The Lhûn stones|
Rating : G
Summary : Samwise trusts in the power of the stones of yore.
At Tower Hills...
- « Master, do you think wise to… Well shouldn’t you wait for his Majesty’s return from his ride on the beach?
- My dear Fastred ! At my age, the unwise is to wait! Besides, lately caution has been boring me to death! And I beg you, stop giving me "Master"!
- Ah, that won’t be possible, Master!
- I am no longer master of anything! Not even of my doings, as it seems… I gave back my scarf and the town key! - He showed his empty silver chain. Now you are the Warden of Westmarch! From now on, the burden falls on your sturdy shoulders, and concerns on your discerning mind. These ancient elven towers are at your guard.
- Well as a matter of fact...”
Under the gulls’ complaints, the young hobbit lifted his gaze to the summit of the great tower, which defied the gusts charged with spray. The high room, distant and sharp tip, peaked under the whirling skies. Fastred, though stiffened by duty’s resoluteness, felt the ages gaze at him from the top of the ancient tower, the venerable protective shadow of which enveloped them in some wistful connivance.
Sam took advantage of his son-in-law’s unrest:
- « Your role is to preserve them for future generations! And not to hinder an Elder in search for answers, even if he staggers a bit!
- But since the King said that is forbidden! He repeated that while leaving the Tower, just yesterday, at his last visit!
- My boy, the ban is for you! The Marchwarden may not climb the marches, in a sense! But an old hobbit on his life’s threshold should do so. Leave the King to me - are we not old travel fellows?
- But I'm afraid for you, Master!
The old hobbit continued wearily, staring toward the sea:
- "You know, doubts happen to bother me, lately... I wonder... Maybe I should see things from a higher point of view..."
Samwise Gamgee’s unusually serious and distant tone alarmed quite a bit his son-in-law, who was thinking at the one hundred and forty-four steps waiting for the old hobbit. But the glimmer of hope shining in Sam’s pupils admitted no reply.
The old hobbit had recovered his fair demeanor. He gently patted Fastred’s broad shoulders with a reassuring pout:
- "Don’t worry, I shan’t collapse today! And maybe you should reserve your authority for my daughter, that shouldn’t hurt!" Sam slyly added, winking his eye.
Suppressing a smile, Fastred conceded the big bunch, his hand slightly shaking:
- "I’m waiting for you here, Master. Call if you need me! "
Sam turned the powerful key. Escaped from his childhood’s nursery rhymes, murky fear and guilt reminiscences flew at the edge of his soul, nonetheless filled with respect for the venerable elven wonders.
The marble door wing spun without squealing, calling the daring old hobbit to slip into the doorway. When Sam passed the threshold, at once the world’s rumor vanished, relegating outside the rampant ritornello of ephemeral hopes and human vanities, and leaving him alone with his nagging doubts.
The vast circular room lit up with slender scripts friezes, that ran on alabaster columns and around bas-reliefs, and then flew in tight sheaves along the barrel of the great tower. Time seemed to have wrapped the stone with all its memories, and covered the walls with its annals, recorded into thin runic whorls. A large staircase spread its turns toward the upper room, filled with endless seasons’ tales, which mingled, from one floor to another, the prophecies of an age and the feats of the next.
The old hobbit slowly climbed the first flight of stairs. The warm and gentle touch of the white marble rested his tired bare feet. Sam’s shod cane woke knowing echoes, that called him to the floors up. Comforted by this manifest compassion, Sam climbed slowly without overreach. Somewhere around the eighth stage, a chair timely offered him a short break. And it is almost without realizing it, that old Gamgee found himself turning the strange ornate key in the lock of the Elven high room.
Light penetrated like a flood by tall windows that surrounded the room, bathing the stone panels in bright glares. Sam blinked, disoriented and unbalanced by the unreal clarity, and he would have fallen down the stairs if the door had not closed behind him, like the hand of a mother supporting her child’s first steps.
As his vision slowly became accustomed to the intense celestial light, Sam glimpsed around him, the remnants of a bygone era materialize as from the mist. For centuries, glasses and graphometers had been awaiting their master's eye. It was there, old Mister Bilbo had once told him, that Elendil had watched the arrival of Gil-galad’s armies, at the glorious days of the Last Alliance. Lookout of fate eternally perched on the mast of the world, the high room greeted the elven dusk and watched the dawn of men.
Short of breath at the window, the hobbit gazed at the lapis jagged peaks hemmed with snow. With an amazed look, he embraced the majestic Elven estuary, the deserted hills and the industrious Shire, as sharp and distant as a cherished memory.
His eye sated, Sam forsook the astrolabes and precious metal abacus. He did not linger in cushions and silks. Ignoring the fountain and the silver ewer as well, the hobbit set his sights on a high stool, he roosted on, as casually as an apple pilferer visiting Bywater’s orchards. But he dared not lay hands on the object of his lust - the Palantir of Tower hills.
His feverish fingers resting timidly on the edge of the alabaster plate, the old hobbit stared at the dark stone, blinking like an owl, attentive and hesitant. Each window threw confusing reflections, like many eyes scrutinizing his own uncertainty.
His kind face, wrinkled and tired by the tests of a long and busy life, was intensely looking at the inert stone, apparently waiting for some sign that was not coming. The perfect sphere laid immovable, anchored in time as an immutable mark around which revolved the high room, the winds, the naves of the Gulf of Lhûn and the whole of middle earth. The blinding lights slided on his dark mass, without disturbing the abyssal stillness at the center of the Palantir.
The hobbit waited long, vaguely hoping that the stone would give him a clue. But he had to face the facts - like the mirror he had once probed in the Golden Wood, the Stones of Vision could not be tamed by anybody. How could it be otherwise? What was he doing there, pushed by selfish anxieties? What answers could possibly Sam Gamgee hope for, defying the King’s ban about a relic that far exceeded the Shire gardener’s understanding of his? The dark roundness kept returning his questioning and skeptical look.
As he became aware of his exorbitant claim, Sam sighed and rested his chin on his hands. This renunciation freed his thoughts, that flew to the distant past, besides his beloved master.
He thought of Frodo at his study, young and carefree. He saw him reading family exploits before an audience of young pranksters. The juvenile gang was laughing at mimes of young beaming Baggins, who probably launched his mocking verses and frivolous spikes at some cousins. Yet Frodo was inhabited by an inner light, and his eyes, when Sam paid attention, reminded both the sweet serenity of Imladris and the radiant fullness of victory at the field of Cormalen. And the joy inside Frodo seemed of a matured hobbit, who would have been desperately hurt, yet freed from despair.
And then, as Frodo was happily waving his leaves, Sam noticed his hand, from which the ring finger was missing!
Sam sat up with staring eyes - Frodo was silently haranguing at the heart of the Palantir! So the stone had awakened at last! Around Frodo, a band of young elves was cheering, while his former master bowed, blushing.
Sounds initially hustled down Sam’s throat, out of emotion. Then, as he was calling his master with all his soul to share his doubts, he thought he saw him shudder and look around. But a tall elven woman let her embroidery and turned to Frodo to congratulate him, along with some elven lords. As Frodo addressed her with ardor, she got up, with the shadow of a frown on her lofty brow, turned and lifted her penetrating gaze to Sam.
Then Lady Galadriel’s fair face lit with a knowing smile, that spanned the leagues across the chasms of the collapsed sea, to pour its redemptive balm in Sam’s heart. The old hobbit stifled a sigh. - he had again forgotten how beautiful the Lady was. Master Elrond joined them, and all three left the undergrowth to advance on a white pebble beach, dotted with brilliant gems.
Frodo, surrounded by the Elven Lords, was waving at Sam, sending him a moving message of compassion and hope. Then, seized with a sudden inspiration, the former master of Bag-End took a small white stone hanging from his neck on a chain. After kissing the stone, he threw it in the waves that bathed the shore in front of him, under the approving eye of Elrond and Galadriel.
Slowly, large leather-gloved hands lifted Sam, carefully enveloping him in a worn rider’s coat. The tall warrior in chainmail briefly probed the stone with a proud and wise gaze. In the Palantir, he saw, bathed in clear waves, a small white gem set with silver– the very same, it seemed, he had found this afternoon on the Lhûn’s shore. He kissed the old hobbit on the brow and clung the gem on his chain with his blessing. Then he closed the door of the elven sanctuary and took the asleep body down the stairs.
When they came out of the tower to the starlight, Fastred hastened to his stepfather:
- "How is he, your Majesty?
- Do not worry! He is sound asleep, after long hesitation at the crossroads of memories and destinies. You were right to warn me. But for now he must rest. Samwise Gamgee will soon be ready for a last journey, that should not be prevented. Can I rely on your diligence, Warden of Westmarch?
- It will be done according to your wish, O King Elessar! ", Fastred bowed.
Nevertheless he added, softly muttering to himself:
- "... provided I can convince my dear Elanor to consent to that!"