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The Adventures
of
Frodo Gardner

Volume VIII
From the Ashes a Fire Shall be Woken
By Dolores J. Nurss

Chapter 30, Part 275
A Conference Unseen
March 3, 1453

“What a fool I was, to think that it could all work out,” Frodo sighed, staring up at the hazy moon. The puddles weren’t really so cold down in the ravine, not if you lay stretched out in full, though the chill winds would bite you if you stood up and tried to dry out. And it only came up as high as the backs of his ears, anyway. He could feel the cold line where water met air, from scalp to heels, but distantly. More distinctly came the sound of dripping...somewhere. Round, liquid notes, echoing slightly, at the pace of slow, heavy breaths. Somewhere Arda wept.
 
He patted the clay wall of the ravine. “Poor thing. Poor, poor thing. I’d say, ‘It’ll be all right’, but we both know better, don’t we? We have too much in common, you and I. Nothing can ever really heal our wounds, when it comes right down to it.” Frodo felt the planet turn in a sweetly melancholy round, as though looking for something...something not to be found. “Morgoth dug deep, didn’t he? And Sauron his minion, after. And if you cannot find healing, dear earth around me, how can I ever manage?”
 
Seregril licked Frodo’s face. Good of Fishenchips to send the wolfling out to find him, protect him and keep him warm throughout the night. Or maybe she came of her own accord; nobody owned her, after all. Mordor creatures take heed of the scent of warg, and stay especially away when a growl accompanies it; they don’t come close enough to find out whether the warg actually has fangs.
 
Frodo offered Seregril the bottle with one hand, which the tipsy creature slurped from with a wagging tail thumping against the bank; the other hand seemed to grip something soft, tightly. “We can’t help it, girl–we’re all wounded, one way or another, and there is just no curing it. Who wouldn’t be, born to this marred world? So why bother trying anymore? Why in Angband wear ourselves down to the marrow trying the impossible?”
 
“Because trying the impossible–especially in Angband–makes us stronger,” said a graceful voice, “even if we can never achieve perfection. Giving up only leaves us dead. And trust me, that never works out. Certainly not when you go about it wrong.”
 
Frodo looked up at the blurry silhouette against the moon, standing on the brink of the bank. “Hullo, Lanethil." He tugged closer the thick fabric that he held, its soggy weave intricate even to his numb fingers "Care to join me for a drink?”
 
“No, thank you. I came to fish you out before you drown.”
 
“Oh? Are we expecting rain?” He tugged a corner of the tapestry over himself and found it cut the chill a bit.
 
“What do you think? Yet I also have something to show you.”
 
“Indeed?” Frodo laughed. “Let’s see it, then.”
 
“Come with me, and you shall see everything. It will take a long journey, but you will find it well worth the trouble.”
 
Frodo tried to think through fog. “Uh...what about Mattie? I should tell Mattie. Oh dear–I have to pull myself together! What will she think?” He struggled to sit up, but found it surprisingly problematical. And he saw how his corner of the tapestry had gotten so disgracefully muddy...
 
“She has already barred the door to you, Frodo. Can you not remember? Now come along...” The elf reached down his hand, which turned into an amazingly long-necked eagle’s head, whose beak bit into Frodo so sharply that it clove clear through the numbness and woke him with a shock!
 
“Frodo? Frodo, what’s wrong, my love?”
 
Frodo turned his head and blinked at his bride beside him in bed, her golden-brown curls shining on the pillow, and her hand outstretched supportively under his neck. “Nothing,” he told her. “Just a warning.” He yawned and stretched. “Some dreams come true. Some dreams come to warn us that they had better not come true.”
 
She nodded, looking at him oddly. “I think that I have had dreams like that.”
 
Then he noticed precisely where her hand rested: fingers upon the back of the cord that bore the lens.
 
“You know,” he sighed.
 
She murmured, “For some time, yes. How could I not know, Love, considering the bond between us?” She drew her hand away. “You lied to me.”
 
He pulled his pillow over his face. “Oh Mattie, I am so sorry!”
 
“Don’t be. You could not have done otherwise, being you.” Gently she tugged the pillow away and kissed his cheek. “I knew it even as I forbade it, that if you had to bear around your neck the memory of horse and ass, wolf and tree, and especially of your sister, how could you leave behind any trace of your own child?” She sat up and ran her fingers through her hair. “I could not have borne discussing it at the time, yet I soon became glad that you did. I have often taken comfort from touching that hidden lock of Harding’s hair as you slept.” Then her voice became more matter of fact as she said, “But come now; dress and eat before you’re late for work.”
 
He gazed on her in wonder for a moment, then decided it best to match her tone as he went about his morning ablutions. “Any more of those calf pies left?”
 
“We finished the last one yesterday. Yet Pearl has invited me over to whip you up a change of pace for second breakfast.”
 
He kissed her as he dressed. “Then I shall look forward to watching you bring it up later to the field; that should make the morning pass pleasantly enough!”
 
The morning did pass pleasantly, before and after second breakfast, and on through lunch to an equally satisfying afternoon. At first only Frodo, Nibs, and Starboy labored in the field, companionable in silence, till one by one the revelers of the day before trickled in, took up their hoes and shovels, and set to work without a word. By noon the entire field had filled with men at labor.
 
Frodo felt his muscles falling in love with the old, familiar motions, all over again. He scratched and nudged, massaged and shifted the earth. “There now–does that feel better? Oh yes, do I ever know how a healing wound itches! Over a little to the left? Sure! There–better? Good! How’s it looking, my dear? Oh, I’m so glad–why, thank you! My pleasure!”
 
Cork leaned on his shovel for a moment and smiled. “Fits,” he said, shaking his head. “He throws fits. But they do sound a sight better than they used ter.” Then he got back to work, winking at Starboy, who looked a little healthier than the day before.
 
Another hobbit, one not apparent to everyone, said to the wizard, “Ah my old friend, it seems so obvious now, yet we missed it completely! Námo and his family are all very well, but Frodo needed Yavanna and Aule all along. Why didn’t we think of that?”
 
”Too much on our minds, Bilbo. Too many distractions, from matters too far afield of his original purpose.”
 
“Well, it’s good to see him happy again, is it not? Or at least getting there, healing day by day.”
 
The wizard shook his head.. “I am not entirely pleased with the outcome, all the same. Mortals should not see too much of the Real World; their minds cannot handle it.”
 
“I suppose it can’t be helped. He needs something more satisfying than the effortless bliss of intoxication; after all that he has been through, nothing will suffice now except the Real World.”
 
“We have no guarantee that even that will work. Sometimes nothing does, with wounds as deep as his.”
 
“My, but you have taken on a pessimistic outlook today, Gandalf!”
 
The invisible beard puffed in a sigh. “Perhaps you are right. He stands a chance, now. Yes. He shall prevail more often than he fails, I think. Yet I cannot help but grieve that he will never be the same innocent lad who set out on this adventure. Look how they all regard him as mad! I suppose, by their definition, he is.
 
“Ah, but “high-functioning’, as future people would put it. They will listen to him anyway. How can they afford not to? He can still serve the purpose assigned to him.”
 
“Yet he will never quite fit in again. Back home in the Shire, I mean, where you know inevitably he must return.”
 
At this Bilbo laughed long and heartily. “Why, neither did I! You saw to that, yourself. And I did not miss it, really. I did not mind at all that people regarded me as mad, either. He will find his friends: the ones who do not care, the ones who, in fact, like him better the way he is. It took me awhile, but eventually I did, after all, and he won’t have a ring standing in his way. They will love him, even if they don’t entirely understand him. And he has the added advantage of a wife, who sees much the same way he does, or at least remembers enough to come close.”
 
“And who has far more practice in concealing whatever might be ‘odd’ in one’s perceptions. Well, well, I was not entirely sure about that match, either, especially since Sauron of all people set them up, yet it has turned out for the best. I suppose it all shall work out eventually, and I must once again resist the temptation to second-guess my betters.”
 
“Yes, it’s a marvelous world, where even Sauron can do some inadvertent good. Which reminds me,” Bilbo said as they strolled down from the field, feet making the comfortable, familiar motions though they did not touch the ground, “I’ve been meaning to ask you--did Gollum slip, or did he jump?”
 
“Now Bilbo, some things are better left a mystery, don’t you think?”
 
And so Frodo found himself quite alone, cleaning off his hoe after the last laborer had gone. He hoisted the tool upon his shoulder and started to leave, when he came across a forgotten jug, left over, perhaps, from the celebrations of the night before. He stared at it a long moment, before he sat down in the dirt beside it, and the horizon swallowed up the sun.
 

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