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The Starless Road

Chapter Text

Turgon came down the stairs one morning with a satchel stuffed full of rolled-up plans and a shovel over his shoulder, looking exceedingly pleased with himself.

“Where are you going?” Fingon said.

“Come with me and see!” Turgon proposed. “We could use you, in fact.”

We? And use me for what?” Fingon said, though he already knew he would say yes. His grave once-kingly brother was seldom so light of heart. The ancient days of exile in Middle-earth seemed most often to Fingon like a dark dream from very long ago, but Turgon had always been of a solemner character, and though he would not have left Mandos if his heart was overburdened – as their sister’s heart was, and their father’s who waited yet for his proud brother’s relenting – he had loved Gondolin in the mountains, and mourned her yet.

“Digging,” said Turgon. “And we is Finrod and I, and that should tell you all you need to know.”

Fingon eyed the satchel of plans in some alarm. “There’s hardly room on Eressëa to build yourselves a hidden city!”

“No: but we can dig a hole,” Turgon said. “Finrod’s idea, and I laughed at him, but then we started talking over plans, and now I am looking forward to it.”

Fingon stared at him. “But who wants to live in a hole?” he demanded.

“Hobbits!” said Turgon cheerfully, and handed him the shovel.

Hobbits! They had briefly been a source of great wonder and amusement to the Elves of Tol Eressëa, and then most had lost interest in them. Two had come over the Sea on the Last Ship of the Third Age, and a rare tale with them – the latest of the Great Tales, in fact. But the Hobbits themselves were not, by any stretch of the imagination, Great: nor, though these two were learned for their kind, could they be called Wise. So they were given a small house – on the eastern shore of the island, since that was what they asked for – and then the Noldor left them more or less to themselves. Some curious folk went to see them, and hear the story of the War of the Ring out of their mouths, and laugh besides at their odd way of speaking.  And they had friends about the country, but those friends were for the most part those who had known them in Middle-Earth. Olórin Mithrandir who loved them well was often their guest, and some others of his high race: and Elrond Half-elven held them in remarkable affection, and Fingon’s cousin Galadriel honoured them. All this Fingon had known, and not thought much about. What was he to a Hobbit, or a Hobbit to him?

But of course Finrod had befriended them.

“Say him, Fingon,” Turgon said as they walked down the coast road where the salt spray broke against the tumbled rocks to their right, “for Bilbo Baggins did not linger here long. It is Frodo the Ringbearer who has dwelt these last few years on the eastern shore. He is a quiet sort, and there is a shadow on him, but Finrod likes him very much.”

“Of course he does!” said Fingon. “Do they really live in holes?”

“It is their great preference, apparently! Though we should never have learned it from Frodo. He is much too polite to complain of Elven hospitality.”

“Then however did you come to this?” said Fingon, hoisting the shovel. “Has Finrod bullied it out of him after all these years?”

They both laughed at the idea of Finrod bullying anyone. “No,” said Turgon, “we have another source now, and he gave it all away, entirely by accident. And now Finrod is determined to bestow the gift – I believe he has been trying to give poor Frodo some gift worthy of their friendship all this time, and Frodo wants so little that Finrod has been quite frustrated. But he has hit on it at last: the Hobbits are too aged in the way of their kind now for the digging of holes, but even Frodo could not deny that he still loved the memory of his own Hobbit-hole, far away in his Shire!”

They are aged? But I thought you said there was only one,” said Fingon.

“There was!” Turgon said. “And now there are two. You had better meet the second one, brother, for you share a name, or nearly!”

So they came to the low hill that looked eastwards across the Sea from the shores of Tol Eressëa, and there they found Finrod with his sleeves rolled up and his eyes alight with satisfaction, and more tools; and two elderly Hobbits, only one of whom Fingon had met before. Frodo the Ringbearer looked very much amused, and his rosy-cheeked and white-haired companion deeply embarrassed.

“Turgon!” cried Finrod – in the accent of the Westron tongue, which it seemed they were to use for the Hobbits’ sakes. “Tell me you brought the plans!”

“I brought them; and here’s my brother to help us dig, but let’s have introductions first. Here’s two of a kind – Fingon the Valiant, Samwise the Brave!”

“At your service!” said Fingon, rather charmed, and hoping his accent was intelligible.

“At yours and your family’s!” said the old Hobbit immediately, so he had not done too badly. “Oh dear, now – and your brother too, sir – there’s no call for all this fuss, I’m sure.”

“Now, Sam, you have only yourself to blame. You said it yourself: quite the best country in the world, I’m sure, lacking only a nice snug Hobbit-hole or two,” said Frodo. He was laughing.

“You cannot blame us for seeking improvement, Master Samwise,” said Turgon gravely. “If our country lacks some good thing, we must try to build it. You shall have to let us know how we do!”

Poor old Sam was astonished and stammered hopelessly in reply. Turgon and Finrod unrolled all their plans and laid them out on the grass, and called upon Frodo to give his opinion. “Don’t look at me!” Frodo said, laughing. “I have never built a Hobbit-hole before either! Sam can help you.”

Sam was slightly nervous to be called upon in such high-seeming company, but he did in fact know a great deal of the building of Hobbit-holes, and had overseen many such projects in his own country. Fingon sat on the slope and laughed at the spectacle of his younger brother the city-builder being corrected and even scolded over his sketches by a snowy-haired Hobbit-grandfather who barely came up to his hip. Frodo the Ringbearer came and sat close by him and laughed also, and his eyes lingered on Sam with great affection. “I have missed him!” he said. “It is as if the Shire had plucked itself up root and branch and sailed across the Sea to plant itself around me. Dear Sam!”

Fingon glanced at his cousin’s friend. Frodo looked younger than Sam, but felt older. His hair was silver, not white, and his face though little lined had an oddly transparent look, as if he were not altogether in the world. Fingon could see what Turgon had meant. There was a shadow on the Ringbearer. It was an old scar long-healed, like the scar on his four-fingered right hand: it might trouble him no more, but the marring it had made was permanent. Frodo quieted at Fingon’s look. Then he smiled. “I know, I know!” he said. “But done cannot be undone: and it is healed, and I am glad of that.”

“Pardon me if I woke the grief!” Fingon said.

Frodo smiled again. Then he said, “Do you think we should tell Sam that your brother is teasing him about the fountains?”

Sam was indeed speaking very firmly to Turgon on the subject of what was and was not appropriate decoration for a Hobbit-hole. Turgon without so much as a flicker of a smile was insisting that he had never built anything which did not have at least three courtyards and a fountain and was not going to start now. Finrod appeared close to collapsing from laughter. “Now see here, my lad!” Sam said sternly when Turgon proposed straight-faced that a mighty gate or two might also be a felicitous addition to the Shire-style. At that Finrod did collapse, throwing himself backward on the grass to laugh, and Fingon laughed too, and Frodo’s shoulders shook. Sam gave Turgon a reproachful look. “I do believe you’re making fun!” he said.

“He is not a lad, Sam!” said Frodo. “He is much, much older than either of us.”

“But very childish all the same,” Fingon said, “and it’s an older brother’s place to say so, Turgon, so don’t give me that look! I was brought here to dig. Are we digging, or do you have more jokes to make first?”

“We can joke and dig at the same time,” Finrod said, “if Master Samwise will approve of the plans.”

“Well, they’ll do,” said Sam. “None of your gates and fountains, mind! It’s not proper. And be sure you leave a bit of garden – that’s important!”

They dug, and they joked, and they sang as well: and before long they had more help, for others heard the singing and came to see what was toward, and then thought it a merry business and joined in. The more Elves came to help dig the Hobbit-hole the more Frodo looked amused and Sam embarrassed. By nightfall they had done a fair amount of the necessary excavation, and when the stars shone out they stopped to eat and drink and sing together. Sam and Frodo sat up and listened bright-eyed to the singing, though Sam nodded and eventually went to sleep there on the grass. “We are both too old for a bed like this!” said Frodo regretfully, and woke him up and took him back to the small house further down the shore which he had once shared with Bilbo. But the Elves sang together under the stars for most of the night.

Fingon was among the singers. Only when the night was drawing on the morning-dim just before dawn, and the party had for the most part broken up, he picked his way down the hillside to the dunes below and so to the edge of the Sea. He stood a little while watching long straight low-rippling waves break on the strand, each crowning itself for a moment with lacy foam before it vanished.

“Are you well?” said a voice behind him. It was Finrod who had followed him down.

“Why would I not be?” Fingon said, and Finrod made no answer, but came and stood on the beach as well. The tide came in until the little waves were breaking around their boots, and the salt wind snapped at their hair. Fingon thought of memories like a dark dream from very long ago – yet not altogether dark – and of grief like a scar that was healed but not undone. What Finrod thought of he did not say.

Finally Finrod laughed and said, “Shall we leave Turgon to do all the rest by himself?”

“No, we must supervise him,” Fingon said, “for Master Samwise does not want any fountains!”

The Hobbit-hole did not, in the end, take very long to build – not as Elves reckoned it, and not even as the Hobbits reckoned it: Sam exclaimed over how quickly they worked. As it drew near completion Fingon began to see the appeal of it. He still did not much like the thought of living in a hole himself, but if one had to do so then the Hobbit-hole that Finrod and Turgon had built, with its long rooms delved in the sides of the hill, and its round windows looking east and west, and its high ceilings and warm wooden floors, seemed the right sort of way to go about it. There was a garden laid out too on the leeside of the hill, sheltered from the sea winds, which Sam had had the ordering of; and a row of tough young fir-trees had been planted as a windbreak.

When all was done everyone who had helped – and it was, by this point, half the Noldor on the island – came to assist Frodo and Sam in moving their things into their new home, and for the party afterwards. It was September 22nd in the Shire-count, and it was Frodo’s one hundred and fifteenth birthday. The celebrations lasted long into the night, for though Elves are not in the habit of celebrating birthdays (having in this matter customs of their own) they are extraordinarily fond of parties and seldom allow a good excuse to pass them by. Most of the Hobbits’ own personal friends came also, and Frodo and Sam spent a good part of the evening smoking pipe-weed with Olórin Mithrandir, whom they called Gandalf, and who appeared to find everything about the building of a Hobbit-hole on Tol Eressëa quite overwhelmingly funny.

After the dancing Finrod took out his harp and cried, “Hear now the tale of Frodo of the Nine Fingers and the Ring of Doom!”  Everyone was very much pleased, for it was an excellent tale, and Finrod told it extremely well. Only at one point was he interrupted: for Frodo stopped him at the part of the story where Samwise the Brave dared to rescue his master from the Tower of Cirith Ungol, and said he had not done it justice, and told it again. He gave it in much simpler words, but very strongly, and the Elves who had laughed the first time at the Orcs’ fear of an imaginary Elf-warrior with sword and axe were greatly moved by the courage of Samwise. Many of them wept when Frodo sang in his thin voice the hymn of the stars by which Sam had woken him to hope and so found him.

Fingon wept too.

He was still weeping, silently, when Finrod took up the tale again for the dark journey through Mordor. Frodo now was very pale, and Sam held his hand. Finrod brought the story to the Cracks of Doom and the final unlooked-for chance that had in the end delivered all: then came the fall of Gollum and his Precious into the eternal fire, and the breaking of the Dark Tower, and the Eagles flying to the rescue even as Mount Doom convulsed. The king was crowned and the story ended, and Finrod called out the ringing final shout, praise them with great praise! All the Elves shouted it back, but Frodo still sat silent. There were tears yet upon Fingon’s cheeks. Turgon on his right hand quietly spoke his name.

“A good tale,” Fingon said, “with a good ending.” He smiled as best he could.

The three of them breakfasted the next day with the Hobbits and Gandalf, who was not yet done laughing at the very existence of the Hobbit-hole. It was a merry meal, and Frodo and Sam pottered about very cheerfully, and plied them with eggs, and toast, and sausages, and bacon, and new potatoes, and fried mushrooms, and fresh fruit and vegetables, and tremendous quantities of tea – a proper Shire breakfast, in fact, which Gandalf consumed with tremendous satisfaction, and the three Elves with appreciative amusement. “It’s the least we can do,” said Sam, “to say our thank you kindlys. Not even dear old Strider could have been kinder, I’m sure, and he’s a very important fellow, you know – a great king!”

Gandalf chuckled. "There are three great kings sitting around your breakfast-table, Master Samwise, and they have laboured long to build with their own hands a house you shall not use for more than what might be, to them, an eyeblink – so I think you may say they are at least as generous as Aragorn.” Sam was thrown into embarrassment by this, though Frodo laughed.

“But the Noldor have always loved to work by their hands,” Finrod said, “and besides, we are three kings with few other matters demanding our attention just now. Whereas our kinsman across the water remembers your small folk even when great matters press upon him, and less time is allotted him to think of all. I for one am glad to deserve such a high comparison. So do not look so confused, Master Samwise! Truly we may say, in what I believe is the Shire-fashion: it was our pleasure!

“Yours, certainly,” said Fingon, laughing.

“Now, cousin, no one forced you to dig!” Finrod said, and Turgon elbowed Fingon too, and all were still laughing while Sam exclaimed, astonished, “Why, is our Strider a relation of yours?”

“He and the Queen Arwen are both grandchildren of mine in some degree,” said Turgon, “though I shall never meet them: and they are far distant from me, and Elessar the further.”

Then nothing would do for Sam but that he must have the whole family tree laid out for him, or as much of it as could be fitted onto the back of some of the remaining Hobbit-hole plans. Frodo was pleased by this too, though he knew nearly all of it already: for Hobbits are very fond of genealogies, and only find them more satisfying if already well-understood. Before long Gandalf stood up with a snort of laughter. “Hobbits and Elves are more alike than I ever suspected! I can see you will be at this for hours yet. I must be on my way!”

The family tree necessarily came with a great many stories attached, and though Sam had heard many of them before, and Frodo nearly all, both begged to hear them again. Sam wondered at how they all joined into one another: for many of the Great Tales, it seemed, were not often told in the Shire. “It really is all one story!” he said. After a while Finrod got his harp out again and began to sing, and Sam looked up astonished halfway through the lay of Beren and Lúthien and said, “Why, but that’s you in the tale!”

“Sam!” said Frodo. “Did you really not realise?”

“Well,” said Sam, “I suppose I did, but then again it’s very hard for an old Hobbit to take in, you know. Stories of that kind don’t usually happen to people one knows – even Elves one knows."

“Don’t they, indeed! As if you weren’t yourself the hero of just such a story!” Frodo said.

“Not the hero, Mr Frodo,” said Sam reproachfully. “I only did a very small part – just what anyone would do, really, if they found they had to.”

“I never heard that courage was anything more,” Fingon said.

“And there speaks an expert,” Finrod said, smiling.

“Yes,” said Frodo. “You were even introduced, Sam: Fingon the Valiant and Samwise the Brave! You should take his word on heroics, if you won’t take mine. Wasn’t the story of the Rescue on the Cliff always one of your favourites? With the singing, remember, and the Eagle! I think you must have had it in your mind somewhere in the Orc-tower on Cirith Ungol – though that was a smaller fortress, and the Eagles came later.”

Sam looked at Fingon with wide eyes. Fingon smiled. “You may have faced a smaller fortress,” he said, “but you are also rather smaller than I am. I do not think your courage was any less. I am glad if my tale was any help to you in a place so dark as that.” He paused. “And glad too that it came to a better end,” he said.

Finrod looked at him with concern, though Turgon was kind enough to look away. Frodo’s expression was suddenly much distressed. “But I thought that story had a happy ending,” said Sam. “You saved your friend, and an Eagle came: that’s how we’ve always told it in the Shire.”

“That is how it went,” Fingon said. “But it might have been better if I had done as my friend asked me, and killed him there. He came to great grief in the end.”

“Do not wish so noble a deed undone!” Finrod said softly.

“What happened?” said Sam.

“Sam –” said Frodo.

“No, it is right to tell it,” Fingon said. “It is all part of the same story.”

Turgon went back to the first of the family trees they had drawn for the Hobbits, and added to it in quick firm strokes what had until then been omitted: Míriel and her descent, and the seven sons of Fëanor. He wrote down Celebrimbor Curufin’s son as well. “That is a name you should know,” he said, “for he was the Ring-forger, greatly deceived. Yet the Three were fair, and many fair things were done by them!”

Then Finrod sang from the Noldolantë, of the devastation of Nargothrond and the ruin of Doriath and the fall of Gondolin, and of the destruction wrought by the Oathbound as they sought the Silmaril of Beren and Lúthien. Sam murmured at the tale of Elwing’s flight from Sirion. “In the Shire we always say it was a band of wicked thieves that came to rob the Dawnstar’s wife.”

“So it was,” answered Finrod, “alas!”

And he sang the rest to its sad ending: the last two brothers fallen from all they might have been to nothing more than common thieves and murderers, doomed by the oath which in the end they could neither fulfil nor escape. Fingon wept to hear it, and his brother wept with him, and Finrod’s eyes were not dry as he sang. Frodo’s face was full of solemn pity, and Sam said, with a hiccupping sob, “Why, they could never have done it at all! Not from the very beginning! If that isn’t hard!”

“Hard,” said Turgon sadly, “but just.”

“And that’s the ending?” Sam said. “They’re all gone, and won’t come back, as you Elves seem to, to start trying to put out the stars, or anything of that kind?”

“No,” said Finrod, “though if they did return, they should have to try. Their oath would not let them do otherwise! But the Sons of Fëanor shall await their final doom in the Halls of Mandos until the world’s end – all but two.”

“That poor fellow on the beach!” Sam said.

“Two?” said Frodo, and then, “But I beg your pardon – I should not ask.”

“It is not a secret,” said Finrod. But he said no more.

“Two,” said Fingon quietly. “For Maglor the Unforgiven, last of the Exiles, shall wander the shores of Middle-earth and there fade until nothing remains save a voice of sorrow, and even then he shall have no rest. But Maedhros his brother sought destruction body and spirit, and found both. When Mandos summoned him, he refused, and first of them all he has been taken by the void that they swore themselves to. He is not in the world, and will not come again. Deeper darknesses are there than that which Morgoth made below Thangorodrim!” He paused and looked at Finrod. “Should I not then have killed him as he asked me?”

“No!” said Finrod, but Turgon said nothing.

Sam grew even more upset. “Now that’s not right,” he said, “that can’t be right! Just or not – and I don’t know that it is, begging your pardon, sir – still, no story should end that way!”

“It is ended all the same,” Fingon said.

“But your friend – after all that – though he did very great wrong, it doesn’t seem that he altogether wished to: and he was your friend, anyway, so he can’t have been wicked right through. Not that not wishing to is any excuse, mind,” added Sam conscientiously, “but I tell you, I’ve children of my own, and shame on me if I ever got them into such a bind as that stubborn old father of theirs! It’s a very great shame, and I’ll stand by that. Some of ‘em seem to have done worse with it than others: but your friend still sounds more sad than bad, if you understand me.”

"All evil is sad, Sam," said Frodo.

There was a silence. Fingon looked at Frodo and perceived once again, more strongly than before, the scarring and strange transparency that was upon him. The Ringbearer paused as if deep in thought: very young indeed was he by Elf-reckoning, and yet none of them dared to speak before him.

“Yes, all evil is sad!” he said. “Do you not remember Gollum? Slinker and Stinker, as you called him, but both were once Sméagol, who might have been otherwise: and how unhappy he was!”

“He was a Slinker, and a Stinker too,” said Sam, “and I don’t care how unhappy he was, he still got what he deserved. He would have killed you, Mr Frodo, and you wouldn’t have been the first.”

“And I would have killed him – for the Ring!” Frodo said. “If Gollum deserved the fire, Sam, then in the end I deserved it too. I should have been just like him in time, and you might have called me both those names, quite rightly. What difference was there between us at last? Only that I had my Sam to drag me away – and if I had not, I think I would have thrown myself into the Cracks of Doom after him. Do you remember what I said to you then? Hopes fail in this world; there is no escape – and it’s true! It’s true!” He laughed softly, yet it seemed to Fingon he might also have wept. “And you said to me: we could at least go further from this dangerous place!

“And wasn’t I right?” said Sam. “See how far away from there we are now!”

“Of course you were,” said Frodo. “I should not have despaired.” But he touched with his left hand the scarred place on his right.

“They are a small folk,” said Turgon as they all three walked down the coast road later, “but for a moment there I thought myself in the presence of one of the Wise: nay, the wisest.”

“Such is the grief of mortals!” Finrod said.

But Fingon said nothing.

He bade the other two farewell a little further on, and picked his way down the jumbled wall of stone to the narrow band of shingle at the shore. It was not wide enough there for two to walk abreast. Small waves broke one after the other, and a gull swooped and dived alone a little way out to sea. Fingon did not have his harp with him, or he might have made a song of the moment, and of the grief. He had thought the old wounds healed. Indeed they had been healed: and now they were torn open again.

He looked up when his brother scrambled down the rocks beside him. “We argued,” Turgon said, “over which of us should come back to you. But I thought Finrod might be more than you could bear just now.”

“It is not that I object to being told to hope,” said Fingon.

“Nor I! But all the same –"

“Finrod!” Fingon said, which summed it up perfectly for both of them.

They watched the gull in its circling flights for a while. Low clouds were gathering in the East, promising rain, but they were still thin, and bright rays of the Sun pierced them and set dazzle and shadow at play on the waves. The water was clear by their feet, and blue-green further out, and deepened to darkest navy at the horizon.

“We could at least go a little further from the fire! So I should have said to him,” said Fingon at last, “if I had been there.”

“I know you loved him well,” said Turgon. “If you had been there I do not believe he should ever have come so close to it.”

“No? But he was bound! Still, anything a friend might do, I would gladly have done.”

“I know it! Tears unnumbered I wept for you, brother, and you came to that battle for his sake – or so I deem.”

Fingon did not deny it. “Shall I hope?” he murmured, watching the gull dive. “But what hope is there? I do not know.” He shook his head. “Then shall I wait? But who else will help him?”

There was a pause filled only with the sound of the water, and then Turgon said, “If there was any way to the Void, Fingon, I believe you would take it, and drag him home yourself.”

“Of course I would!” said Fingon. “But where shall I find the road?”

“Do not look for it!” Turgon said. “Too often already have I watched my brothers throw themselves boldly into darkness – and my sister, too.”

“Argon is worse than I am,” Fingon said.

“You are as bad as each other, and Aredhel was worst of all,” said Turgon. “I still hope to see her again! But I would have no such hope for you, if you set out on that quest. Nor does Maedhros deserve it – no, not even though you loved him well.”

“Do not speak to me of deserts!” Fingon said. “Did Frodo deserve Samwise?”

“Not at the end, perhaps. But he earned Sam’s love long before that,” said Turgon. Fingon gave him a look under his brows. “I take your meaning! But Fingon –“

“I am not afraid,” Fingon said. He sighed. “Yet where shall I find the road?”

They were quiet for a time.

“Finrod was right,” said Turgon eventually. “No matter what came of it, you should not wish a noble deed undone. I believe worse things might have come to pass if you had not saved him when you did. You were not there, but believe me, we were near enough to another kinslaying by the time you brought him back.”

“I know,” Fingon said. “I remember.” He paused a moment. “Not a word he spoke to me after he begged for death that second time,” he said, “though he cried out when he felt my blade at his wrist. Yet not a word while we fled, not a word once Thorondor set us down, not a word even while I bound the wound I gave him. I feared he would die - that I had only killed him more slowly and painfully. Then we came to the lakeshore where you were all wrangling. I was half-carrying him, and I thought he walked as one who was dead already: and I could hear all the bitter words you spoke to each other carried across the water on the wind. None of you saw us come, because you were too angry to look. There were the sons of Fëanor on the one side, and you and Aredhel and Father on the other with Finrod and Galadriel, and there was murder in all your looks just then –”

“We thought you must be dead, and they called you a fool for going at all,” murmured Turgon.

“– and Maedhros lifted up his head at last and said –"

“Maglor, for once in your life will you hold your tongue?” quoted Turgon. He laughed suddenly. “I remember! And the looks on their faces!”

Fingon laughed too, more softly. “And the looks on all of yours!”

“It was a noble deed,” said Turgon. “But do not seek to better it. The time of such deeds is over, and the time of peace is come. Those tales are ended now.” He offered Fingon his hand. Fingon took it. “Finrod thinks mortals bring changefulness wherever they go,” Turgon said, pulling him to his feet there on the shingle. “He makes a strong argument for it, and today I have seen it. But do not let them change you overmuch! You have been happy, and should be still.”

“I know,” Fingon said. “I know!”

Yet all day the thought remained in his mind, of the road that was not and could not be. At nightfall he walked back down the coast road to the Hobbit-hole, where lights were shining in all the windows. The two old Hobbits greeted him kindly, and then Frodo looked at his face and said, “Pardon me if I woke the grief!”

Fingon shook his head. “I only came to ask your advice,” he said, and explained what was in his heart.

“There are many people in this land a good deal wiser than I am,” said Frodo, when he had heard all. “And I do not know if there is a road, as you call it.”

Then Sam said, “Still, as we say in the Shire, where there’s a will, there’s a way! Here’s my advice to you, my lad, if you’ll listen to an old Hobbit: wherever you end up going, be sure to take some rope.”

“Rope?” said Fingon.

“If you don’t have it,” said Sam, “you’re certain to want it!”

All at once Frodo laughed. Then he got up and went into another room, and when he came back he held in his hand something small and bright. “This has become a mathom, as Hobbits term them,” he said, “a gift which one no longer needs, and yet cannot throw away: and the only thing to be done with those, really, is to give them once again. I believe I know something of the void.” He placed in Fingon’s hand the star-glass of Galadriel, with Eärendil’s light shining softly inside it. “Take that!” he said. “You may need it even more than rope!”

Fingon was astonished by the generosity of the gift, and thanked him over and over. But Frodo only seemed pleased. “I am of Sam’s opinion,” he said. “I do not believe stories should finish sadly: or that they will, in the end.”

Fingon went away again with the star-glass tucked into an inner pocket, and some more lightness in his step. But he had not gone far – only to the little empty house the Hobbits had lived in before their hole was dug – before he remembered that still there was no road. Then abruptly his spirit was cast down. “How shall I find it?” he asked the night, and no one answered him.

But he had the will, he reminded himself. He would find the way. He sat down under a tree that grew a little way off from the empty house, and looked up into the lights of heaven. After a while a song came to him, so he sang it. It was a simple tune with simple words in the Westron-tongue that he had been speaking a great deal of lately. It praised the Sun and stars. Only when it was done did Fingon realise it was the song Sam had sung in the Tower of Cirith Ungol, and that he had last heard it when Frodo told the story at his Birthday-party.

“There must be a way,” he said then, and he cast himself down on the grass beneath the tree and prayed for it, since he did not know how else it might be found.

He woke – so it seemed to him – in the garden of Lórien. Fingon blinked, for he was quite certain that was not where he had been before. He had his bow and dagger and harp, and a coil of slender rope besides tied several times about his waist and looped over his shoulder. And when he reached into his inner pocket, the star-glass was still there.

He looked about him then and found the garden was quite empty, which was strange. Under a stand of trees on a low hill there stood an ivory gate which had never been there before. Fingon got up and went towards it.

Wait! said a voice, very soft and deep, and entirely without sound.

Fingon turned and looked up into the solemn and gentle face of the Lord of Dream.

It is a rash deed your heart desires, said the Vala. Rest and healing you may seek with me: or with my brother, perhaps. Grief too you may honour within the circles of this world. Will you not turn back?

“Forgive me!” Fingon said. “If there is a road, I must take it.”

Say not ‘must’, said Irmo. Yet there is a road. Two gates pass beyond what Is. One is in my brother’s keeping: the other is mine. We cannot go through them ourselves, nor do we know what lies beyond: thence we once came, but now we dwell in Time, and our vision does not extend so far. You will get no help of us there. No prayer there spoken can reach us. You will walk alone, and the way is darker than you know.

“I shall take it all the same,” Fingon said.

Then do not leave the road, Irmo said. No more than that can I say!

Fingon bowed deeply. Then he walked up the hill to the ivory gate, and passed through it, and so out of memory and time altogether.