Title: A Golden Flower
Theme: Fix the Movies
Author's Notes: Movie!Frodo really gets run through the wringer. He's given the Quest before he has the emotional maturity to deal with it, every single evil being out there attacks him first (okay, so that's sort of bookverse, too, but at least book!Frodo didn't get flung hither and thither by the Watcher in the Water), he gets taken aside on unnecessary sideplots that involve him holding a sword to Sam's throat, he's carrying a Ring that's considerably more powerful and makes him do all sorts of stupid things, and to top it all off when he's gone through all of that they keep him in the Shire an extra four years without any sort of Evenstar gem because Aragorn shattered it in the Extended Edition. After all of that trauma he must have needed some kind of Elven therapy. This was my attempt to give it to him.
Summary: After Frodo receives a long-dreaded letter in the mail, he must come to a decision.
Word Count: 3,367
The celandine in Frodo’s vase was wilting, the little golden flowers drooping as if in mourning. Wildflowers were pretty enough to look upon, but pluck them from where they were rooted and they would surely fade. Pluck them from where they were rooted…
He sighed, passed his hand across his brow, and tried to pretend that the letter he’d just received was another month, another year in coming. Little Elanor couldn’t know about the flowers, could she? Or maybe she did, but it didn’t matter to her. He knew what she would say if he brought the matter up: “That’s all right, Mr. Frodo; I’ll just pick some more for you next time.” Or something to that effect. Dear little thing; she had all the time in the world and every day was different from the last. While he, he—it seemed like yesterday that Sam had put her in his arms, and he couldn’t remember how old this particular posy was nor how many there had been since Elanor had started accompanying him on walks. He felt old, which was odd because he still remembered being young, with a certain wistful freshness that came with his having been young not five years ago. He still remembered what it had felt like to enjoy life.
The walks had started, he knew, just before she had turned three, when she had followed him as he passed Bagshot Row on his way down to the fields and he had taken the opportunity of telling her how she must find something nice to give her mum and dad on her birthday. They had picked snowdrops then, pure and white against the greening grass, and he had promised her to keep them fresh until the twenty-fifth, but he had not expected on the big day to receive a third bunch himself. Frodo had been a bit alarmed at the idea of Elanor equating him with her parents, but Sam had just laughed and said she had a good heart.
And she did, for whenever the walls of Bag End looked too stale and he had to get a breath of fresh air, she always insisted on going with him (with her parents’ permission, of course) and she always picked him flowers which he would stick in the vase until they died or were replaced. She liked the yellow ones best: crocus, jonquil, celandine, goldenrod—she said that that way he could have sunshine in his room even when it was raining.
She knew he was hurting. He wished she didn’t.
The first time they had passed the meadow while the celandine was blooming, he’d smiled and told her how much that flower reminded him of her.
“Why’s that?” she asked with the perfect equanimity of a child.
“Well,” he said, “because it’s golden, and you’ve got beautiful gold hair—and it’s shaped a bit like a star. It’s a little like the flower you were named for.”
“The Elven flower?”
“Yes, only that one has another layer of petals on the inside, white like your dainty skin. It means sun-star in Elvish.”
“Ohh!” she said, and her eyes went wide as if this were a piece of mighty lore. “What flower are you?”
“Me? I’m not named for any flower. Only lasses are named for flowers.”
“Yes, but what flower are you?”
“Do you mean, what flower do I make people think of?”
“Well, I don’t rightly know. What flower do I make you think of?”
“Hmm,” said Elanor, and she made a great show of deliberation. He suspected she had already made up her mind. “Forget-me-not,” she declared.
He smiled. He had certainly heard that one before, from innumerable aunts who had liked to coo over him when he was a child. “Is that because of my eyes?” he said.
“No,” she said baldly. “It’s because people need to remember you.”
And a chill had run down his spine.
He sighed, and almost unthinking touched the gem at his throat. He wasn’t sure how he would have survived the past years without the peace that it gave him. It was a gift most unexpected, but incredibly welcome, not only for its soothing energy but also for the mental reassurance it gave him. Bilbo would be sailing soon and he did not know if he could yet bear to part with Sam forever.
They had been in the stables, he remembered, when he had met Glorfindel for the first time. Well, not really for the first time, for he did vaguely recall being introduced to him as one of Elrond’s household in Rivendell; but this was when he had begun to truly realize who this elf was, and how much he could help him.
They’d just come back from riding, the four of them, on their new ponies (a gift from the king of Rohan), and were stabling them, when he looked up and noticed a beautiful white horse in the stall next to his. It was most certainly an elven horse, but there were many elven horses in the City so that could not be why it drew his eye. It looked almost familiar…
The horse leaned his head over and nuzzled his hair.
“He remembers you.”
Frodo almost jumped—it seemed he would never get used to the silence of elves. Slowly he turned around. “What was that?”
The speaker was an elf with golden hair that immediately reminded him of the Lady Galadriel. He had the same unsettling quality to him, and the same radiance. “Asfaloth. He bore you to the ford at Rivendell.”
For a moment Frodo searched his mind. There was the faint memory of whiteness and water amid the overwhelming sensation of cold darkness from when the Morgul blade had nearly claimed his life. “That would explain why he looks familiar,” he said.
“You have a good memory,” said the elf. “You were almost wholly in the shadow realm when the Lady Arwen found you.”
“Is this her horse, then?”
“No,” he said. “Asfaloth is mine. But he is the swiftest horse in Rivendell and since I was needed to marshal the defenses in case of an attack I was more than willing to let her borrow it.”
“Then I thank you,” said Frodo, “for I doubt any other horse would have borne me to Rivendell so quickly. I had little time.”
“It was nothing,” said the elf. “Your need was ours.”
“I’m sorry; I don’t quite recall your name, but I must have met you at Rivendell…”
“My name is Glorfindel, and it is ever a pleasure to serve you, Frodo Baggins.”
“Thank you,” said Frodo, and he wondered how many others had done small things to help him along his journey that he was unaware of.
He always wore the jewel, even to bed, so he was wearing it the day that Elanor was born, though he kept it tucked under his shirt. She had been sleeping then, when he had held her for the first time, but a week later when she was restive she fished it out on its gold chain and grabbed a hold of it. He thought she might have even tried putting it in her mouth.
Her fascination with the gem was understandable, for it was a peculiar color and it did marvelous things with light, especially sunlight. But he always wondered if there was more to it than that, and whether her attraction to it had anything to do with her love for golden things in general, or the pierce of her eyes which were so much older than her tender years. He offered, once, to let her keep it for a day, but for some reason she found the idea repulsive. Once, when he had been over at Sam’s for an evening, and he and Sam had stayed up late talking, talking, she had fallen asleep on his lap and made his arm go numb. When at last he carried her to the trundle bed he’d had to prize the gem from her hands, her little stubby fingers firmly wedged in between the petals.
The minstrels of Gondor could be pleasant enough when they were not praising their Halfling guests. So when one of them tried his hand at the Fall of Gondolin Frodo found himself listening intently, relieved for once not to be the subject of lays innumerable. He caught mention of Glorfindel of the House of the Golden Flower, and immediately there came into his mind the image of the golden-haired elf he’d seen in the stables. Could such a living legend truly be merely one of many elves currently serving under Elrond?
After the tale was over, he asked the minstrel what became of Glorfindel of Gondolin. Alas, he replied, Glorfindel gave his life shortly after the sack to save the refugees from a surprise attack. There had been a Balrog, if one could believe the tales (Frodo could). And just like Gandalf, Glorfindel had fought him, but it cost him his life. He had been consumed with flame, and his body was laid to rest by the Eagles.
And there was something strange about Glorfindel of Rivendell, but Frodo knew that sacrificing one’s life was usually just that: a sacrifice, with no rewards or second chances. Only Gandalf had returned from death, and who knew how or why that was.
So it was that when he saw Glorfindel again in the Houses of Healing and asked him whether he was named for the hero of Gondolin, the response shocked him:
“Yes, if one can be named for oneself.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Come,” said Glorfindel, and he took Frodo to a private nook in the gardens, overlooking the City, and explained to him the fate of elves, to continue in the world even beyond death.
“Then,” said Frodo, “if a mortal were to reach the Undying Lands, would he die? Or would passage West be the same thing as death?”
Glorfindel looked at him with an arched brow. “I do not know,” he said. “We have never had one of the Lesser Kindred on our shores.”
Frodo sighed. “And what about—well, there’s something different to you, different even from other elves. Does that come from dying?”
“Different?” Glorfindel gazed out over the wall to the fields beyond. “Oh—I suppose you mean being lachend.”
“The light and power; being able to be seen in spirit form. Not all notice it. It comes of having been born in the West.”
“So you’ve lived there? Is it a peaceful land?”
Frodo decided to throw the celandine away. If it decayed any further it would only depress him.
But it always seemed wrong to tip wilted flowers out the window for all to see. He would hide them in the compost, so they could return to the earth and enrich it.
Carefully, just in case Elanor was about to see him, he slipped outside and tucked them in the refuse pile hidden away from the rest of the garden. Then, partly because it was a pleasant day and partly because he was curious, he made his way to Number Three, Bagshot Row.
Sam, of course, was out in the garden. He normally saw him when he took the air after dinner, so Frodo only said a few words in greeting on the way down the hill. His beloved wife would be within, probably baking.
The children were in the front yard however, playing with the set of blocks Frodo had given them last Yule (or was it the one before?). Little Frodo-lad was still very young, and was trying his best to make as tall a stack as possible. Elanor only half had her eye on him, so caught up was she in her own task.
Frodo walked up the path and squatted on the ground to see it better. “What are you making there, Elanor?”
She hadn’t even noticed him until his shadow crossed her work. “A boat,” she said.
“A boat? What for?”
“So Frodo can go a-sailing.”
“Don’t you think he’s a little young for that?”
“Not Frodo-lad, silly. You.”
“Hold on.” She set a thin blue cylinder on its side in the middle of the whole thing for a mast. “There. I’ve made you a boat so you can go sailing with the elves.”
“Who gave you that idea, Elanor?” He tried to keep the casual cheer in his voice, but he feared it had fled for good.
Elanor shrugged. “Daddy says I have a big mind.”
“And what am I supposed to do after I’ve gone sailing with the elves?”
She looked straight at him with her clear eyes, brow furrowed. “I don’t know. I haven’t thought that far ahead yet. Do you have any ideas?”
“No, I haven’t, and that’s just the problem. You’re a very special lass, Elanor, do you know that?”
“That’s just like what Mummy and Daddy say.” She reached for the chain on his neck and pulled out the jewel. “You know, gold isn’t a very pretty color on you.”
When almost all was ready for their long journey homeward, Glorfindel drew him aside one more time.
“I know,” he began, “of the choice that Lord Elrond has been discussing with you. It is a great honor.”
“I know,” said Frodo, but he said nothing more. He did not wish as of yet to share the troubled workings of his heart.
“But it is also a difficult choice to make, especially for one such as you. I thought anything I might do to assist you would be welcome.”
“Thank you, but I don’t think there is anything. You may advise me as much as you like, but ultimately the choice is still mine.”
“I bring you not advice,” said Glorfindel, “but a gift,” and he took out a beautiful gem on a golden chain, quite unlike anything Frodo had ever seen before. It was of a golden color, as if the sun had been crystallized in its heart, and though it was of one piece it had been fashioned into a flower. “It is a token of my house in Ages past, the house of the Golden Flower, and it was crafted many years ago in the West. It still bears some of that land’s energy, and when the memory of fear and darkness troubles you it will aid you.”
Frodo took it wonderingly in his hand. “Would it heal me, then?”
“I do not know. Your wounds run deep. But it would ease you at the very least, until you are ready to decide.”
“I don’t think I ever shall be.”
“It may help with that as well. This is an object of great power, Frodo, and it still remembers the land where it was made. If one were to sail, even a mortal, with this to guide him, he would surely find the Blessed Realm, even if all other ways were closed.”
“Even if the last ship has already sailed?”
“Even then. I do not give this to you lightly, Frodo.” He closed Frodo’s hand around the gem. “But I know that it will help you, and that you will make the right decision in the end. May stars shine on your path until we meet again.”
And he left Frodo to ponder over the jewel and his fate.
Frodo took the gem off and laid it next to the letter before rereading it. He could use it to delay his decision, but what good would that do? He wasn’t going to get any better here and he knew it. But Sam—poor Sam, it would break his heart to never see him healed. Rosie, perhaps, would get him through that, but it wasn’t like Sam to have all his hopes shut off forever. And for Frodo himself—to have to continue, the lone mortal on those shores (if indeed he would die), with no hope of ever seeing the one who had sustained him through his darkest journey again? The jewel was no help. He was going to have to sail with Bilbo and leave all behind.
Elanor, once again, was right.
He’d leave everything to Sam, of course; that was only right. Cold comfort for leaving him forever, but it was better than nothing. It certainly looked as if, at the rate that his family was growing, they would run out of room in Bagshot Row. Bag End would have plenty for them.
He was about to pen his reply to the letter when he saw the jewel again. What to do with that? He ought, he supposed, to give it to Elanor, since she was so fond of it, only it still had in it the power to guide the bearer West and he did not think Elanor belonged there—
No, of course, it couldn’t go to Elanor, it had to go to Sam, dear Sam, and he wouldn’t be half surprised if Glorfindel knew that all along. Only not yet, not till he really needed it, for he’d be hanged if he caused Sam to run after him once more when he had a family and a life and joy behind him. He darted back to his old room, the one he’d kept when he was growing up, and rummaged around in the back until he found his collection of fiendishly difficult puzzle boxes that Bilbo had gotten for him whenever Dwarves were in town. He selected the three hardest ones he could find that were of varying size—one had taken him two years of trying on and off before he got it open—and took them back to his study.
Hastily he wrote a letter to Sam, explaining what the jewel was and how it came to him, and how it meant that he could join him after all was over, then, when it had dried, he wrapped the jewel up inside it and placed it in the smallest box. That went inside the next box, and that one in the box after that, and he was fairly certain that he had just managed to put several years between that gem and anyone who wanted to find out what was inside.
He took it to Bagshot Row and gave it to Elanor, told her that this was a very special present that she had to hold onto for a while. “I want you to give it to your father,” he said, “when he’s as sad as I am.”
“That’s very sad,” said Elanor. “Can he get that sad?”
“I don’t know,” said Frodo, “but if he ever does, I hope this will cheer him up. You must keep it a secret up until then, though. I trust you’ll figure out when is a good time.”
“Why can’t you give it to him yourself?”
Frodo bit his lip.
“Ohh,” said Elanor. “All right. I’ll keep your secret, Mr. Frodo.”
And he gathered her up in his arms and held onto her for as long as he could bear.
All was settled. For the first time in a good long while he felt that he had gotten something accomplished, and that he had some sort of direction in his life. He ought, he supposed, to write letters to all of them—Merry, Pippin, Sam. And there was the matter of the book, too. Sam should have it—it still wasn’t finished, and someone ought to write of his eventual fate.
If he had done everything right, Elanor would not find out the meaning of the box until she was old enough to understand it. Then he knew Sam would not be faced with his own choice until he, too, was ready to move on from life. And maybe Sam would die before then, or maybe he would decide to stay. Either way, Frodo had done all he could, and for once the peace that he felt came from within.
Sitting down at his desk, he took out a crisp sheet of paper and put pen to ink.
Lord Elrond, he wrote,
I am coming.