For Into Darkness Fell His Star
By Dolores J. Nurss
Chapter 35, Part 176
The Weave of History
June 14, 1452
Frodo fell and fell into darkness, grasping without hands, touching
nothing, contorting against the nothing in a fury for life, for senses,
"No!" the hobbit raged. "It doesn't end this way! It doesn't!"
"And why should I exempt you?" a beautiful feminine voice inquired.
"Have you any notion of how many premature endings Sauron has forced me
to weave into the fabric? And yet..." He felt something at last...an
exquisite piece of cutwork cloth, the most marvelous he had ever
imagined. He could trace out the designs with fingers that were not
fingers. "Do you see? Though not all threads make their way to their
intended hem--as I once tried to sing it, before the shaping of the
world--yet still the holes themselves serve the patterns of Illuvatar.
Wherever the servants of Morgoth think to rend, the greater beauty yet
Frodo found himself calmed by the restoration of at least the seeming
of some senses. "And what of the rip that came from the letter out of
time, sweet Vaire?"
"Let me show you." He felt an edge of fabric in his hand, how it curved
in just a bit. "As it so happened, I needed a dart cut into the weave
at just that space, to improve the drape and to balance the other one
cut for Eriol."
"Never you mind. He shall be born after your time, though he precedes
you. At least..." she mused, "he precedes you here in my tapestry,
where I preserve some remnant of that history which he inadvertently
cut off from beginning."
"And what of Mattie's thread? I had rather hoped to knot it up with
mine, but I suppose...well, no matter now. Please, do not let your
husband judge her too harshly, Vaire. For in the end she fell trying to
save lives other than her own, even if she did use Sauron's weapon to
“I will pass on your words, Frodo. Such testimonials do matter.”
Frodo's hand glided down the thread that his own life had become,
seeking the design into which it terminated. That would comfort him, to
know his tale in full. But then he found not a hem, but a fringe of
threads as yet unwoven, still taut upon the loom. "Vaire?"
The Vala laughed, and heaven's music sparkled in her laughter. "Do you
persist in believing Sauron's lies? He never had the strength to kill
you, Frodo, even drawing from the souls of others, not since your
forebears crippled him. Only by coarse material means--through
monsters, traps, and poisons left behind--can he ever slay a one."
Hope soared anew in him then--immediately dashing into dread as the
full implications of Vaire's words hit him. "But Mattie...oh please,
Vaire, do not send me back, if you mean to send me back alone. How much
more do you think that I can bear?"
"She imbibed the poison willingly."
"No! She almost broke free! She only went back to save us! Where is your justice?"
"That would be my husband's concern--after the fact. I merely weave what is."
"Then I shall change what is!" Frodo grabbed the cloth in both hands.
"Let her live, Vaire, or so help me I shall rip the tapestry from one
end to the other!" Dark lightning shot around him--he could not see it,
but he could feel it as surely as the fabric in his hands.
"Fool--have you any idea what wars you could set loose? What famines, what plagues, what disasters?"
"You're the one, just now, who had no concern for justice--give me what I want, Vaire!" A thread snapped in his grip.
"Do you have any idea what you just severed?"
"Was it Mattie?"
"Then I don't care!"
Cold now came the Vala's voice. "Remember those words, Frodo Gardner,
when the time comes to pay the price for what you have done. Very well,
then--have your way. Save her if you can. But you shall have no further
privileges in Valinor, not in visions nor in dreams, not until your
weary death drags you at last into my husband's halls."
A bolt plunged him once more into the spinning nothingness, sparking
with his pain. Once more his limbs flailed out, grasping at
He clasped slender fingers, a smaller hand than his, if hand you could
call it. He pulled her to him, nestled her against him, felt something
like her heart beat as his own. "I will not let you die, Mattie," he
murmured in the emptiness. "That I promise you." They clung to each
other in the tumbling darkness, merging in some way, growing together
while the nothingness spun around them...
...until Frodo woke, breathing in a delectable herbal steam. Though it
hurt his neck to move, he turned his head to one side, to see a
steaming bowl of kingsfoil tea set close. He halfway sat up, leaning on
his arms, though the canvas pressed down on him with all the weight of
No, not the canvas--only the weariness that his seizure left behind now
crushed him down, the ache of muscles overtaxed for nothing. No sail
overmantled them in here. Somewhere blades clattered against
dragon-scales and men shouted to each other, but he himself sprawled
upon a table in the galley, while men still came and went, piling onto
more tables more wounded than Frodo thought the crew could hold.
He saw blood soaking his own tunic, now half-dried, gluing the linen to
the table in places; in a moment of disorientation he wondered if that
explained why he hurt so badly, but he could find no wound upon
himself. Then he remembered the scream rising above him, of some poor
man in the dragon's jaws directly overhead, and he shuddered to recall
it. But even the shudder exhausted him; he sank back down onto the
spinning table, as dizzy as if he really had sustained blood-loss.
Yet he felt--with muscle and skin and living nerve he felt! "I
survived," he whispered, welcoming the pain, the proof that he no
longer wandered lost in dreams, or in something deeper, darker, and
beyond reversal. For awhile he just lay there, listening to the stamp
and ruckus on the deck above him. Gradually, though, he grew aware of a
softer sound, rhythmical puffs nearby, and turned his head the other
way, to find Pippin kneeling beside him on the tabletop with his mouth
shoved tight against Mattie's, her jaw tilted back. Soon she choked for
air again; quickly now the elder rolled her to her side and Frodo heard
her retching through the clangor of the battle overhead.
In the dimness of the galley Pippin smiled grimly over at Frodo, from
where he knelt by Mattie's side, and half his face looked scraped by
dragon-scales. "I learned this trick at the Battle of the Morannon--or
after, rather, when I had it taught to me. Gimli son of Gloin used it
to save my life." More quietly he said, staring at Mattie, "I did not
know for certain if it would work this time. Thank goodness that it
Frodo had a guilty feeling that goodness had little to do with it. "I
had no idea, Uncle, that you knew so much of the healer's art."
"Oh, I've picked up a few things here and there, over the years--that,
my boy, is why you should listen to your elders. But dwarves encounter
deadly gases underground, you know; they need to know how to restart
Frodo looked around him, still half-dazed. "I don't recognize half these men."
"That is because they don't come from this ship. The Riverborn Navy has
sailed to our rescue." A boom so loud that it hurt made the galley
dishes rattle. "I must say, I find it pleasant to have that blasting
deviltry on our side for a change."
"Uncle...about what happened..."
"Never you mind. Nobody expects heroics of someone in the throes of a
supernatural fit." Pippin chuckled uneasily. "Lad, you scared me more
than the dragon did! Did you know you actually levitated off the deck
there for a minute?"
Frodo sat up the rest of the way, though the ship seemed to whirl when he did so. "Can't just lie here..."
Pippin pushed him back down. "You can, you must, and you shall!
Besides, it sounds like they have finally subdued the monster up
above." Indeed, a weary silence now blanketed them, beyond the moans of
injured men, until a few hoarse cheers broke out, and more joined in
"Hang the dragon--I'm worried about Mattie!" Frodo shoved himself back
up, and made himself haul the drowsy hobbit into his arms. "We need to
get her on her feet and keep her walking--we can still lose her." He
dragged her to the table's edge, then climbed down onto a chair with
her in his arms, then laboriously helped her to the floor. "Sauron
meant to kill her for wanting to escape, and he very nearly did."
Painfully he made himself walk with her, around the blood-soaked tables
full of groaning men, circling the room...Surely Pippin would not take
note of them passing the pantry door, under the circumstances...
"Here now, Lad--I can do that. You need your rest."
"Now!" Frodo cried, though he doubted Mattie comprehended. He ran with
her into the pantry, staggering with exhaustion so that he riccocheted
off disordered crates and leaking barrels as he impelled Mattie
forward, through to the other side, amid what remained of the cargo of
pottery, crashing through the wreckage of the dragon's wrath, skipping
over the broken clay with wary feet while shards crunched under
Mattie's boots. Now he heard Pippin shout and run behind them, but by
then he and Mattie had careened all the way back to the stable.
"Come on! Wake up!" Frodo shoved Mattie against the fence while he
struggled with the knots on the gate that he normally didn't bother
with, till finally in frustration he whipped out Sting and hewed the
cords away. He could see Pippin now, slowed by the broken pottery.
Frodo threw their gear onto the horse and donkey, faster than he
thought his tortured limbs could move. Having only time for one pair,
Frodo grabbed the saddlebags that had the water-skins and all the most
important things in it, and hurled it onto Stumblehoof, then hoisted
Mattie onto Bleys (easier in his weakness than all the way up onto her
own horse) just as Pippin made it through the wreckage, leaving bloody
prints behind him.
Leaping from the fence to Stumblehoof's back just short of Pippin's
grasp, Frodo veered the horse away; echoing hooves rang wild in the
hold's confines as the big beast circled and circled, and Bleys matched
her, braying and kicking whenever Pippin tried to draw near, though
Mattie nearly toppled from the saddle, holding onto the donkey by some
somnolent reflex learned in her hard life. Pippin had no choice but to
dodge away, though he darted forward again more than once, trying to
grab the reins.
"What has gotten into you?" Pippin cried out to Frodo.
"You mean to lock me away! Do not deny it, Uncle--you mean to lock us both away, with miles in between!"
"Lad, lad, I only want the best for you both. Later you will underst..."
"There shall be no later!" Terrified to do it, Frodo stood up on the
running steed to hew the ropes that would drop the ramp into the hold,
before he toppled down again, Stumblehoof swerving to catch him on her
broad back without missing a beat, as if she'd done something of the
sort before. Hooves thundered through the ship's hollowness as Frodo
rode up, raising Sting again, this time to slash through the
still-fallen sail. They burst out from the hold even as the wounded
ship reeled on towards the dock. Now the drifts of heavy cloth, much
slashed and stained, with many a hidden obstacle of shattered mast,
hindered the animals as they continued to skitter away from Pippin’s
grasp, back and forth across the deck.. Frodo saw how the men had
rolled the canvas back from their oars and now strove to bring the ship
"My harp!" Mattie exclaimed, waking more in the freshened air. "I cannot leave without my harp!"
"Oh yes you c..." But just then a sailor threw it to her as she rode on by.
The man shouted after them, "Ya bought us just enough time fer the navy to reach us afore we all died!"
Their steeds bucked and danced over the wreckage. Bleys kicked ripples
of fabric back behind him, right into poor Uncle Pippin's face Hooves
tripped and struggled to climb over an especially steep mound of sail
with a hunk of mast beneath it, but they made it to the side where they
Seeing Pippin wrench off the fabric and wade through canvas towards
him, Frodo pulled his letter, already sealed and ready, out of the
saddlebag and tossed it far over the mounds behind him.
"That's for Papa," he called to Pippin. "Take it home for me!"
"You're breaking your father's heart!" the hobbit cried back, but he
stooped to retrieve the letter.
Already Stumblehoof had leaped over the side before the gangplank had
finished lowering. Bleys clattered close behind, the wood moving under
his hooves, dashing right behind the horse with surprising speed. One
after another they leaped the breach to the pier, then galloped into
town, racing past the brightly painted warehouses of Brandybuck
Mercantile and up the stony streets.
"I can change the weave of history," Frodo rasped through gritted teeth
against the agony he felt. "I can, I must, and I shall!"