Ledhbardor: The Journey Home

by Kaleb Hammond

In the Fourth Age of Middle-earth, the scars of the ancient Shadow were becoming only a memory of the old and grey, its taint and corruption cleansed and its wounds healed in the hundred years of the reign of King Elessar. The light of the Evenstar shown bright from his brow, lighting all the ways of the world as hope was at last restored. The legacy of the Enemy still remained, festering in forgotten pits and the enshrouded lairs of the lost, as it shall until the world’s ending and the renewal of all things. Yet the paths of the Restored Kingdom trailing from shore to shore, across mountains and the Great River Anduin, and even stretching into the former holdings of the Dark Lord himself, were made secure.

As the realms of Men prospered with rejoicing and splendor unknown in time before or after, the light of the Elves was growing dim. After the destruction of the One Ring, the Three Rings of the Elves were bereft of strength and passed West to the Undying Lands of Valinor with their bearers. And as their Rings faded, so followed their ancient realms, having been for so long sanctuaries of the weary and beacons of hope in despair. Since their departure, the last remaining elves of Middle-earth began to follow on their way, sailing to their final home in the Blessed Realm with their kin. For the few who remained, clinging to the joy and grief of Middle-earth until tasting and seeing all its beauties to the end, their feet still trod on, seen as a half-remembered song or the light of dawn which passes soon after appearing to those who see.

At the end of their days in Middle-earth, as they become ever clearer and their flesh gave way to the light within, two ancient wanderers still roamed the land, the last elves east of the Grey Havens. For long ages of the world they had journeyed together, Arcallon of Nargothrond, friend of Lord Finrod Felagund of old, and his son Antion, bearing witness to the rise and fall of kingdoms, the coming of shadows and their demise. Now, amidst the final days of the Eldar, they began their final journey home together.

They stood upon a parapet of the rebuilt Minas Ithil, and the light of Valinor which shone from within them served as a reminder to the men who now dwelt in the former lair of the Witch-King that the Enemy was truly defeated. They gazed out across the land of Mordor, now renamed Edenardh, meaning ‘new realm’ in the Sinadrin tongue, by King Elessar. Its bloated dens and writhing pits were made into vast farmlands and gardens by the former slaves of the Enemy, to whom the King had gifted Mordor after the War, with the help of many hobbit-gardeners sent by Thane Peregrin Took of the Shire. The Tower of Barad-dûr was no more, and the Mountain of Orodruin was a cold dead heap of ash on the far horizon.

“’Above all shadows rides the Sun,’” Antion recited. “Such words of truth have been made seen at last.”

“Yes indeed, my son,” Arcallon said, his warm smile like a gentle rain after a fire. “It is so.”

“Just as my old Dad was quoted by his friend Mr. Frodo, sirs, in the sixth book of his entry in the Red Book of Westmarch, if I may say so,” a small voice said across the parapet. Turning they saw a young hobbit walking with his people’s quick yet silent step towards them, his bright yellow waistcoat contrasting with his gnarled oaken walking-stick. The elf-lords bowed their heads to him and his plump cheeks reddened. “My word, sirs, such lords as yourselves ought not bow to a simple hobbit like myself. I tremble to think what my relatives would say, if you follow me.”

The elves laughed; the pure joy of their laughter rose the hobbit’s spirits so that he added his own unfettered mirth to theirs. “The renown of your people has risen above even that of the Eldar in these days, my friend Robin Gardner,” Antion said. “Even as the fame of the Ring-bearer and his faithful servant is less among his own kind, theirs remain the names of hope among the Free Peoples though they have both departed West, and the names of their fellow hobbit-companions in the Fellowship are sung as the titles of great champions across Middle-earth.”

“Well, quite so,” the hobbit said, his face now having turned the bright red of a ripe Shire-apple. “It’s been my honour indeed to help the King with his gardening work here, sirs. There is a right lot to do, o’course, what with all the mess the orcs made when they were here, that is, but these southern lads and lasses are a good sort, and with a little guidance from my people it has begun to look like a place worth visiting!”

“Your words speak truer than you may know, Robin,” Arcallon said, seeing with elf-eyes that pierced into the heart of the rebirthed land before him. “Through their trials and afflictions under the Enemy, his former slaves are now made endurant, and the very light of their hearts appears as beacons of new life in this once-forsaken land.”

“I see it as well, Father,” Antion said, his bright burning eyes looking even to the edge of Edenardh beyond. “The hand of Ilúvatar has been at work here. He has proven the belonging of His world to Himself alone, wresting it even from the clutches of the Enemy himself and unworking all that he had wrought here. The Dark Lord believed this land to be his own, kept hidden from the sight of Ilúvatar and ruled only by his own command, yet even through the Enemy’s own devices has Ilúvatar brought about the renewal of all things and the upraising of even this land once dead into a garden of new life, a signal of hope for all the world.”

“You have spoken right, my son,” Arcallon said, gripping Antion’s shoulder and giving a smile of fathomless love to him. “Even as all thought the Shadow could never be brought to light and even the Wise could not see its end, yet Ilúvatar spoke His word of power through what was once imprisoned in silence, and in His own time He has shown that the very darkness itself is subject to His will. No workings of the Enemy, however cunning or indomitable they may seem to those who walk this world, can ever escape the reach of His hand.”

“I must say, sirs, that was rather lovely,” Robin said. “It ought to be turned into a song, it should – by someone with much better word-craft than myself, that is! Perhaps my good sister Elanor could work out something for it proper-like, if you follow me. Her songs and poems have won many a festival contest in Michel Delving if you don’t know!”

“She has truly been gifted the art of her father,” Antion said with a soft chuckle. “The very voice of Lúthien herself has arisen in her.”

“Well, I shouldn’t go that far, sirs. Wouldn’t be proper, if you understand me, to a hobbit’s own kin that is,” Robin said even as a proud grin crossed his face. “But thank’ee all the same!”

As they laughed together, a cool wind blew from the West, and even across the vast reaches of the kingdom of Gondor the elves could smell the scent of saltwater and hear the crash of waves upon white shores. “I fear we must soon depart, my friend,” Arcallon said presently, placing a long, slender hand atop the hobbit’s curly-haired head. “The hospitality and friendship you and the people of Edenardh have shown us will be remembered even after we have departed West across the Sea.”

Robin’s eyes became ringed with tears, yet he did not try to wipe them away. “Well, sir, as old Gandalf used to say – we still tell tales of his fireworks back home of a season! – at the end of Mr. Frodo’s sixth book in the Red Book, ‘I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.’ He always could turn a phrase, he could, though much of it escapes me I’m sorry to say. Anyways, remember me in your travels, sirs, and if you do come through the Shire make sure you hear our Elanor’s songs – you can even tell them to Mr. Bilbo, Mr. Frodo and my old Dad if you see them out West!”

“We shall indeed, Robin Gardner of the Shire, Chief Gardener of Edenardh. You will remain in our hearts unto the remaking of the world,” Antion said, bowing low to shake Robin’s calloused hand. “May the hand of Ilúvatar and the light of the Valar always guide your way.”

With that, the elf-lords departed Minas Ithil, its shining white spires, silver door etched with the great victories of the War of the Ring, and the leagues of well-tended gardens stretching far into the distance fading away behind them. Crossing the city’s rebuilt bridge wrought of invulnerable mithril and passing through crowds of men unseen, they walked together through the orchards of Ithilien, their fragrant flowers mingling with the pure scent of the grey-boughed mallorn trees brought by the elves of Lothlórien after the War, though the elves themselves had long since traveled West.

Continuing westward, Arcallon and Antion came ever closer to the river Anduin, its broad shores and powerful waters coursing unhindered toward the Sea. They then came to the city of Osgiliath, its white towers built as a bridge across the Anduin and restored beyond even the majesty it bore of old. Ships of Men and Dwarves sailed beneath it, trafficking relics from Arnor, mithril from Khazad-dûm, toys and crafts from Erebor and Dale, and horses from Rohan, while the southern cities of Gondor, particularly Dol Amroth and Pelargir, brought great works of art and poetry and the fruits of the Sea. Even the men of Umbar and Harad, long enemies of Gondor beneath the Shadow of Mordor, now brought their exotic silks and spices to the renowned markets of Osgiliath. In the distance, the great city of Minas Tirith, capital of the southern realm of the Reunified Kingdom, arose in bands of shining white stone infused with starlit mithril against the high White Mountains.

The elf-lords, concealed beneath their grey elven-cloaks and willing not to draw attention to themselves, moved through the throng of travelers and merchants from across Middle-earth as they entered the city. Dwarf-masons tended the stonework, their mithril-craft bringing the walls and towers of Osgiliath to glory yet unknown in Gondor, while hobbits cared for the gardens left by the elves of Mirkwood after the War. As they passed out of the city, they came upon a dwarf and a woman of Gondor who had paused in their work and were having a lively discussion. Arcallon and Antion knew the dwarf to be Hannar, son of Bombur, and the woman to be Gwend, Lady of Osgiliath and granddaughter of Prince Faramir of Ithilien and the Lady Éowyn. Unheeded, the High Elves came to stand beside them.

“The stewardship of Middle-earth will now pass to Men, you are right my good Dwarf,” the Lady said. “Yet without the aid our friends the Dwarves our walls would now be rubble and not worth living in.”

“Aye, you have kept the kindness and courage of your ancestors alive even now,” Hannar said, bowing his head to her. His square form, powerfully-built as stone, his squinted eyes wrapped in a tangle of crimson beard, stood opposite the tall, slender figure of Lady Gwend, whose golden hair and skin the hue of fresh-picked Pelargir olives seemed like a blending of her grandparents into one.

“After the devices of the Enemy have been unwrought,” Arcallon said, and neither Gwend nor Hannar seemed startled by his appearance, “it is good to see the works of men and dwarves of pure heart mending together in fellowship the remnants of evil in the world.”

“You speak aright, I deem,” Gwend said, nodding. “Just as the hands of the Orc work the evil that festers in their black hearts, so do the hands of the Free Peoples bring to life that which they cherish to share with those they love.”

“As Frodo Baggins quotes in book two of his entry in the Red Book of the Periannath, the elves ‘put the thought of all that we love into all that we make,’” Antion said.

“Just as Ilúvatar brought forth the bones of Eä,” Arcallon added, “and breathed into its heart the power of the Flame Imperishable, so has He breathed into the hearts of the Eldar, the Edain, the Hobbits and the Dwarves the love for what He has made and the power to shine forth His light through their own hands.”

“Your words hit right to the mark,” Hannar said, stroking his beard in contemplation. “I also see the thought of Aulë, Vala of my people, at work in the great wonders of stone and steel wrought by the good folk of Middle-earth, fashioning the wondrous jewels and bright metals beneath the earth into high walls, shining crowns and tools for the joy and defense of all Free Peoples.”

“In truth have you spoken, good Dwarf,” Gwend said, offering her friend a kind smile. “Just as the Rings of the Elves were long put to use for the effoliation of Middle-earth, to show forth the love and beauty that were within their bearers, while the One Ring of the Enemy brought about only misery and destruction, so the power to make which has been gifted to us may cultivate what is good or wreak great evil in the world through the light or shadow in the heart of the maker. As Redfast Gardner once wrote in a letter, the magic of the Enemy and the clever machines of the orcs include ‘all use of external plans or devices… instead of development of the inherent inner powers or talents – or even the use of these talents with the corrupted motive of dominating.’”

“In the wonder of their intricacy and strength, building up and outpouring the innate gifts given to all by Ilúvatar,” Antion said, “the fashioning of works by hands unstained by corruption show forth the wisdom and power of Ilúvatar, and verily may even so be brought to war against the deepest darkness cast by the Enemy and thereby uproot and wash away at least a part of his wounds, just as Fangorn and his mighty Ents brought down the machines of Saruman and ushered in the cleansing wrath of the waters into the forsaken land of Isengard. Thus is it recorded in book three of the Red Book.”

“Even the growing of new life by our elven-folk and the hobbit guests of Gondor and Edenardh,” Arcallon added, “fights against the evil of the Enemy with that which is good in the sight of Ilúvatar and so brings us all closer to Him in an abundance of new life, like a house alive with many children.”

“As can be seen by the wealth of goods now brought to the markets of Osgiliath,” Gwend said, smiling brightly as she stretched out her hands toward the city gleaming in the noon sunlight, “the brutal and efficient devices of orcs, beneath the malice of their father the Enemy, are but a passing shadow. As Frodo said in book six of the Red Book, ‘evil cannot make, only mock;’ the Enemy may strive to build a world of his own apart from Ilúvatar, yet he and his servants shall never truly succeed, while the arts of the Free Peoples in harmony with Ilúvatar, rather than attempting to coerce and dominate the earth, instead show forth His light in ever new and splendid ways.”

“You have spoken well, Lady of Osgiliath,” Arcallon said, bowing his head to her, and her pale cheeks flushed softly. “Yet I and my son must now depart as we go toward our final journey. Do not now mourn for our departure, Lady, for we go to our true home, while you and your people – and those of your grand halls, good Dwarf – shall continue on evermore. May you both go with the grace of my kindred and live in the light of Ilúvatar to the end of your days.”

Brought to silence, Gwend and Hannar bowed their heads to the elf-lords, who bowed in return, then faded into the trail of men moving out from the silver gates of Osgiliath on their way toward northern paths.

A current of travelers along the northward roads of the Restored Kingdom flowed like a clear stream through a well-tended garden, their paths made safe by the hand of King Elessar and his valiant knights. Arcallon and Antion passed into the land of Rohan, its rolling hills of high waving grasses alight with the joy of its strong and noble people, united with the men of Gondor and awakened to the wider world by the dwarves of the Glittering Caves, who worked mithril into the very beams and gates of Meduseld, and the elves of Lothlórien who planted wondrous gardens throughout the realm. As the elf-lords walked along their way, before departing Rohan they halted atop a high hill in the Wold, the waters of the Limlight glittering along the northern horizon. Men passing by the hill with their herds of grazing cattle gazed up at them, the light of the Eldar shining white amidst the golden rays of the Sun. Then, the voice of Antion broke out, like a bright clear horn at dawn or the singing of birds after a storm, and all around harkened.

“On the day, at the dawn and the doom of the world

As the Shadow is now consumed and the smoke of evil passed

The corruption of the orc is gone, the heart of the world is mended

Their delight and their love are outpoured, and the life of Men is rejoicing

Above all shadows rides the Sun, as once was said by Théoden

So shall the light of Ilúvatar now illumine their days eternal.”

As the song turned to silence, the men who looked on in wonder beheld a blaze of light, then saw that the two lights atop the hill were no more, and until the fall of Rohan the tale of the Lighted Voices and their joyous song was kept by the minstrels of the Kings of Edoras.

Arcallon and Antion tread beside the Great River Anduin along its northward course, passing through the southern reaches of the Greenwood, called Mirkwood no more, now joined to the abandoned woods of Lórien and the Entwood of Fangorn into one great forest the like of which had not been seen since the Elder Days. They wandered long beneath its high branches and breathed in the riches of its fruits, the song of the Ents following them as they passed. “The wind of Ilúvatar is truly alive here,” Arcallon whispered, “beyond even the longest arm of the Shadow which yet stains this world.”

After hours and days uncounted, the High Elves departed the woods without eagerness and traveled on to the back gates of Khazad-dûm. They were allowed inside with kind welcoming by its dwarf guards arrayed in shining raiment of mithril and bearing the standard of their rebuilt kingdom. For three days they walked, beholding the golden and silver-gilded masonry of dwarf-craft at its highest glory, and were given warm greeting by Durin VII, King of all Durin’s Folk, the shadow and flame of Durin’s Bane no longer remembered by the dwarves of Khazad-dûm. At last they left through the western gates, restored to their ancient wonder, where men from the North Kingdom conversed with dwarven craftsmen and traded their wares in fellowship.

Walking in the westward shadow of the Misty Mountains, at the dawn of a new day, they soon came to Rivendell, the Last Homely House, though now its great lord Elrond was long departed West over the Sea with the rest of his Sindarin kindred years ago. Though the power of the elf-rings was no more, still the light of beauty and hope wrought by them shone across the valley and from within the remains of Rivendell, giving the men who lived there the fair faces and bright eyes of the elves from ages past. “The light of the elves has joined with the unchanging beauty of Eä graced by Ilúvatar and shall remain as a beacon of hope for all who will see it forevermore,” Antion said, and even across the deep ravine the keepers of the relics of Rivendell saw the elf-lords and knelt before them.

Departing from the valley, across the Fords of Bruinen, Arcallon and Antion approached Weathertop which, amidst the healing and rebuilding of the North Kingdom even unto Angmar itself, remained in disrepair, the memory of evil lingering in its crown and drawing to itself the vilest remnants of the Witch-King’s minions. They climbed to its summit and there found a huddle of men whose sallow skin, fanged teeth, gaping maws and hissing, lurid voices marked them as half-orcs, goblin-men who worshiped the ancient Shadow and refused to permit its destruction as they raided, pillaged, ruined and desecrated wherever they could escape the sword of Elessar. Among the ruined men were also two true orcs surviving from olden times, yet now reduced to mere beasts enslaved to their mannish overlords. The fiends growled and clutched at the elf-lords, who at first seemed to be only men cloaked in grey, without armour or blade to be seen. Yet when their cloaks were cast aside, the light of their brows shone like the Sun at dawn and their eyes burned with the fire of the cleansing love of Ilúvatar. The wretches howled in pain and trampled one another as they scampered down the side of Weathertop.

Antion stepped closer to their lair and amidst the heap of refuse and grotesque trophies found what had once been a child’s toy, perhaps stolen from one of the outlying farms beyond Fornost, its wooden head etched with a red eye and its body covered with primitive curses written in broken phrasings of the Black Speech of Mordor. The elves looked upon it with utter disgust; yet, before casting it aside, Antion said, “The hurt of the Shadow runs deep. Yet, as King Théoden once said, as recorded in the book three of the Red Book, ‘Oft evil will shall evil mar.’ Enslaved to hatred, believing themselves to be the victims of the men of Gondor and the Dúnedain of the North who have reclaimed the land of Angmar for the True King, these men have become ever more like unto orcs themselves.”

“Yes, my son,” Arcallon said, his words filled with pity. “In their pain and fear they say to one another that this land is theirs by just rights, that they deserve the power once held by their fallen lord and his captains, and the good men of the North are usurpers. And so do they justify their acts of evil brought against the honest folk of these lands and the Shadow is yet allowed to remain even after such long years since its passing.”

“The goodness, the beauty and the bright truth of Ilúvatar is forsaken by them, Father, and so they become ruined, broken and false themselves, and the works of their hands are of naught but corruption and of grotesque lies in blind mockery of the wondrous crafts and arts of the Free Peoples of Middle-earth, who make, as Redfast Gardner once wrote in the journal of his travels amongst the Elves, ‘because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker,’” Antion said.

“They are mere pitiful slaves to the desires of their blackened hearts, lusting for an undue revenge and grasping at dominion over that which they do not and cannot truly own, as nothing may be owned apart from Ilúvatar or kept in stewardship while forsaking His law,’” Arcallon said, bowing his head mournfully.

Antion then ran a hand across the desecrated toy, speaking words of Quenya, the tongue of the High Elves of Valinor in Elder Days: “Elen síla lúmenn’ omentielvo,” or in the Common Tongue, “A star shines on the hour of our meeting,” a greeting once given by Frodo Baggins to Gildor Inglorien, as recorded in book one of the Red Book. Before Antion’s eyes the blood-eye drained away and the hideous text bled into itself and became a hymn of praise to Ilúvatar. Antion smiled. “This shall remain here upon Weathertop as a testament to the glory of Ilúvatar which may never be defeated, and so shall this place once more become the beacon of light and tower of watchful justice it was long ago.” He then sat the doll in the very center of the crown, and never again did a half-orc or their cohort set foot on Weathertop until its very roots were brought to ruin in days of future unseen by even the Wise of the West.

As the last lingering light of the Sun upon the edge of night the High Elves faded from Weathertop, their steps like raindrops searing the parched minds of the goblin-men who leered at them from their hiding-place out of sight. Along the East Road father and son walked, passing by the Forsaken Inn which had now been formed into a welcoming tavern, a haven of music and safety like those of ancient Arnor, then coursed through the thriving town of Bree unchecked. The stream of merchants and merry travelers along the road, treading carefree throughout Eriador in the secure light of King Elessar, saw them only as momentary shadows, fondly-remembered dreams that cannot be recounted. So was now the legacy of the Eldar, the Fair Folk and all their ancient works of living beauty in the world.

Coming into the Shire, the land of the Hobbits, its forests vast and lush and its farmlands overflowing with the bounty of an earth long cured of its wounds, the elf-lords entered Michel Delving. The hobbits saw them more clearly than most, yet greeted them fondly as simple travelers, welcoming their kind faces and wise words when once the Eldar had been withheld entry to the Shire as mere heralds of doom and visitors of a strange enchantment too arresting for the simple and cautious folk of those lands.

“So the shadow of woe and loss has worked to bring these good folk of the Shire to see beyond the edge of comfort and into a light which burns and heals, a light for which they longed without knowledge of the cause or remedy for their yearning,” Antion said as they stood at the foot of the hill which led up to the Mathom-house of Michel Delving, the city the seat of the venerable Mayor of the Shire.

“It is often so, my son, that the towers of pride are only broken and thrown down by the greatest fire, and yet by this the very arts of the Enemy in his darkest plans are worked to the highest purpose of the One,’” Arcallon said, grasping his son’s cloaked shoulder as they ascended the hill.

Greeted politely by the elderly hobbits in bright waistcoats leading their grandchildren into and out of the museum, the elf-lords walked inside. Watched curiously by the museum’s curator, they browsed its many artifacts, most of which were mere mathoms – unremarkable items of curiosity whose importance even the hobbits themselves had forgotten. However, other sights soon caught their shining eyes. They saw jagged, curved orc-swords caked with ancient blood, dented silver helmets of Gondor with wings which still shone in the spears of sunlight piercing through the house’s small round windows, Rohan shields of green emblazoned with valiant white horses, and a bent elf-brooch of Lothlórien which still retained specks of dirt caught in its intricate crevices. Then they beheld the bow of Legolas, gifted by the Lady Galadriel herself and left as a high gift by the Prince after the end of the War of the Ring, as well as the well-worn and beautifully-crafted axe of Gimli the Dwarf. Finally, they grasped a length of rope weaved in Lothlórien, made from the finest strands of hithlain carved from the very hearts of the undying mallorn trees of that Golden Wood. Its light had faded and yet its soft touch and strength yet endured.

“I say, good sirs, you have a fine taste in mathoms indeed. That rope is finer even than the vintage of 1420, if I may be so bold as to say!” a soft, elderly voice said from behind them, and they turned to see a hobbit of even humbler size than most, whose face was heavily wrinkled and yet whose eyes sparkled with a mischievous wit and deep kindness. “Doethoc Brandybuck, at your service,” he said and bowed at the waist. Antion touched his arm to prevent him tumbling over.

“The worth of these great wonders, Master Curator, is beyond the keeping of any price even in the finest markets of Osgiliath,” Arcallon said as he gazed upon the elven-rope in wonder. “The very hand of the Lady of the Wood herself has held this, and the power of the grace given through her is in this yet undiminished even now.”

Doethoc chuckled lightly. “My word, sir, you are a right fine poet, if I may say so. In the days of my youth such talk of the Witch of the Wood was just a tale to spook the hobbit-lads and hobbit-lasses. But no longer. The sprinkling of the Lady’s earth and seed throughout the Shire after the time of the Scouring, and the great healing such as you can see even today have made her name one of love and thanks across the Shire.”

“And so it should be,” Antion said, and his eyes, old beyond count of years and yet as young as the first flower of Spring, were ringed with tears. “Unlike the workings of malice wrought by the Enemy and his fiendish slaves, the arts of hands who make in love may bring about healing for even the deepest wounds and vilest poisons, and in their beauty and the hope they bring for the final renewal of all things they may even give a foretaste of the joy which awaits those who live in the light of Ilúvatar.”

Arcallon nodded, smiling with radiant pride at his son. “Neither sorrow nor hate are left by the arts which do not seek to rule, break or use to evil ends, but rather, in the wonder of their making and the beauty of the love poured into them, may be loved, the light of their goodness taken as a splinter of that Light which is cast by the Imperishable Fire in the very heart of Ilúvatar. So long as we walk in the hope of Ilúvatar and do not mistake Him for what He or we have made, for those things vulnerable to the taint of corruption in the world and within ourselves, we may truly delight in our makings and in the good things of this world which He has given us.”

As Doethoc leaned down to gaze at the elven-rope which glistened in the light of the Sun, he turned and saw that the elf-lords had gone without his notice. Until the end of his days, he wondered if what he had seen and heard were real, some trick of his aged eyes and ears, or even a gift of Ilúvatar to inspire him in his final journey along the paths of the world. Yet he kept all that they said in his heart and felt it as an unquenchable fire even amidst the bitterest cold. As he reverently returned the rope to its case, he began to recite words of the hobbit-poetess Elanor, daughter of Samwise Gamgee, in barely a whisper, yet the elf-lords who lingered at the door of the house caught them still:

“As what we see of autumn leaves go falling to the snow

Or bending blooms of flowers born yet soon cast in shadow

Still fresh the dew of morning falls and light of dawn does shine

And naught of woe or evil fate shall stand the test of time.”

The High Elves departed from the Shire unheeded by any they passed. While the final steps of Men who pass to their final end may be hindered by the fears of doubt or the longing to taste and see once more yet, the elves’ hearts quickened as the air of the Sea came to them even from across the Shire itself. They passed undaunted beyond the western borders of the Shire and soon came at last to the Grey Havens, the last harbour of the Eldar before their passing from Middle-earth to the Sea and unto the white shores of light in the elven-home of Valinor, where no stain of death resides and no memory or fear of Shadow may enter.

Coming to the great port of the Havens, they saw before them a sight of great wonder, one which would not be seen again in the last ages of this world. A ship of white brighter and purer than the finest pearls of the Sea and the Star of Elendil itself sat docked, and beside it stood the two greatest elf-lords who yet lingered in Middle-earth: Celeborn, Lord of Lothlórien, member of the White Council of the Wise and husband of the Lady Galadriel, whose wisdom and power were born from his ancestral days in the forests of Doriath and in the presence of Melian the Maia herself; and Círdan, Lord of the Grey Havens and ancient even among the Eldar, whose silver beard, unique among elven-folk, fell like a waterfall glistening in starlight.

“Now at last, we have come,” Arcallon said, and his words were as the pronouncement of a great doom; yet at their hearing, the elf-lords smiled and breathed deep the air of the Sea. “So shall be the last days of the Eldar in this world who will not diminish, and the memory of our kind will linger on in the minds of those who yet love, see, feel, hope.”

“Long ages of this world have I tended these havens,” Círdan said, his deep, venerable voice echoing even in such openness. “My heart has ever longed to return to my kin beyond these shores and across the Sea, though in all my days, the joy and gift of my service to our kindred has upheld me, until I shall at last behold the thrones of the Valar and taste the light of Ilúvatar which is cast from the heart of the Undying Lands.”

“And yet, we are not abandoning those who remain in this world, our beloved friends of the Men, Hobbits and Dwarves,” Celeborn said, gazing behind Arcallon and Antion with eyes that saw to the edge of the world. “All that Ilúvatar has made, the very bones of the Earth, the verdant grasses and swaying trees, the singing waters and high mountains, and even the hot sands, the deepest mires and darkest caverns beyond all mortal light shall sing forever the praise of Ilúvatar which by their very being they proclaim throughout the world and through the darkest shadows.”

“All that Ilúvatar has made,” Antion said, “shows forth the truth, goodness and beauty of His Face, and all those who love Him may love it, and those who love it may come, by His guiding hand, to love Him from whom all good things spring.”

“No shadow of the Enemy or power of death can overcome His Power,” Arcallon said, the strength of his voice rising up and flowing out even to the edges of the Shire itself. “His will shall be done forever, as even the destruction of the One Ring proves, and one day He will bring down the walls of this broken world for His light to shine to all corners and into the deepest darkness of men’s hearts, until at last all is made new and none may ever fear or weep again, as His love shall uphold all and bring about a glory which cannot be fathomed by any of those He has made, when Middle-earth, Valinor and what is Beyond will be united into one Kingdom of Light eternal.”

With these words, the four elf-lords bowed their heads, then uphold their hands toward the East in blessing and a shower of light came upon all the lands of the Free Peoples of Middle-earth, lightening their hearts and uplifting their eyes toward skies they cannot see. Embarking on the Last Ship, they sailed to the edge of this world and were not seen again in Middle-earth until the end of days.

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