Where Many Paths and Errands Meet
By Dolores J. Nurss
Chapter 14, Part 14
(October 23-24, 1451)
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
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
"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,
"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
"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' too...fast." 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, "Blankets...hair--your
'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
Merry asked, "Can you do anything for his
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
"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
"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
Legolas laughed. "But he won quite well without your
sword! He had your training to fall back on."
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
"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
"My, my!" said Legolas. "Finished
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
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
Something he saw, once. Something...never mind, just
sleep...no, something he saw recently...there, it drifted
away again, nothing important...no, 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?"