The Adventures
Frodo Gardner

Volume I
Where Many Paths and Errands Meet
By Dolores J. Nurss

Chapter 14, Part 14
(October 23-24, 1451)

"Oh merciful Valar--stop the bleeding! Please!" In Frodo's twilight state, the Sindarin words sounded just like the Common speech one minute, utterly alien the next, as the lessons his father drilled him in slipped in and out of his grasp. He had a vague sense of someone ripping his sleeve off, then tying it back on him so tightly that he cried out in torment and lost consciousness again. Then he came to himself later, drifting upwards in somewhat haphazard progress, hearing prayers to Varda in a tongue forgotten. That, too, became fuzzy and went away. When next he opened his eyes, briefly, he found himself lying on the ground and gazing up at the silhouette of an elf with hands raised to the stars, singing something urgent. Then someone picked him up, and he blacked out again in a new onslaught of pain.
Eventually he found himself all snuggled down cozy by the fireplace at the wake, the soft voices murmuring, people shifting his sleepy body this way and that, but they didn't seem to measure him this time. He felt a withering thirst, though, and was about to ask Mama for water, when they moved his arm and he shrilled in pain.
" Good--it is staunched at last. Cover him back up. Keep him warm."
"Heavens, he looks pale, Legolas!"
"He has lost too much blood for one so small. But your people heal fast, my friend--take hope in that. Has the boiled water cooled enough to touch?"
"Yes. But why not just heat it up to the temperature you wanted in the first place?"
"Some evils die by boiling. Now help me clean him." The warm water felt inexpressibly heavenly to Frodo as they bathed his arm, though the wound still throbbed; he had not felt this much pain since he'd had an earache as a child.
"How deep is it?" the elder hobbit asked.
"Deep enough. I fear that I shall have to sew the wound, to help it heal correctly."
"Curse me for a fool! Why'd I have to forget to pack the brandy?"
Frodo mumbled, "At least you remembered to pack the rope," though it came out as a barely audible, "Leas' 'member parope," with his mouth so dry and weary. He tried to sit up and smile at them, but his heart pounded like crazy and he fell back down again.
"Goblin-guts!" Merry swore. "Now the poor child's awake!"
"Na' very," Frodo murmured, but he opened his eyes to the anxious faces of his friends in a roaring fire's light. "Wha' happen here?" Why did he feel so giddy--and yet hurt so much?
Legolas said, "You slew the orc who meant to slay me. You saved my life, Frodo."
Frodo's memory rushed back on him--the terror, the pain, the taunting orc. "I...I was too slow." His arm ached like failure. He turned to Merry. "Sorry, Uncle."
"Don't you dare apologize for surviving, Frodo! You did exactly as I taught you to do when fighting a better class of warrior--you figured out his weakness and you used it. I watched the whole thing." Merry muttered to himself, "Of all the cursed times to sprain my ankle! I'm the one who went too slow."
As Legolas washed the orc-blood off the hobbit's face, and cleaned up the abrasions, he said to Frodo, "Besides, my friend, you did not do battle with just any orc, but one of the Last Fallen. Morgoth most prized those that he could twist to evil from the very Noldor who challenged his claim to the Silmarils." He quirked a smile. "Even your father-friend, Meriadoc the Magnificent, would have had his hands full besting such a one."
"Couldn'ta done wi'out you," Frodo mumbled, struggling to stay conscious.
Legolas looked over his shoulder, back at the pit where the battle had taken place. "Poor devil!" he murmured. "Could he have even imagined any hope of return, while Sauron yet held sway? And has hope tormented him since? Was it even possible?"
"Don' think so," Frodo ventured. "Too much...too mush hatred." He gasped before continuing--he couldn't seem to get enough air. "How could he forgive..." He started to lose his train of thought. "For...for not sufferin' as much as...Legolas, I am so thirsty!"
"No more talk, little friend." The elf held a mug of rosehip tea to his lips. "Here--you must be parched. Drink all the tea you can. Rosehips are good for blood-loss." Frodo gulped its pleasant tartness down as fast as they could pour it, then felt a little better, though his head spun every time he sat up for more. "You know, Frodo," said Legolas, "I wonder if the orc entirely wanted to kill you. I think the hope in his heart made him want to remember mercy--even if he couldn't quite recapture it."
"Small comfort t'me," said Frodo. "He wasn'...learnin'" He lay back down on his bedroll, puzzled that his friends had pillowed his feet instead of his head--not that he objected; right now it felt better that way. He could feel the rotations of the earth where he lay, and the weight of all the sky, and the piercing distance of the stars reminding him to think of more than pain.
"One thing for certain," Legolas said, "strange though it may seem. He respected you, Frodo--not for being strong, like one might expect of an orc--for you are not strong, my friend, my life-ward--but for being small and weak and unskilled with blade, yet fighting anyway. In all my long years, I have never seen that in an orc before." Legolas stared off into the distance a moment. "The world is changing," he said, "And who can say how it will turn out?"
Frodo had nothing to say to that. He just rested and watched Legolas boil a strand of his own long, elven hair. Frodo giggled and said, " 'culinary arts'...never cease...t'amaze me!" But then, as he raised himself for a little more tea, he accidentally leaned on his arm and gasped in an agony so sharp that everything went white for a moment as he fell back down.
Merry asked, "Can you do anything for his pain?"
The elf frowned, looking lost, as he threaded a sterilized needle with the hair. "I fear that I am merely a hunter, not a healer. But what little skill I have, I shall use." Then he knelt down and sang over Frodo the sweetest, most soothing cascade of notes. Frodo felt the melody lift him up, and ease him down, and lift him up again, in a slumbrous rhythm to match the sea-sound washing through his head, till he found himself floating on the bosom of the sea itself, buoyed up on each swell and settled down again, following the planet's pulse, the tropic waters warm and comforting, the blue sky clear of all save keening birds, as a deep voice was just about to say...
PAIN! He screamed as the needle pierced his flesh, and the song faltered, and the ocean went away. His "uncle" held him down with a fierce kind of love as Frodo trembled with the shock.
But Legolas stroked his face, very gently, and began the song again, stronger now, so that Frodo fell back into a blessed ocean of deeper troughs and higher swells, utterly without fear, at peace. Somewhere he knew that he had a body in pain, pierced by a needle again and again, but he didn't much care. Eventually the sewing stopped, so he could pay full attention to the ocean that supported him. He listened to a deep and loving voice saying, "Tell your friend that..."
"...all is well. He knows. You have been a fool, and wrong, but you can yet make amends. He will bear you home when you are ready." Frodo opened his eyes, startled awake by the moving of his own lips.
"Who?" Merry asked, but Frodo only blinked up in confusion at Legolas's awestruck face, then closed his eyes again, weary to the heart. He opened them again onto a dim, gray morning. Everything in the camp had somehow wound up all packed up except for him. Merry knelt beside him. "Here lad--can you sit up? No, no--slowly!" Everything spun and Frodo lay back down, half sick. "Let's just wait a minute. You've lost a frightful lot of blood, Frodo, but you're going to be all right. Just don't push yourself for now. Okay, let's try again. Eeeeeasy. There you go. Rest a minute...okay, now we're going to try to get you to your feet--again, slowly." He felt Merry wedge a shoulder under his own and wrap a strong arm around his waist, even though the elder limped, his ankle bound up tight. "That's it, lad. You're doing it. We've got to get you--ow!--out of here. Legolas says it's not safe, here, and I couldn't agree more. Do you think you can ride?"
"Mmm hmmm." Frodo did his best to help them hoist him into the saddle (as Billie-Lass stood unnaturally still to let them, whickering sympathetically) but he couldn't believe how weak he had become; some part of himself must've stayed floating in the ocean, because his body seemed quite distant, only dimly responsive to his commands--a good thing, considering how much it hurt. Soon Merry rode beside him on his right, and Legolas walked beside him on his left, leading the horse and the pony both. Whenever Frodo'd topple to either side they'd catch him and set him right again, but he felt dizzy and so tired that it seemed like he would die if he didn't soon lay down. "For th' firs' time in m'life," he said, "I unnerstan' what't means...t' feel 'drained'."
Merry said to Legolas, "I don't know about the place you've picked, old friend--it didn't prove all that safe the last time we stayed there."
"The last time all dark things had marshaled their forces against us, lusting after the One Ring. We are not so important anymore. The cirque will keep out passing creatures of spite."
"That orc seemed to think that you're pretty important--or whatever it is you've got on you."
Legolas made no reply. Frodo passed into an aching haze, each gentle step of his little mare jarring his wound and making him grit his teeth, but it didn't actually take long to reach the place of safety that Legolas had chosen: a ring of young holly trees sprung from a much more ancient ring of fire-blackened stumps. The others protected him the best they could from the overgrown, prickly branches that they had to push through, but once they reached the clearing in the center, Frodo felt strangely refreshed; the air seemed richer and more satisfying, and his thin blood could make the most of it, so that his head began to clear. As soon as Legolas lifted him from the saddle and helped him to lay down, he asked for his ink-case and the letter in progress.
"I think you should give the arm a rest," Merry said, but then tried to go fetch them anyway, though Legolas gently pushed the older hobbit back down.
"And you, my friend, need to give your foot a rest. No one should have tried to run on such an injury, as you did."
"What else was I supposed to do? Tell Sam I let his son get diced for a goblin's stew while I nursed my own small hurts?"
Legolas laughed. "But he won quite well without your sword! He had your training to fall back on."
When the elf returned with the stationary, Frodo tried to write with his untrained right hand, but that didn't go too well. In the end he had to hold the pen-brush in both hands, but he did manage to record, in large, shaky letters:
"October 24, 1451--Fought my first orc. I won." And then he toppled onto the page.
What next woke Frodo was the most meaty, delectable aroma in the world. He opened his eyes to a slain stag deer hanging from a nearby holly tree. Legolas fussed over a pot as Merry moved about on his knees, unloading seasonings from his pack. At Frodo's stirring (feeling somewhat more himself) the elf laughed, saying, "I may not be a healer, but I am quite a good hunter--which is precisely what you need, right now. No creature on earth can rebuild muscle and blood as swiftly as a hobbit can, but for that you need the raw materials."
"Raw?" Frodo said, paling.
"I spoke figuratively. I have cooked you up a nice blood pudding--you needn't look like that! If you can eat Butterbur's cow-stomach soup first thing in the morning, you can certainly try this. With your father-friend's help, I think I can come up with something palatable." The elf brought over a pale beige bowlful, thick and creamy, a pudding in texture though not a desert, rich with a venison flavor that Frodo found he craved. "Later on you shall have the liver and heart, and any other meat that you can eat--six full hobbit-meals a day, for both of you, until you get your strength back, and Merry's ankle knits."
"That shouldn't take long," Merry said, "for me at least. The swelling has already gone down with your wet moss compresses, Legolas--who says you're not a healer?" He laughed. "On the road, we all become whatever we need to--even elves." Then he heard Frodo's spoon scraping the bottom of the bowl, and laughed again.
"My, my!" said Legolas. "Finished already?"
Frodo wiped his mouth sheepishly. "That was delicious! May I please have some more?"
"You can have all the food you want. And tea," Legolas said, pouring him a cup. "I have gathered more rosehips. If meat provides the building-blocks, rosehip tea provides the mortar to hold it all together."
Frodo stopped with the cup before his lips. "But I have to save some back for Papa's garden."
"Never mind your father's garden, Frodo--Sam would rather have his son than roses. In any case, the roses will bloom again--I promise." The elf smiled gently on the hobbit as he filled another bowl. "In a year or two I shall gather all the seeds your father could wish for, if you want me to."
"Yes...that would be nice. Thanks." Frodo finished his pudding, then stayed awake long enough to add to his letter, "Got wounded. Arm. Bled too much. Go ahead and faint, Mama--I did." But soon he laid down the pen and slipped back into sleep, leaving Legolas to put the ink away. Periodically his friends would wake him to give him more tea and food. Legolas fed him dark-leafed herbs with the meat, telling him he needed them for something, too. Yet no sooner would Frodo lay his bowl back down than he'd drift away again, bits of conversation floating around him randomly. The dark-leafed herbs would reduce scarring, or something like that. But of course Frodo would never get a scar; Mama wouldn't allow it. His mind flickered in and out like the flames in the nice, warm fire that Legolas tended. He found himself perfectly content to desire nothing more than warmth, food, tea, sleep, and a memory...
...a memory?
Something he saw, once. Something...never mind, just, something he saw recently...there, it drifted away again, nothing, very important indeed. Someone nagged him in his dreams. He had to remember. He had to at least try and hold himself floating somewhere between asleep and awake, where he could let his mind drift back to the necessary moment...
...when he gazed up on the silhouette of an elf who sang out a supplication, hands raised to the stars, as a green star shone straight through one finger...
He opened his eyes. Night had fallen again already, deep in the circling shadows of the holly-trees, brightened by the stars overhead. Frodo turned and watched Merry and Legolas go about mysterious chores in the dark. Next to that evening elvish glimmer, it looked like the hobbit faded back into the shadows, not the elf. "Legolas," Frodo called, and they both looked up. "Legolas, could you take a look at my wound for me? Something doesn't feel quite right."
"I just changed the dressing," he said, but he came over anyway. "Perhaps I bound it too tightly." As the elf gently probed the bandages, Frodo clapped his magnifying glass over the fingers. Legolas leaped to his feet, hissing a stream of Sindarin words, but not before Frodo saw a band of silver set with a leaf-shaped emerald stone.
"That's what doesn't feel right," Frodo said, pointing at the elf's hand, seemingly unadorned to ordinary sight. "That ring of yours. O Legolas--what have you done to yourself?"

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