For Into Darkness Fell His Star
By Dolores J. Nurss
Chapter 3, Part 144
The Messenger's Gift
April 14, 1452
Frodo had gotten through another long day. One of the irrigation pipes had jammed up, so he had to figure out where the blockage had happened, dig it up, realize his mistake, dig somewhere else, and after three or four such trials finally find the offending length, clean it out, and put it (and all of his errors) back into the ground the way they'd been before. Only after he had replaced the last of the protective cobbles upon the gravel, and straightened his aching back, did Sauron tell him where among the ruins to find a sort of snake-like metal device, completely operable by hand, for reaming out great buried lengths of pipe with far less effort. Frodo did not appreciate the cackling in his head thereafter, but he did chalk up the device for future use.
Now he toweled himself off from a nice, hot bath of Nurnen water--not too bad, actually; salt baths could do a person good, he'd heard, and his sore body could use all the help it could get. He felt glad to finally scrub himself free of the day's sweat and dust, and the smelly black gunk that had built up in the pipe. He decided that he'd dump the water in the morning; he could do without one more exertion for the night. He wriggled into his nightshirt and threw himself onto his cot with extravagant relief, lying there a full half-hour before he mustered the energy to blow the lamp out.
Yet suddenly in the dark he found himself wide awake. Every ache in his body clamored for his attention. "Too tired to sleep," he muttered, and tossed about for some less painful position--not that he had many options on a cot, though sized for a larger person. At last he simply lay on his back, staring at Hazel's wands dancing between him and the stars in his window high above, a lovely sight that might just lull him into slumber...
But wait...he saw a silhouette--someone in his window! He tensed, then remembered that Hazel would never let anyone through who meant him harm. And something in him knew, recognized heart to heart, that he wanted this one to come to him, wanted it in the worst kind of way. The figure slipped down a rope into his room, gracefully, like a dancer descending in slow motion from a leap, the rope spiraling around her to let her down slowly, one bare leg pointed towards the floor and the other tucked up, while her chemise billowed all around her like a dream. When she landed, he saw that his visitor stood no taller than himself.
"Mattie?" he whispered. Shadow mercifully hid her battered face, though the rest of her glimmered in the faint moonlight, but he knew her. It could be no other, even though she made no response except for the sound of her breathing. What he did see, what he could not help but see, was that she had discarded the masculine trousers that normally disguised her, that his chemise barely skimmed her knees, and that no cap confined her curls. "Mattie, what are you doing here?"
In low, sweet tones, more like singing than like speech, she told him, "I am here because I love you." And his heart stuttered to hear it, though he also wanted to weep. "Do I look feminine to you? Because I want to. I want to become what you dream about."
He did not sit up. "Uh...good." She approached, and stood beside him where he lay. "That's good to, uh, care about your appearance."
"I know you worry about me forgetting to eat, so I ate well before coming here. See?" She took his hand and moved it over her full and rounded tummy. "See how good I have been? It must be your influence on me."
"Well, uh, yes, I do, um, do want you to take better care of yourself."
"I want you to see that the poppy needn't stop me from living a full and healthy life." She pressed forward against his palm. "Ooh, that tickles!" she giggled. "Why Frodo--your hand trembles."
In a higher voice he asked, "Does it?"
"Shh, shh, little hand," she said, caressing the fingers, keeping them pressed to her. "We shall have to calm you down, won't we?"
"But Mattie, uh...I mean..." Words fled him.
"And how about you?" She sat down on the edge of his cot. "Have you also been good?" She rubbed his flatter stomach. "Oh dear, dear, dear! You haven't eaten dinner today at all, have you? And you so free of vice!"
"Well, no, I, I was too tired, to, uh, watch where your hand goes!" He grabbed her fingers, but then wound up holding them and staring up at her.
"Well, I suppose some things are better done on an empty stomach, anyway."
Frodo thought he could make out a wink. Something occurred to him, then. "Mattie, I have a gift for elvish sight--how come I can't see your face clearly in the dark?"
"Does it matter, Love?" She lifted his hand up to her lips and kissed it, fingertip by fingertip. "Sight is not the only sense."
He twisted uncomfortably under his blanket. "You understand," he said slowly, "That there are certain things which we must not do."
"Must not?" And now her voice grew playful, though no louder, as she toyed with the shirt-hem and the fabric slid a little higher on her leg. "Why--does your guardian forbid? Do I strike you as the obedient kind, Frodo?"
"Not really," he whispered, trying to sound casual though his blood leaped in his veins.
A husky laugh replied. "Fishenchips had it right, I do confess. I am a bad, bad girl!" and she rested her free hand upon his thigh. "For I want to share with you what I have hitherto kept entirely to myself."
Still he lay there, and his nightshirt felt thin and loose beneath the blanket. "This is insane," he breathed. "You know that we will never marry. So we shouldn't even think about..."
"Who said anything about marriage?" she murmured, and leaned down over him, so that he smelled her burnt-flower scent and the living hobbit-flesh beneath. Soft little kisses fluttered over his face. He closed his eyes; maybe if he made no move, himself, he need not account for anything. He felt fingers smooth his hair, trace down the side of his cheek, tip up his chin...his lips parted as though of their own volition...
A bottle-neck shoved into his mouth and stinging fluid gushed down his throat while she pinched his nose! "I love you, Frodo--I want you to understand me. I want to share everything!" He fought--oh how he fought! But weakness poured down his throat. His limbs became feeble even as the soreness melted out of them, as though they needed pain like they needed the hardness of bones. All became soft--too soft, comfortingly, drowningly soft...
At last she released him; for a second he forgot to breathe, and then he gasped for air. "I want you in my world!" she exclaimed.
He shoved away from her, fell out of bed, tried to rise to his feet, but he couldn't find the floor, because everything around him had turned to liquid, even his body turned to liquid. "I had more gold than I needed, so I bought you some tincture of poppy, since you don't smoke. Because I love you, and I can think of nothing more beautiful to share with you."
He retched, then, violently, but his empty stomach would yield nothing to his nausea. "Easy, darling, easy...this will soon pass." She held him in her arms, but he couldn't remember her joining him on the floor. "Don't fight it, dear--I mean you no harm." She gripped a spot on his wrist that made the retching stop. "This is a good thing--you will understand that, soon." He flailed at her with limbs that might as well have been rags, but he did manage to knock the bottle from her hand, to hear it shatter on the floor--pure, sparkling notes of sound, every one distinct. But she would not let him go. "There. See? Doesn't it feel wonderful now? The sickness only matters for a moment."
He tried to crawl away from her, but it felt more like he swam, everything rushing around him while gravity slipped away...and then he realized that he hadn't moved at all. "Darling?" He thought fingers might have caressed him, but he couldn't tell for sure, so distant did they feel that they hardly mattered. "Beloved? Can you tell me how you like it?
He tried to move his lips, but no words came.
He tried in vain to open his eyes.
"Frodo...oh no. Ohhhhh no!" Somewhere fingers pressed a distant neck, and he felt through those fingers, as though his own, a luxuriously lazy pulse, as slow as the changing of the moon, and growing slower still...slow...lingering to pause... Mattie sounded curiously distressed when she exclaimed, "Noooo! The wrong dosage--he had no experience! Too late, too late--I've killed him!" He tried to smile up at her, to reassure her, but his mouth hung slack and numb.
In a distant way, as though hearing a tale rather than experiencing it, he perceived that his body slid from her lap and bounced upon the floor, landing face-down. He heard little feet run away, and some sort of banging or commotion. He did not care. He kept trying to open his eyes. He wanted one last glorious view of the stars, for no star shone in Mandos, as he knew full well. He could have wept with frustration, trying to raise his heavy head, trying to reach up to the window only to find again and again and again that his hand had not moved after all, trying to see, when his eyelids might as well have belonged to someone else. But then the frustration slipped away, and every disquieting thing, not just the aches of his labors, but also the limbs that they had troubled, and the labors themselves, and any reason for toiling so hard, until he lay at peace, in a softer bed than he had ever dared imagine.
He opened his eyes at last. He found himself snug in bed, furs tucked all around him, staring up at the most incredibly beautiful ceiling, made of a mesh of roots with crystals in between--a fortune's worth of crystals--each one sending off a blaze of dancing rainbows swirling all around him at faint trembles of the living roof. He just lay there, stunned...stunned!
Time did not matter. Time had stopped. Time also raced around him, a rippling flow, serene even in its speeding. He floated in his furs, oblivious to eons, going backwards or forwards, he did not care which.
Home. His ancestral home. That yearned-for place, dimly remembered in the cells, the blood, of all hobbit-kind. The smell of earth all around him, and the sweet mallorn roots--it all seemed so real...no, better than real! What ought to be. What should always be.
He heard someone move, just out of his line of sight, but movement seemed so remote from him, that for a long time he just took note of the faint sussurations now and then.
"Mama?" he whispered at last. "Míryave?"
"I shall be Mother and Father to you, forevermore," said the silkiest, lovingest voice that Frodo had ever heard. "Welcome to my world," said Sauron, "my dear, dear Frodo Gardner!"