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>> Monday, February 14, 2011

He stood by the rail of the great white ship and looked back at the quay where his friends stood. The ship passed through a bank of fog and when it cleared, the three were turning around to leave; the ship passed through another, and they were gone.

On a whim, he reached into the pockets of his coat until his good hand closed around the phial. He removed it with his good hand and looked at it: it was cold and clear. He muttered to it as the spray from the waves increased, the wind picking up and pushing the white ship forward, still it refused to burn.

He felt a presence by his side, even before the old wizard spoke and set a gentle hand upon his shoulder. "With the passing of the three, the magic of the phial passes, too, as all things must one day end."

"And what have we gained?" he replied, already feeling a dim sense of regret as the ship neared the end of the world. "So the shadow has fallen, but what is in its place? Where we struggled in a world in which good and evil were so plain even the simplest Hobbit child might tell the difference, now the world enters an age when the light against the shadow is replaced by a dim struggle in a murky twilight in which all that can be done is to try and pick the least worst choice, and hope you don't make too big a muck of things in so doing." He felt tired, and sad, and his missing finger hurt more than ever, ached with a sharp pointing ache.

He held the phial up where the old wizard could see it: "And, on top of all else, this is merely water. And all the rest of the magic in the world will eventually leech away, too, I suppose. And the twilit world will, after all, be a little like the world under the shadow and a little like the world under the moonlight." The wizard, for the first time ever, perhaps, had nothing to say.

Frodo began to work at the stopper. It was well-sealed, whether by the Lady's magic or by gunk and grime acquired over the many miles it had traveled from one end of the world to the other, but finally it loosened and released with a small pop. He almost expected some small sigh or exhalation when it was released, but there was none. He raised the bottle to his lips and took it all in one sip. It tasted like water, with a slight acrid tang. Leeched from the inside of the phial or native to the Lady's basin, he couldn't have said. And then he brought back his arm as far as it would go and threw the phial as far as he could. He saw it splash in the water, thought he saw it bob once to the surface, then it vanished behind a wave.

And the white ship pushed on into the Undying West.




2 comments:

vince Monday, February 14, 2011 at 9:04:00 AM EST  

1) I like that, because there's a lot of truth to it.

2) It reminds me of WWII, where evil was pretty much in-you-face obvious, and once it was gone the evil became less obvious adn in many more shades of gray

3) I think this is the price we pay any time a great, obvious evil arrives and is destroyed by flawed good. It's not a perfect world, and the absence of great evil allows small and gray evils to proliferate.

Eric Monday, February 14, 2011 at 11:08:00 AM EST  

Thanks, Vince.

I think the appeal of a lot of genre fiction (including a lot of horror, even) is that it does present a world in which choices are pretty absolute, and that's obviously appealing. I mean, I actually envy Frodo in some ways, because as much as he suffers, what he has to do is pretty stark and self-evident: he doesn't have to worry about whether a post-Sauron regime will be "worse" or whether the Last Alliance has dubious ulterior motives. Good is good, evil is evil, one shall triumph and the other shall fail and no doubt as to which one ought to.

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