngest son, Frodo, cried, jumping into Sam’s arms. “You came to visit us!”
“I did indeed, Frodo-lad.” Sam placed Frodo back on the ground so that Elanor’s other three children could hug him; son, Elfstan, and daughters Niphredil and Fíriel.
Fastred smiled up at Sam from his armchair. “How lovely to see you, Father.”
Sam nodded. “It has been a while, hasn’t it? I’m afraid I have been rather busy.”
“You arrived just at the right time, Dad, as usual,” laughed Elanor. “We were just about to have afternoon tea. I assume you would like to join us.”
“I’d never pass up your afternoon tea, Ellie. You know that.”
Elanor forced a smile, before making her way to the kitchen to finish preparing the tea. Her heart was aching. She knew that Sam had come to say goodbye. He was on his way to the Grey Havens. Rose had died, and now Samwise was tired of this world. He was leaving it. He had told her of this when she had been a child, and she had never forgotten. Elanor sighed. For now she would keep a brave face.
All through tea, Sam told stories of his adventures to Frodo, Niphredil and Fíriel. Elfstan listened in. He was a lot older than his three siblings, and had heard the stories far more than they, but he would never grow tired of them. Niphredil asked if her flower still grew in Lórien, just as her mother had wanted to know when she had been a lass. Frodo asked if he would be allowed to go to Gondor and Rohan, since some of his cousins had been allowed to. Fíriel wanted to hear about the horses of Rohan. The stories and questions continued to dinner and supper and afterwards. Finally, Fastred announced that it was time for the children to go to bed. Reluctantly, Frodo, Niphredil and Fíriel said goodnight to their grandfather, oblivious to the tears that had formed in his eyes.
“I’ve made up your room for you, Dad,” said Elanor.
“Why thank you, Ellie,” Sam said, standing, with some difficulty. “A good night’s sleep is just what I need after a hard day of travel and story-telling!”
Elfstan helped his grandfather to the room he always used when he visited. After Elfstan had left, Sam placed the very small pack he had brought with him on the bed. For this journey, he needed few supplies, just a few snacks to eat on the road, one or two changes of clothing, and one very precious thing. Sam unwrapped a cloth bundle to reveal a large book with a red leather cover. He smiled sadly as he ran his hand over the well-worn cover. Many copies had been made, but this was the original, the Red Book. The Downfall of the Lord of the Rings and the Return of the King. It had been written by three hobbits. The beginning was written in the spidery script of Bilbo Baggins. The majority was written in Frodo Baggins’ flowing handwriting, and the end in the plain, but firm print of Samwise Gamgee.
Elanor, standing in the doorway of her father’s room saw him regarding this great treasure. “Sam-dad?”
“I wondered when you would speak up, Elanor.” He turned and smiled at her. “You’ve been watching me for a while now, haven’t you?”
She blushed. “Well, not for that long…”
“Come in, Ellie, and shut the door.”
Elanor did what was asked of her. Shutting the door quietly behind her, she made her way to her father, and sat next to him, placing her head on his shoulder. She had the sudden desire to be a child again. She let Sam stroke her golden hair and wipe the tears from her cheeks. She hadn’t even realised that she had been crying.
“I suppose you know why I came,” he said softly. “Because I told you a long time ago.”
Elanor nodded. “You said, that one day you’d go to the Havens, just like Mister Frodo did. That was on my fifteenth birthday. You’d just finished reading the Red Book to us. A few days later we left and met with the King, and Queen Arwen named me her maid of honour.”
“That’s right. Do you remember what you said?”
She choked on a sob. “I said, that when you’re time came, I would go to the Havens with you, that I wouldn’t part with you.”
Sam fought his own tears back. “And I told you that it is not wise to choose before the time comes. The time has come now, Elanorellë. The choice of Lúthien and Arwen has come to you, my beautiful Elanor.”
“I have to choose?” Elanor asked in a small voice and Sam nodded. “But it’s so hard.”
“And that’s why I told you not to make the choice before the time. Back when you were a little girl of fifteen springs, I was the only thing you loved dearly. But now you have Fastred, and Elfstan, Niphredil, Frodo and Fíriel.”
“I can’t leave them…”
“I know. And I wouldn’t want you to.” Sam placed a kiss on his most beloved daughter’s forehead. “Your place is here, Ellie. I wouldn’t want you to leave it. I wouldn’t let you leave it.”
“But I’ll lose you!”
“You would lose me eventually even if I didn’t leave.” Sam smiled. “I don’t fear for you, Elanor. I don’t fear for any of you. Your family will continue to be the Wardens of the Westmarch, and the Red Book will pass down through it.”
“Have you told everyone else that you’re leaving?”
“I left a note for Merry. Bag-End belongs to him, the most fitting place for the Mayor, I think. But I did not say were I was going.”
Elanor took a deep breath. “I will tell them. I will tell them that the last of the Ring-bearers has passed across the sea.”
“That’s my girl.” Sam picked up the Red Book and placed it in Elanor’s hands. “This is for you. Treasure it. Honour it. And, now, to bed, Elanorellë.”
Elanor, with tears pouring from her eyes, kissed her father for the last time. She left his room and returned to her own. There, Fastred was waiting for her. She snuggled into his embrace.
When the Fairbairns woke the next morning, Sam had left. On his pillow, he had placed a shining jewel. The Star of the Dúnedain, given to him by King Elessar. Elanor took it and placed it with the Red Book.
“Goodbye, Sam-dad,” she whispered.
* * * * * *
Meriadoc Brandybuck read through the letter in his hand for the hundredth or so time. His old knuckles were aching from being held in the same position for so long. He finally concluded that there could be no doubting what was written in the letter. The signature most certainly belonged to Éomer, King of the Mark, and he had most certainly requested that he wished to see Merry again. It appeared that most of the letter had been written by another hand (most likely Elfwine, Éomer’s son), and the King had simply signed it. It seemed Éomer had fallen ill, and he believed his remaining days to be few.
Merry let out the breath that he had not realised he’d been holding in. He greatly wished to see his dear friend before he departed this world, but would his own body be up to the journey. It was no short distance between Rohan and Buckland.
“Théodoc?” he called to his only son.
Théodoc, who had been hovering outside his father’s office since he had delivered the letter, immediately ran to Merry. “Yes, Father, what is it? What did the letter say?”
“I’m afraid I cannot tell you yet, Théo. Fetch your sister, please, and have a carriage made ready. We are going to Tookland.”
Meriadoc knew that, since his wife, Estella, had died a few years earlier, Peregrin was the only person he could turn to for advice.
Théodoc returned quickly, with his elder sister, Éowyn, and her husband, Bilbo son of Samwise. Merry placed his hand on Bilbo’s shoulder. “My dear son-in-law, Bilbo. I hope you will not find me rude if I ask you to stay here. For this journey, I need to be alone with my children.”
Bilbo smiled, and for a moment, Merry was painfully reminded of how much he missed Sam. “I shall remain here, Master Meriadoc.”
“Thank you, Bilbo.”
Théodoc and Éowyn assisted their father to the carriage that had been prepared for them. Their two-day journey to Tookland was a slow one. Merry’s pony, Gimli, plodded along side them, and the Brandybuck children wondered at what that might mean.
Merry had sent a message ahead of them, so it was not surprising to see Peregrin waiting outside the Smials with Faramir, and his wife Goldilocks. Pippin’s own wife, Diamond, had died in the same year as Estella.
“Well, Merry, it’s been a while since you’ve come to visit!” Pippin jested. “Did you finally manage to squeeze out of your chair?”
“I often wonder, Peregrin,” Merry returned, “when you shall ever grow up.”
“I don’t plan to. Ever.”
Pippin escorted his cousin and family into the Great Smials. He knew that Merry had some important business to discuss, and he had quite rightly guessed at what it was. They had often discussed what they would do in their last few years, especially since Sam had left for the Havens.
The families ate dinner and supper together. While Éowyn and Goldilocks played with Faramir and Goldi’s three children, Paladin, Legolas and Lúthien, Pippin and Merry made their way to the Thain’s study and shut the door.
“You know something, Merry,” said Pippin. “I think we’re quite responsible for bringing some very outlandish names to the Shire. You, me and Sam, I mean, of course.”
Merry smiled. “Elanor, Faramir, Éowyn, Théodoc, Legolas, Lúthien.”
“Don’t forget Elanor’s children – Elfstan, Niphredil and Fíriel. And Pippin Gamgee’s lad, Aragorn. Now tell me, what have you come all the way to Tookland for?”
Merry pretended to be hurt. “My dearest cousin, don’t you believe that it was simply to see you?”
“If that were the case, you would have sent a message for me to come to Buckland and see you. That’s what you always do.”
“Ah, yes, of course.” Merry chuckled. He took the letter out of his breast pocket. “This arrived for me a few days ago.”
Pippin saw the seal and raised his eyebrows. “From Rohan!”
Merry nodded. “Read it.”
Pippin read through the letter and placed it on his desk when he was finished. “I suppose you have come to find out what I think you should do.”
“Well, yes, and…” Merry struggled to find the right words. “And to see if you would want to come with me if I do decide to go. After Rohan we could go to Gondor and Ithilien.”
Pippin smiled. “Oh, Merry, my dear ass! Of course I want to come with you! In fact, I wouldn’t let you go without me!”
Merry returned the smile and laughed. “I had hoped that you would say that. And I see that you think that we should go.”
“Most definitely. It would be a sad blow for poor Éomer if you did not come to see him. And I cannot remember the last time we saw old Strider!”
“What should we tell the children?”
Pippin suddenly became serious. He had forgotten all about his family. “They will understand. Sam’s did when he left. But I think we should at least let them come with us to the Ford.”
Meriadoc nodded. “We should leave tomorrow.”
The next morning, Meriadoc and Peregrin announced to their families that they had important business to attend to in Rohan. Faramir, Théodoc and Éowyn were to escort them to the Sarn Ford.
“Goldi, you should stay here with your children,” Pippin replied to her request to come too. “They will need you.”
Goldilocks ran into Peregrin’s arms and held him tightly. She could see in his eyes what she had seen in her own father’s the last time she had seen him. But she did not reveal her knowledge to Faramir. She simply whispered to her father-in-law. “Goodbye.”
Pippin and Merry mounted their ponies, Bergil and Gimli. Faramir had his own pony, while Théodoc and Éowyn used the ponies that had led the carriage. For the most part of the journey, they were all silent.
The Sarn Ford came into view on their second day of travel. Before they came to the Ford, Merry and Pippin dismounted. Their children did the same.
“This is where we must say farewell,” said Merry. “Forever.”
“What?” Faramir, Théodoc and Éowyn cried at the same time.
“You all know that Master Samwise had to leave the Shire,” Pippin explained. “And we must do the same. Our remaining years are few, especially Merry’s…”
“Watch it, Peregrin!” Merry warned, with a grin. He became serious once more. “We have duties outside the Shire which we must attend to. I hope you can understand that.”
Faramir, Théodoc and Éowyn nodded. Éowyn, for the moment, stood back. She knew that her father and uncle would have something very important to say to their sons.
“Théodoc ‘Pureheart’ Brandybuck, you are now the Master of Buckland. The youngest there had ever been, I believe, but you are quite ready for it. You can call upon your sister, if you need any guidance, or on you cousin.” Merry handed his son an official looking document. It named Théodoc his heir and successor, handing over to him all possessions and offices. Merry gave a little smile. “I’d like you to get married soon, too. You don’t want your cousin, Perry’s son to be the Master after you, do you?”
Théodoc laughed, and hugged his father. “Goodbye, Dad. Take care.”
It was Peregrin’s turn. “Faramir I, I name you the Thain and the Took. I don’t have any advice to give you, as such, but I will give you this.” He gave Faramir a letter addressed to ‘The Thain and the Took’. “Read that when you get back to the Smials. It should have a few helpful hints.” Peregrin also gave Faramir a document very similar to the one Meriadoc had given Théodoc. “You have a beautiful wife and three lovely children, Faramir. Treasure them always.”
“I will, Father.” Faramir embraced his own father.
“Daddy?” Éowyn’s small voice spoke up.
Merry opened his arms to her and held her close. She had been his first-born, and since he and Estella had lost to babies before Éowyn came along, she had always been very precious to him.
“Be brave, my sweet,” he whispered to her. “You are a Shield-maiden, remember?”
She nodded and sniffled. “I’ll miss you.”
“And I you, Éowyn. But you are both strong, and you can both survive this parting.” Seeing the confusion on her face, Merry placed his hand on Éowyn’s belly. “You can’t hide anything from me, Éowyn. Choose a good name for your child.”
“I’m sure I can think of one.”
Peregrin and Meriadoc mounted their ponies once more. With a final wave to their children, they rode away. Faramir, Théodoc and Éowyn stood completely motionless and watched their fathers cross the Sarn Ford.
At last they turned, the Master and his sister, and the Thain, and started the journey back to Tookland.
* * * * * *
A/N: Finished. Well, that was a rather long chapter – but I couldn’t divide it into two. For anyone who’s interested, the conversation mentioned in this chapter between Sam and Elanor comes from The End of the Third Age, by Christopher Tolkien – in the unpublished Epilogue of Lord of the Rings. I thought it was very sweet when I read it, so knew I had to use it. Thank you to all who have read this story (especially those who reviewed!), and I hope you have all enjoyed it!
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