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The Sandbox  by Celeritas

The elves had a name for this—stirring. Properly it referred to a time of the year, but it was built on a time of day—circles on circles repeating one another, over and over until the end. He’d left that, finally, broken free from the endless rhythms, but he was glad to know they hadn’t quite gone away. They just no longer weighed.

He wondered if winter happened here. He’d come to miss snow.

And he’d come to miss this, too—the tickle of grass on his neck, the distant sound of birds welcoming the Sun, the smell of the soil awakening at the touch of dew. Oh, he had greeted the dawn times enough on Eressëa—more times, in fact, than he ever had at home—but it wasn’t quite the same.

And he understood, now—now that he had the time after all the reunions and long conversations to get at the solitude he still surprisingly craved—that this was the place he’d missed, during his rest with the Elves, and even before. Or rather, something like this—his mother had told him there would be something more—and, after all, there was no Sea here.


It was a feminine voice, and one he couldn’t place. So many old memories, from so long ago…

“Frodo! Oh, it really is you!”

He sat up, and felt a hand on his shoulder. He twisted around to see a smiling face, looking down on him with glistening eyes.


She nodded, and he swiftly rose and pulled her into a hug. She was crying on his shoulder.

“Oh, Cousin Frodo, I’ve missed you so much!”

He blinked. He’d been fond of Estella, true, and she’d certainly been a friend to him, but—Oh. Merry.

When she was quite finished, Estella stepped back, dried her eyes, and looked back at him. “You’re well,” she said.

“I am.”

“And—I hope—you got well with the elves?”

“Yes. I had a long and blessed life—stayed on long enough for Sam to see I was well, and then we both passed on, quiet as you please, and here we are!”

“That’s good. We worried, you know.”

Frodo chuckled. “Merry worried, you mean, and you got pulled in. I hope not too often?”

“No. But he never stopped missing you.” Estella sighed. “But this—this is wonderful! I didn’t think there was anything after! And now…”

“Did Merry? Think there was anything after, I mean.”

“He didn’t know. You know him—made a study of all the different people’s ideas, from the elves and their waiting to the Riders’ halls of feasting. He hoped, though. He’ll want to see you first, of course, when he gets here.”

“Before you?”

“He’s spent the past sixty-odd years of his life with me. He misses me now, I know, but it’s you he wants to see first. And he’ll have some very sharp words to say to you, I’d imagine, so don’t think you can shove him away by sending him to me!”

“You two really are well-matched, aren’t you?” He meant it half-jesting, but Estella took it in earnest.

“Yes. As rough a start as we had, I really do think it all worked out in the end. You helped bring us together, you know.”


“Well, your leaving, more like. Merry was so devastated by it, he wrote this long letter, more to himself than to me. Couldn’t help but pity him as I read it, and that’s when I realized he was more than I thought him to be.”

Frodo grimaced at the description of the letter. “I wish I could have written to him across the Sea.”

Estella shrugged. “He wouldn’t have had a need to write to me, then, would he? I told you, it all worked out, and now that I know he’ll get to see you again, that’ll heal, too.”

Frodo laid his hand on her shoulder. “I’m glad you were there for him, Estella.”

“Me, too.” She sighed. “I miss him already—isn’t that silly of me?”

“Not at all.”

“Do—do you think there’s any way I could write a letter to him? Not that he’d be able to read it until later, but it’d help me feel better.”

Frodo’s brow creased in thought. “I haven’t been here long, Estella, but I think that anything that would help you feel better is possible.” He struck out in a random direction, and around the next hillock was a table fitted with two chairs and a writing-set. Behind him, Estella let out a little cry and rushed forward. By the time Frodo reached the table she was caressing the silver inlay on the box.

“Did you do this?” she said.

“Not as far as I’m aware.”

“This is—well, it looks like—the one Merry gave me, before we even started courting. How did they know?”

“The Powers know a good deal,” Frodo said. “I’ve given up on asking how.”

Estella opened the set, took out a leaf of paper, pen, and ink. She sat down. “What is the date?”

“I don’t know,” said Frodo.

“Never mind, then,” said Estella, and she quickly wrote at the top, “Date undefined.”

Frodo took the other chair. “Do you mind if I write him a letter as well, Mrs. Brandybuck?”

“Not at all!” She looked up at him. Frodo had a peculiar smile on his face. “What is it?”

“That’s the first time I’ve had occasion to call you that. Mrs. Brandybuck.”

“You only have yourself to blame for that, removing yourself from our affairs so thoroughly.”

“I thought you’d never have given him the time of day if I hadn’t removed myself from your affairs. I was doing you a service!”

“I never said that. I only said you helped. By breaking my Merry’s heart, I might add.”

“Look, you’ve already informed me he’s going to harangue me about it; you don’t have to start as well!”

Estella only laughed. The sun pierced her way above the horizon, and the two of them were writing.

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