I Will Not Say the Day is Done
Nor Bid the Stars Farewell
By Dolores J. Nurss
Chapter 8, Part 105
Visions of Dragon's Blood
(February 27, 1452)
Long Frodo lay in bed, listening to the moaning of the wind around the tower stones, tossing beneath his rough blanket as the strings creaked in his canvas cot. At last he closed his eyes, relaxed his clutch upon the lens around his neck, and breathed a little deeper.
"WAKE UP, YOU NINNYHAMMER! WAKE UP!" Rough hands tore him from his bed and flung him skidding on the floor. The old man crouched over him, fury blazing in his eyes, his hair and long white beard in disarray. "Wake up and fight the dragon, fool, before it is too late!" Gandalf shoved Sting into his hand.
"A dragon?" Frodo cried, "Where? Where? Just outside?"
"Inside, you fool!" And suddenly Frodo smelled the stench of sulfur, and felt the hot breath on his neck. In absolute, heart-stopping terror, he tried to make himself turn around...
...and he woke up.
"Another idiotic dream," Frodo sighed, turning his pillow over and nestling back down. "I don't know why I keep dreaming of the old wizard--he has sailed into the West and has no further interest in hobbits, I'm sure." Idly he fingered his lens, reassuring and round. He opened his eyes. The shadows within manmade structures defeated the elvish sight that it conveyed, except for the glow of living things, particularly when seen through the lens itself. His sister's gift magnified for Frodo quite clearly the bluish cast of the delicate scales upon his hand.
He sat up in bed with the sweat pouring off of him. Hastily he grabbed the magnifying glass and held it over his hand, this time awake. He breathed again when he saw ordinary skin in a healthy Harfoot brown.
He fell back asleep. He willed himself to think only positive thoughts. Pleasant fancies slipped into a dream, where he gave orders and men obeyed them in every detail, gladly, confidently, rolling back the desert at his bidding. It felt good. Wherever he strode the crops ripened, heavy on stock and bough, and plump children ran laughing at play between the barns and graineries. Everyone smiled and bowed as he passed, honoring their savior. The scent of grain, and apples, and good rich soil rode the wind with the clucking of chickens and the lowing of cows. He went to supervise the last patch of desert to turn into productive land. Only a single tree stood in their way, an old, half-dead hazel, gigantic for its kind, bearing no nuts and fit only for firewood, spreading its branches as though to forbid him passage. But people heeded his commands; he had but to raise his hand and let it fall, and then axes, many axes, hewed into the trunk at once. As the Party Tree fell it groaned long and loud with a pitiable voice that he suddenly knew...
He jolted awake, then settled back down, shaking and pulling the blankets tight, his sweat turned cold again. "I will talk to Elenaril at the first opportunity; I'm sure the women will only keep her sequestered for a few more days. I can hold on that long. Or maybe I can see her sooner. Yes, sooner might be wise. I must insist."
He sought the herbwife in the dark, walking through the streets of Seaside. Sting dripped blood in his hand, and he felt sick with himself. He heard her singing first of all, beckoning him, promising healing. He looked around him, and saw a hobbit-hole right in front of the Tower House, just a tiny mound, hardly a home at all. He parted a fence of thorn to go to it. Firelight effulged through the walls, like thin stuff made it, not earth, so that he could see a woman's silhouette within. Song came from it, and the smell of smoke.
He dropped his sword and stooped to enter in. He suddenly found himself without a stitch on, but it didn't matter, Elenaril was blind, anyway. There she stood, beside a bonfire, and the heat beguiled him. She sang him closer...closer...the sweat poured off him and washed away the blood that splattered him...closer still...
"No!" he cried suddenly, recoiling just before he put a foot upon the coals. "It is all a trick! Once I'm in the flames you will explode me!"
"Frodo! No! Wait!" Elenaril cried. "You must sweat it out!"
But he had fled, her cries and her treachery distant as he ran, ran faster than he ever thought he could, till each step became a soaring leap, longer and longer, all the way back to the Shire. Wearily, shaking with the cold, he turned to home at last. He longed to weep and weep upon his mother's breast, her soft arms warm around him. He crossed the low place in the hedge, trudged up to that ever-welcoming green door, and smiled wanly as his mother came out.
But the minute she saw him she screamed, "Sam! Sam! Gather the children! Run! Run!" Stunned, he watched his entire family flee for the Bywater bridge. He'd only wanted to come home! In fury he threw himself upon Bag End and tore it apart, trampled it and ripped through the walls with his bare hands and wallowed in the ruins, crushing furniture and plates and his sister's loom, then sprang up and in his hurt and fury exhaled a plume of fire straight at his family for betraying him!
"Nooooo!" Frodo wailed as he realized what he'd done. And wailing, he woke again.
Frodo leaped out of bed and hastily lit every candle and lamp that he could lay hands on, and stirred up the coals into a blaze, throwing on it his entire week's ration of firewood. Long he paced around and around, his blanket drawn tight about him like a cloak, before he dared to get any rest at all.
"Rough night, huh?" Mattie asked him sympathetically some time later, as they sat together on a boulder, watching the tide surge in.
Frodo nodded. "Lots of nightmares."
She shrugged. "Mordor is the place for them--that's for sure. Have you given any more thought to consulting Elenaril?"
Frodo gazed out over the Sea of Nurn. "I have decided against it. This is her time. Let her stay in seclusion among the women in her final days of maidenhood. Let her enjoy her wedding untroubled, and the honeymoon afterwards. Why should I bother her with my nightmares and megrims?"
"It won't stop, then," Mattie warned. "You will have more rough nights."
He looked on her solemnly. "But my worst nightmare hit me wide awake, Mattie, under the sunlight with both eyes open." He took her hand. "When you nearly died."
She scowled at the water. "Maybe that would not have been a bad thing." Then she smiled almost hopefully. "Maybe I could find my mother."
"It seemed bad enough to me! I don't know if I could stand anything like that ever happens again."
A chill wave washed over their bare feet where they dangled them. "I'm sorry I upset you," Mattie said with eyes averted.
"But Bergil's right." Frodo pushed on before he lost his nerve. "It's just going to keep on happening again and again, unless I do something."
"Do something?" She looked back at him.
"For your own good," he said. He fastened a collar around her throat, from which fell a slender mithril chain. He linked the other end to a golden ring upon his finger. "Forgive me," he said.
He took her hands in his, "Will you give me your consent, heart of my heart?"
She smiled up at him adoringly. "How can I not?"
He smiled back, caressing her cheek. "I thought you'd say that." And he kissed her. And all the world fell away into two hearts beating, and then they synchronized so tightly that they became one, and he held her close, and right there he possessed all that he could ever want in the world, treasured in his arms.
But she did not fill out and grow healthy. She grew thinner and paler even as he watched, till he could see the outline of teeth within each sunken cheek, extending her smile. "Mattie? What are you doing?"
Radiantly she said, "Exactly what you want, beloved. Fading. Soon nothing shall remain except your will." And he noticed a certain transparency about her.
But the next instant she looked solid enough, so that he wondered if the conversation had even taken place at all. They got up and went to inspect the fields. "This soft little land needs taken in hand," he said, nodding at the Shire's rolling hills. "Too anarchic. Too willful. It needs taught a lesson." They came to the mallorn, and Frodo looked upon it, frowning. "I need a gravel pit right here," he said. He twitched the chain forward. "Remove it." Wormtongue snarled to have his chain jerked like that, but he crouched to the tree, nearly crawling but for the axe in his hand, cringing as Frodo aimed a kick at him for moving too slowly. And the wood began to groan in a familiar voice...
"WAKE UP, YOU NINNYHAMMER! WAKE UP!" Rough hands tore him from his bed and flung him skidding on the floor, just inches from where Mattie lay. The old man crouched over him with fury burning in his eyes, his hair and long white beard in disarray. "Wake up and fight the dragon, Frodo, before it is too late!" Gandalf shoved Sting into his hand before he could take a good look at Mattie.
"A dragon?" Frodo cried, "Where? Where? Just outside?"
"Inside, you fool!" And suddenly Frodo smelled the stench of sulfur, and felt the hot breath on his neck. Before him Mattie lay unblinking on the floor, her throat torn open by a dragon's claw; the blood looked almost like a dark collar in the firelight. In horror Frodo unsheathed Sting with a shaking hand, whispered, "For you, Mattie," and turned to face the mirror behind him, which helped him to place Sting's tip beneath his own breastbone and stab upwards. As he stared dumbly at the blood that drained from him, Gandalf chuckled grimly and said, "That's more like it, Frodo-Lad. It's time you came to your senses."
The last time Frodo woke, the light still blazing all around him, he stayed up and wrote furiously till the dawn poured into his windows and made the candles pale.