Sam was weary. He felt old, old and tired. Mind, he was old of course, he had celebrated his hundredth birthday not so long ago. And what a party that had been! Something prickled behind his eyelids, and he drew a large handkerchief out of his pocket and blew his nose. His Rosie had been there, and all of their children and grand-children and their families … and now his Rosie was gone.
Sam bit his lip to stop the threatening tears. He did not want to cry again, not here among strangers, kind enough as they were. He had never expected her to go first, considering his Rosie was a bit younger, and had not been on such unhealthy travels as he, all to Mordor and back again. Come to think of it, he also would not have wanted her to be the one left behind. They should have left the circles of this world together, if things were done properly, yes, they should!
Sam had also never thought about taking up Gandalf’s invitation to follow them West, not seeing the need. In his mind he never really had been a ring-bearer, had only taken it for a bit to help fulfilling his master’s task. And while his Rosie lived, all had been well. But with her gone, he had started to feel hollow, shadow-like even, growing wearier by the day until he felt as if he was carrying the weight of all of Middle-earth on his shoulders. Then came the day when Strider visited with his foster-brothers - no, King Elessar, of course, he must remember to call him that now -, explaining to him that Sam was also feeling the burden of the ring, even if he had carried it only for a short time.
So after much walking and thinking and talking things through with the family, Sam had made up his mind, left Bag End to Young Frodo and the Red Book to Elanor, and travelled to the Grey Havens where a ship was waiting. It was as beautifully built as the one which had carried Frodo away, and a tall, silver-haired elf who looked a bit like the Lord of the Golden Wood introduced himself as her captain, ready to bring the last of the ring-bearers home.
Home? The West certainly was not home, although Sam hoped Mr. Frodo was still there, and perhaps Master Bilbo as well. Home, that was the Shire, and his heart felt like breaking when he followed the captain on board, leaving the land of his birth forever behind.
And here he was now, standing at the prow, watching as the land drew near. He could already make out buildings scattering around a tall tower, tinted a soft shade of rose in the early morning light.
“Not much longer, Master Gamgee.” Captain Aerondir stepped up beside him.
Sam nodded. “It looks beautiful,” he said hoarsely, his voice betraying his nervousness. A warm hand settled on his shoulder.
“They will be there, waiting for you, they always do. Nothing to worry about.”
A flurry of activity overtook the ship as soon as she had moored, with elves of all kind hurrying on and off board, greeting passengers and mariners and taking baggage away, drawing the travellers with them onto the quay where soon small groups formed around each of them.
Sam had kept behind, fearing to get run over among all these tall people - the elves of Aman all seemed to be even taller than those he knew from home! Then, finally, he made his way carefully down the gangway, too, staggering a bit when he touched land due to the unexpected change from swaying ship to solid ground. He looked around anxiously, feeling lost, for there seemed to be nobody for him, everybody else immersed in their own reunion with family and friends. No Mr. Frodo, though, nor anybody else he recognised, and his heart grew heavy, fearing that nobody had come for him, that nobody who cared about a simple Hobbit like Samwise Gamgee.
“There he is! Look, atto, over there!”
A high-pitched voice in a thickly-accented Westron drew Sam’s attention, and a small shape ran towards him, silver hair flying. A girl with a beaming smile stopped in front of him, slightly out of breath.
“You are Sam Gamgee, are you not?”
Sam nodded, dumbstruck, for she was small like he, or a bit less even. But she was unmistakeably elven with her pointed ears and the clear, luminescent skin, and the silvery-white hair of the very elderly or some elves, like the captain or the Lord of the Golden Wood. She must be a child then, an elven child! He had not known that elves still got children, for he had never seen or heard of one before. She looked vaguely familiar, too, and Sam understood why when another elf closed up to them with an equally beaming smile.
“Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo, Master Gamgee, welcome to Avallone. How lovely to see you again!”
Lord Elrond knelt in front of the still speechless Hobbit and embraced him, followed by the child.
“This is my daughter, Elaniel,” Lord Elrond explained as he got up again, “she insisted on coming with me to welcome you.”
“Thank you very much, my lord,” Sam said, feeling faint with relief. He would have staggered again had not the child slung her arm around him, trying to draw him forward. She was chattering in a language Sam supposed was Sindarin, but too fast for him to understand - not that he had much Sindarin to start with.
“Steady, Lanie, give Master Gamgee some room!” Lord Elrond gently admonished his daughter. “He is not as quick as you, and it is too crowded to move fast. We will arrive at the inn soon enough!”
After having given instructions to an elf who had come with them, Lord Elrond set into motion, leading the way towards the city.
“We are staying at an inn while we were waiting for your arrival. My home is on the North coast, a few days' journey from here. Frodo is waiting there for you.”
“Oh, so he is still alive?” Sam felt as if an enormous weight was taken from him and breathed deeply. “I feared that he - when I did not see him, I mean-”
“Frodo is well, do not worry,” Elrond said. “He was held up after a fashion, though.”
Sam frowned. This did not sound like the Mr. Frodo he knew, who would have come to greet him no matter what. But it had been a long time, and Mr. Frodo had perhaps more important things to do now?
“I am sorry,” Elaniel said with a small voice. “It is my fault, but I did not mean to!”
“We know you did not, Lanie, but you really need to be a bit more considerate in the future.”
Puzzled, Sam looked from her to her father. What were they talking about? They had spoken Westron for his sake, but they could have spoken Dwarvish for all he understood.
Elrond nodded with a wry grin. “I fear my daughter is right. She grew bored with waiting for the ship, and Frodo did his best to keep her entertained. They were playing catch yesterday afternoon, when she accidentally tripped him and he fell, spraining his ankle. I have not allowed him to get up and come with us, but I fear I will regret this until the end of my days.”
“Oh,” Sam said, suddenly grinning. He could just picture Mr. Frodo like this, foaming at he mouth because of his mishap. Oh, how Sam longed to see him again, and now he would, in just a few minutes! He felt like skipping, no matter his age and creaking joints, and happily followed the girl who was once more rushing ahead.
A warm fire was glowing in the fireplace of the smial the elves had built for the Hobbits and which looked nearly exactly as the one in Bag End. Sam sat in one of the comfortable chairs in front of it, the other occupied by Mr. Frodo who had dozed off after a sumptuous breakfast, while old Mr. Bilbo’s snoring could be heard even through two doors. On the table between them stood a steaming pot of tea under a crocheted tea cosy, with a tin cake ready for Elevenses, and at his feet, little Elaniel was immersed in a wooden puzzle Sam had made for her like he had once for his little Elanor.
A week ago he had stood at the railing of the ship, unsure and afraid, and now he was here, as comfortable and happy as he could wish for. True, he missed his family and most of all his Rosie. But being again with Mr. Frodo, and even meeting Mr. Bilbo made his heart sing, even if the old Hobbit was now so frail that he slept most of the time and never left the smial anymore. The most unexpected gift, though, had been the friendship of Lord Elrond’s young daughter.
He knew by now that the girl equalled a four-year old Hobbit girl in age, and she loved spending time with the Hobbits, who were small people like she and knew so many great games to play, and great stories to tell. She reminded Sam of his own children, and he delighted in spending time with her, growing slowly accustomed to this new life. Many things new to him became easier to understand, too, when seen through her elfling’s eyes, or explained with her youthful understanding.
Sam realised the captain had been right all along. He had come home, for this was home now. All was well.