The Adventures
of
Frodo Gardner

Volume IV
I Will Not Say the Day is Done
Nor Bid the Stars Farewell

By Dolores J. Nurss

Chapter 34, Part 131
Magical Madness
April 1, 1452

The boat bobbed on the waters, tiny on the vastness of the sea. And tinier still, its lone occupant sat upon a bench not made for small creatures like himself, his furry bare feet dangling above the deck. He had no idea what he looked like, of course, out there, especially with the blindfold about his eyes. But he smelled the fresh salt air, and he felt the boat rise and fall with the waves, And his face tingled to the ocean spray, and he heard the never-stilling sighs and gurgles of the water tossing all around him. He wore the same shirt that he had on the day that he had helped to slay a nest of dragonets, the stains not quite washed out despite the best of care. Only now did he fully appreciate their tenaciousness.
 
Frodo's thoughts went back to the events that brought him here, starting yesterday, after he woke up deliriously happy. His household had fed him a meal of real desert venison, hunted by Bergil and cooked up by Fishenchips, together with many vegetables and a strange but toothsome bread that Elenaril had concocted out of roots. During that meal Leech urged on him seconds and thirds with an insistence that rivaled that of Frodo's own mother--followed by a honeyed dessert that the hobbit simply couldn't resist, presented just when he thought that he could not possibly cram down another mouthful. But he didn't refuse a thing, for not only did he discover himself half-starved by his own recent neglect, and his appetite resurging with interest, but he still reeled from his encounter with higher beings, and everything still tasted like a picnic of the gods. Nothing stronger than goat's milk passed his lips, yet intoxication bubbled through him as from the bottomless springs of the Garden of Lorien.
 
After a meal like that, Frodo thought he had to either take a walk or perish under the weight of so much food. As sunlight lingered yet awhile in the world, Bergil agreed to accompany him, and to make sure that he got back indoors before dark. And everything he saw or sensed astonished him in its loveliness, still enchanted as he remained by his memory of the light of Valinor, so that people along the way pointed at him, chuckling as they gossiped over how he rhapsodized at a pottery shard's fair curve, or the dainty leaves of weeds--and he didn't care, he found his mockers lovely, too, and the music of their laughter delighted him. In the midst of this stroll they had run into Lord Curudag. In retrospect, he realized that he really should have known better than to attempt to socialize with anyone while still bedazzled...
 
He felt a disturbance in the waters all around him. Something huge slid through the Nurnen sea, circling and circling; he knew it by the change in the way the waves slapped against his boat. He felt his vessel start to turn, start to whirl in a new-made current...
 
"There you are!" the Lord of Lossarnach had cried, hailing them. "'Tis little enough that I have seen of you, these past few days, Frodo, but it is good to find you out and about again. I have heard that you were...
 
"Ill," Bergil had said quickly, while Frodo, said, "Mad?" and grinned. "Quite ill and taken to his bed," Bergil insisted, with a side-kick to the hobbit.
 
"Yes, yes, quite ill," Frodo agreed. "Unwell. Unbalanced. Cracked."
 
"What my master means to say is..."
 
"Lunatic. Batty. Daft." Why hadn't he appreciated before the elf's supreme sense of humor?
 
"He, uh, he needs a little more rest, but by tomorrow I am sure..."
 
"Insane. Crazy. And deranged--let us not forget deranged, which makes me wonder what it might be like to be ranged."
 
Bergil hissed sideways from his mouth, "Frodo, will you please shut up!"
 
“Fey. Balmy. Unsound of mind.” It took everything Frodo had not to giggle outright at their faces.
 
"Frodo..." Bergil whisper-pleaded, "We need this man's good will!"
 
"But none of that matters, milord," Frodo reassured them, striving to sober himself. "Because of last night, you see, and the picnic I enjoyed with Death and all his family--lovely people, really. Did you know that his wife has many arms? But much, much fairer than the snit, you understand. And with them she could dance...ah, could she dance!"
 
Sadly Curudag said, "I have heard rumors..."
 
It finally dawned on Frodo that he had not made quite the most desirable impression. "Forgive me, my Lord--good fortune can make a person giddy, I'm afraid. But I am through with the brandy, I assure you--it is not a thing like that. Oh dear; I still haven't impressed you, have I? It was the light, of course. It takes awhile to adjust after having seen that light. And perhaps I've seen it one too many times? Oh my--I fear you still don't understand."
 
Curudag muttered, "One too many something, that is certain." He turned to Bergil and asked "How long has he been like this?"
 
But Frodo persisted before Bergil could say a word. "How long? But time no longer matters, my Lord. We repaired the rip with a crumbling old letter from the future; I almost couldn't do it, but I shall have to listen to the new music by the Brandywine some other day. I tell you, I have completely reformed!"
 
"I fear that Tar Elessar will not like this news; he is close to the lad's father."
 
"Listen to me!" Frodo hopped up and down as though trying to reach a level where he could stare down Curudag face to face. "You have lost an eye, my man Fishenchips has lost a hand, Elenaril has lost most of her face--yet still you do your duties, every one of you. So what if I've lost a few of my wits along the way? That's Mordor for you, as you so correctly pointed out to me when we first met. But have you seen the fields? The chickens and the goats? Have you seen the children running as they play in growing health, and the curves upon the women as they saunter through the streets? Do you remember any of these things from your last visit here? Do you remember flowerpots for heaven's sake?"
 
Bergil stepped in front of Frodo. "The Perian speaks right in this. He has accomplished more in his affliction than any gardener you could find of sound mind, were you to search from the northern ice to the farthest reaches of Umbar."
 
"Thank you," Frodo said to Bergil, and stepped in front of him again, his bare toes almost touching Curudag's boots. "Do you think that They would rescue me again and again if They didn't need me for their purposes? Maybe I'm a little the worse for wear, but I'm still here, and I'm still working. Which reminds me--what have you done to battle the Blue Dragon while I lay indisposed?"
 
Lord Curudag started at that, and then looked away and frowned. "I have weighed many strategies," he confessed, "but they do me little good if the dragon will not surface during my stay. And I can only pay the ship to linger for just so long..."
 
BUMP! Something underneath nearly tipped the boat, but Frodo scrambled to the up-turned port-side as fast as he could move, and righted it again by his weight. "You and me," he said to the boat. "We've got to keep our balance, no matter what hits us." But then the boat stopped spinning and everything seemed to settle back to normal again, at least for the moment, insofar as one could describe as normal sitting blindfolded in a little boat in dragon-infested waters. However strange it may seem, tedium set in again, as he sat there in his private darkness, on the lulling waves, and his thoughts went back again...
 
The conversation had continued as they resumed their stroll, on the various ways and means of dragon-slaying (interrupted now and then by Frodo marveling over the beauty of a passing cur or a crumbling brick) until Bergil suggested that his wife would kill him if he didn't bring back Frodo soon to rest some more. But on their return they found a crowd before the Mayor's house, and it grumbled in the way that crowds have, no words distinct to the listening ear, yet the hostility clear enough. Frodo gave Bergil the slip, swiftly for one stuffed so full, as hobbits often can; by the time the man called after him, "No Frodo--you do not want to see this!" the hobbit had already darted through the thick of it, ducking between legs and under clenched fists, silent beneath the blanket of their murmuring, till he emerged into the clearing in the middle, where Harding held a kicking, spitting little girl before Mayor Aloe.
 
The child quieted suddenly in his presence, her eyes wide upon him. He saw for the first time the nature of the strangeness of those eyes--the golden irises and the long, slit pupils. Reptile eyes. Well, he told himself (as everyone else quieted, too, at this new development) odd mutations happened often by the Sea of Nurnen, from all the poisons in the land--he had seen strange things before this among the children who had lived beyond their birth, and stranger tales he'd heard of those who'd died. But now he looked closer still at her and realized that her red-brown dress looked pale from the back view, and it dawned on him that blood had dyed it in the front.
 
"We caught 'er in the very act o' murder," Harding explained, and the child started to struggle again. "She's fed off dragon-meat, by the looks of her, and don't recognize her own kind no more. She thinks she's dragon now, and we's all prey." And then Frodo had looked beyond them to Mayor Aloe, standing grimly beside a block from which manacles dangled by chains, and the axe waiting nearby. "'Tain't but one thing ye can do with someone's eaten dragon-meat."
 
It had seemed to Frodo as though they had blown out the light of Valinor like a candle. Just like that.
 
Now, sitting in the boat, Frodo heard an enormous splash to his right, and water drenched him from head to foot, and another splash to his left and more water covered him, and the boat rocked and reared like it panicked, so that he gripped hard the plank that he sat upon, and his teeth chattered with fear. He would have to calm himself. He absolutely needed to calm himself before he could do anything about the situation.
 
He remembered Bergil grabbing him when he had lunged forward towards the girl. He remembered screaming "No! No! No! No!" over and over and over while he struggled, till his throat hurt with it, and still he went on, while Bergil scooped him up and hauled him away. He had cried out over the man's shoulder, "Build her a cage, if you have to, but not this, no! Wait! Wait! I will find healing for her somehow! She cannot help what has happened to her." But around him in the crowd he heard the mutterings of "Mad!" and all the other words that Legolas had listed on a fading autumn day, it seemed an age ago. And the jest no longer made him laugh.
 
His whole household had tried to calm him down, back at the tower-house, while Bergil leaned upon the bar across the door and wouldn't let him out, but he kept shouting himself hoarse, crying, "I hate all dragons! I hate Sauron! I hate Morgoth! I want out of this horrible land!" Leech made him the tea to help him sleep, but he refused to drink it, though his throat cried out for moisture of any kind.
 
And then he heard a tapping of a hammer just outside, in the vicinity of the stable, and then more hammers, plank after plank going together as rapidly as though many hands went to work to finish a job ere nightfall. In wonder Bergil pulled away the bar, and they all went out, and they watched the entire village build a cage of their precious driftwood in the guest-stall next to Bleys, and bed it down in straw, and they watched Harding push in the girl with the golden eyes.
 
Mayor Aloe herself snapped on the lock, and she smiled wryly at the disheveled hobbit before her, saying, "Crazy, ain't it, to think ye can farm a land as hard as brick, or feed a village with desert weeds? So far yer madness has done more good fer Seaside than any sane person ever had a right to hope. Maybe 'tis some kinda hobbit magic fer makin' hope happen where by all rights it shouldn't, but I'm gonna gamble on ye bein' right again. This girl shall live as long as ye put up with her."
 
Then Frodo had felt the light of Valinor well up again, starting from a glow deep within his chest. And he looked into each of those faces, those hardened, weary faces, some of them scarred, some deformed, all of them prematurely aged to varying degrees, and every single eye glowed with that selfsame light, and though he saw no light in the golden eyes, he saw the cage fill up with an absolute blaze.
 
"Thank you," he had rasped, barely able to speak with his worn-out throat. "Thank you. I...I believe in mercy."
 
Elenaril had pulled him aside, whispering, "Frodo, I have no leechcraft for this! I could barely rescue you, after a brief exposure to a dragon's blood, and with all of your will bent towards return. This child's needs surpass me."
 
But then Leech spoke up. "I have read of an antidote of old, but not an easy one to gain." When Frodo urged him to continue he said, hesitantly, "I know of none who have tried it, but if a hero can scoop out the blood directly from within a dragon's heart, and simmer it with sage until it thickens, then strain it through wheaten bread, and mix this serum with red wine, then this creates an antivenom for any evil that derives from dragons, however far advanced."
 
Aloe then revealed, "Our dear Lord Curudag brought bread and wine in with his gear. He doesn't trust our local food. I shall see if the wine be red and the bread wheaten."
 
Frodo nodded at that, seeing all things come together. And after he had seen the girl's water-bucket filled, and watched Harding throw in a couple of large rats that the child pounced on hungrily before they could escape, he went back inside and accepted the cup of tea, and went to sleep.
 
He now felt droplets fall upon him from something overhead, and a chill as if the sun's warm rays could no longer reach him. The boat froze, not even slightly rocked by the water. He cleared his throat, wondering if he could do this.
 
He had thought so that morning. He couldn't remember what he had dreamed, but he woke up knowing exactly what to do. He had called Lord Curudag in to him before he had even dressed, telling him, "This has gone on far enough! How many reasons must we gather to hunt down the Blue Dragon?"
 
"If you have dreamed up some way to lure the monster out, I shall listen to it."
 
Frodo resisted the urge to laugh at Curudag's wording, but said, "You shall do more than listen--you shall do it! I have a plan..."
 
Frodo felt the boat jolt at last, lifted up out of the water. He clasped the lens firmly in his hands, asked it to magnify a memory, and he waited for his chance...
 

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