1. Chapter One
Sam shook his head and motioned for the other two hobbits to follow him into the adjoining room. He shut the door and leaned against it wearily. He had said that it was too soon for Mr. Frodo to attend that Council two days ago, that the meeting and its demands on his master had been too heavy for one so recently recovered. He’d only been up a day when the Master of Rivendell had summoned him and required him to undergo the gut-wrenching reluctance of displaying the Ring.
From his hiding place behind the autumn foliage, Sam had seen how quietly Frodo sat, and the slow, heavy way he had moved when he rose to place the Ring in the view of the Council. He thought that he was the only one, besides Gandalf, to have seen his master jerk violently when the dwarf had snatched up an axe and tried to destroy the Ring; a valiant but useless effort. Frodo had hidden his eyes in his hand, quivering. Sam did not understand it, but the dwarf’s futile assault on the Ring had somehow caused his master pain.
Frodo had stood silently as the Fellowship formed about him, as Sam himself had broken cover to stand by his master’s side and declare, “Mr. Frodo’s not going anywhere without me!” When his cousins, Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin had also included themselves, Frodo’s gratitude and relief had been tangible. Did he think that they would let him go off on his own, then? But he had grown paler and paler, the so-blue eyes seeming to expand in his white face, and after the meeting had disbanded, Aragorn had swept Frodo up into his arms and taken him immediately back to bed, Sam trotting anxiously alongside.
And then yesterday, instead of staying in bed and resting like a sensible hobbit, Frodo had insisted on rising and dressing, and had wanted to explore Rivendell. Sam had guided him about the confusing place, but Frodo had not been able to go far. Seeing his master was exhausted, Sam had seated him on one of the bridges, pushed a piece of fruit into an unresisting hand, and he and Merry and Pip had gone to the kitchens to find him something strengthening. Returning with a well-laden covered plate, Sam had seen his master in converse with Strider and the Lady Arwen, and had waited until they had spoken and departed. Then he had gently but firmly guided his master back to bed. By the time he had tucked Frodo in, his master had been white-faced and shaking, and would take nothing of the gently-steaming plate.
Sam had prepared one of the unpleasant-tasting teas for pain that Lord Elrond had left for Frodo, and alternately cajoled and commanded him to drink it. Since then, Frodo had slept, not waking for supper, or breakfast, second breakfast or elevenses. Plain unnatural for a hobbit. Yesterday’s eve, when Frodo had not awakened even with Pippin waving a mushroom pastry under his nose, Samwise had gathered up his courage and sought out the Elf-lord, asked Elrond to come and look at him. Elrond had examined Frodo, palpitated the red, swollen wound carefully, and pronounced him simply exhausted. A slight fever still lingered in his form, but nothing like the fever that had so burned up his strength and sent him into convulsions. Elrond had ordered Sam to raise Frodo’s dark head and poured some concoction down his throat – even the resultant coughing spell had not woken his master. And still Frodo slept.
“Sam? Sam?” Sam realized that Merry had been speaking to him, and had finally resorted to shaking his arm to capture his attention. Pippin’s sharp face peered over Merry’s shoulder worriedly. “Sam, are you all right? You’re about to fall on your face.”
Pip took his arm and led him over to a divan, sat him down on the soft cushions. “All we need is for you to get sick now. Sam, come and eat. Frodo is just sleeping; he’ll be all right by himself for a little while.”
Sam recognized the truth of this; he no longer feared he was standing a death-vigil over his master. Putting his finger to his lips, he rose and eased the door open, looked in on Frodo. His master lay quietly in the elf-sized bed, heavy lashes shielding his eyes, his face tranquil. There was a small uncut loaf on the bedside table, apples, cheese, an ewer of water and a cup. Samwise could think of nothing else his master might need, if he left him alone for just a brief time. After a short internal argument, Sam nodded to the other two and followed them to the kitchens.
* * * * *
They had scarcely quit the sun-lit room when a shadow rose from the climbing ivy beneath the window and placed heavy, sword-used hands on the sill. The shadow had lurked there, screened by the thick ivy, ever since it had discovered the hobbit’s location hours ago. It had heard first that the little one had been sheltered in the Elf-lord’s rooms, but had been moved to his own quarters when his fever broke. The figure was relieved by this news. It had not relished the idea of penetrating to the very heart of Rivendell to carry out its mission.
The shadow pulled itself up over the sill and into the sun streaming through the glassless casement. It resolved into a Man, a large Man, bearded, dark, heavy of shoulder and richly dressed. The beard had been easier than obtaining the rich clothing and the inclusion in the Rivendell delegation. A minor member of the embassy, he had not been invited to the Council but like the three hobbits he had just seen depart, had been a watcher out of sight.
The similarity amused him for a moment. He crossed to the outside door and risked a quick glance after the halflings. The little people were out of sight. He knew that the Rivendell cooks had planned a batch of berry pies for this evening’s feast. Not unfamiliar with hobbits, he did not expect them to return quickly. He could hardly have arranged this better himself.
The Man moved to the inside door and let himself into the room. The injured hobbit was there, sleeping, looking no larger than a child in the elf-bed. As he watched, the hobbit sighed in his sleep and shifted, but showed no sign of waking. The man had heard that his life was despaired of, that the Council was delayed until the hobbit was well enough to attend it. Strange to think that so much had depended on such a little one.
Now that he was where he had been instructed to be, the man was hesitant. Not that he feared the little one - a ridiculous idea. But he did know fear, fear of the golden circlet that hung from a silver chain around the hobbit’s throat. Such a little thing… such a deadly thing. He could see it, part of the chain and a hint of gold under the over-large white silk nightshirt. He had not understood why he was to be paid so much gold for this task. Indeed, he had not questioned. His orders seemed simple enough – kill the hobbit and bring back the plain gold ring he bore. It was not until he had spied on the Council yesterday that he had understood what he had agreed to undertake.
Woven in myth and legend, this plain gold circlet. He would not have believed it save for the gravity of the Council he had witnessed, the obvious conviction of the wizard and the Elf-lord. The seriousness of those attending, edging on desperation, the stories reaching back unimaginably far into the past. Hard on awe and trepidation came another emotion – greed. Now that he understood what he was to obtain, might not another pay more? Indeed, would not the Great Enemy himself give him anything, anything he asked, for this little ring? For the One Ring?
The man leaned down and peered at the Ring. He cared nothing for the old stories of the reign of Sauron, the tales of terror and darkness. Doubtless exaggerated, if not downright lies. The Dark Lord was generous to those who served him… The man paused, stared blankly at the wall for a moment, confused. Where had that thought come from?
He looked down. While he had been debating with himself, the hobbit’s morning glory blue eyes had opened. The little one lay rigid, breath quickening as he realized that an unknown man, twice his size, hovered over him. The small hand went immediately to his throat, clutching the Ring.
“Be silent! Be silent or die!” The knife was in his hand without him being aware of drawing it. He waved it before the hobbit’s face, angling it to catch a gleam of sunlight, and gloated to see the little one’s eyes follow it.
Both of them froze at the quiet knock on the door. It opened an inch, and a soft voice called, “Frodo? Frodo, are you awake?” Receiving no response, Aragorn pushed the door open a little further and peered into the room. Several heartbeats passed while the three stared at each other.
The Ranger’s hand slid to the hilt of his ever-present sword, then stilled as the intruder cursed and grabbed the hobbit’s nightshirt, pulling him up from the coverlet, knife held to his throat. Frodo’s hands went to the man’s wrist, clasping the arm to keep himself from strangling. He was silent, his blue eyes impossibly wide in his pale face.
The intruder pulled him to his feet and dragged Frodo towards the balcony. “If you make any cry,” the man hissed, “I will slit his throat.” Frodo stumbled on the hem of the overly-large nightshirt, his feet tangling in the cloth. The man clamped his free hand on the hobbit’s left shoulder, and the hobbit gasped and twisted involuntarily. He pulled Frodo to the railing and slammed him against it, hard. Frodo bit his lip, a small whimper escaping him, and the man shook him, “I said be silent! Be silent!” The Ranger could see a red stain blossoming beneath the muscled hand, welling up and spreading much too quickly.
Stooping, the intruder set his arm around the hobbit’s waist and lifted, and in one quick movement for one so large, leapt over the balcony and landed lightly in the gorse bushes below. Aragorn dashed to the railing but made no sound; the knife was still held close to Frodo’s throat.
As Aragorn watched helplessly with gritted teeth, the little one’s eyes turned up to him, pleading. The intruder sneered up the Ranger, his captive tightly held against him with a muscled arm. The man whirled, took one step onto the path and - fell, tripping over a small hunched-over figure, pushed hard from behind by a second figure crouched in the tall grass. The intruder dropped the knife, his hands instinctively spreading out to break his fall. A third small figure bashed him neatly on the head with a cast-iron pie plate.
After that, there was much shouting and confusion. The Ranger was besides them in a moment, sword drawn. Before his boots had landed in the bushes, Samwise, Merry and Pippin had rolled the unconscious figure off Frodo and were dragging him out from under the man. Frodo was shaken but unhurt, except for bruises and the reopened wound, which was bleeding profusely down the white silk. Seeing this, Samwise gave a short cry and Aragorn had to confiscate the pie plate to prevent him from conking the man a second time. He took the weapon away from the infuriated hobbit and assisted the other two in binding the man, using twine pulled off the ivy trellis.
Drawn by the general alarm, Elrond had closed the wound again and re-bandaged it, then confined Frodo to his bed with orders to drink as much water as he could. The Elf-lord had examined the unconscious man and ordered his bindings replaced by stout rope. Aragorn and Gandalf awaited his awakening with grim purpose, collecting in the meantime what information they could from the man’s fellows, but the delegation could tell him little. Aragorn held out little hope of identifying the man’s employer. Discreetly, Elrond posted a tall Elf outside of the Ring-bearer’s door, and a second beneath the windowsill. Both were armed with long, bone-handed knives.
* * * * *
Evening fell; peace returned to the elven sanctuary. Sam had eventually gone back to the kitchens and obtained another pie for his master, as the one he had been bringing back for Frodo had been put to such unexpected use. Berry pie had covered both of them – Aragorn had been momentarily horrified to see so much dripping red, before Merry had assured him it was only pie.
Sitting besides the sleeping Frodo, Sam yawned and tilted his chair back against the wall, stared out past the balcony at the stars. “That comes of a-leaving him alone,” he said to himself. “I promised not to leave him, an’ I don’t mean to. Mr. Frodo’s not goin’ anywhere without me…” Sam’s thoughts trailed off into silence and he slept.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.