2. Chapter Two
At least his master still slept peacefully. Frodo lay in the wide bed, his thick eyelashes lying like black crescent-moons on the pale cheeks. His breath rose and fell evenly. Sam turned away suddenly from the gentle sight – it weren’t long ago, he thought, that seeing Mr. Frodo breathe wasn’t something he’d be seeing much more of. Wiping unbidden tears from his eyes, Sam set about preparing for the morning.
After a quick wash, Sam gathered up last night’s dishes and returned them to the tray on which he’d carried them from the kitchens. Then he faced a dilemma. He’d not be leaving Mr. Frodo, not even long enough to take the tray back. With a silent apology to the servants of Rivendell, he eased the great wooden door open and leaned out into the hallway, placing the tray on the floor outside. The cool-eyed Elf standing guard there gave him a nod. Back inside, the hobbit crossed the room and checked out the glassless window, the one through which the intruder had entered the day before. Yes, another Elf stood there, too. This one also awarded him a nod, before flicking his clear eyes back to scan the scenery.
Feeling better about the day, Sam wondered how long there would be guards posted on Mr. Frodo’s room. Should he ask Lord Elrond for a bodyguard, too? For a food-taster? This was no way for hobbits to live. That cursed Ring was twisting their lives out of all recognition.
A soft knock came to his ears, and he returned to the adjoining room, making sure the door to Frodo’s bedroom was shut tight behind him. Lord Elrond stood there, flanked by Strider – no, Aragorn – thought Sam, and Gandalf on the other side. Sam wondered if he ought to bow.
“Would you sirs come in?” he asked.
“Good morrow, Samwise,” the Elf-lord said graciously. “How fares your master?”
“He’s still sleepin’, my lord. I made him drink one o’ your teas you gave me for him. He woke up long enough to eat a bite o’ supper and went right back to sleep. Will you look at him now, me lord?”
Aragorn had already eased open the closed door and was looking in at Frodo. His master hadn’t moved except to throw his right arm up over his eyes.
“Did you find anything more about the Man, my lord? Who he is, who sent ‘im?” Sam questioned softly. Gandalf leaned over Aragorn’s shoulder and peered at Frodo’s sleeping face. After a moment, the wizard pulled the door shut and turned to Sam.
“We will question him this morning, Sam. Lord Elrond received word a short while ago that he has finally awoke. We might have had answers before this, did you hit him less hard.”
“I’d a-hit him a lot harder if Aragorn hadn’t taken me pan away,” Sam scowled. “I hope he has an awful headache,” he added with unaccustomed viciousness.
The wizard diplomatically let that pass. “The others of the delegation could tell us little. He bore official papers and all the stamps and seals were authentic. None knew him personally. He seemed to conduct himself appropriately and gave the others no cause to doubt his presence.”
“An educated and well-bred assassin,” Elrond mused. “Such a man would not come cheaply.”
“It is my guess that there is a shallow-buried corpse somewhere behind him on the road,” Aragorn remarked. “He may have stolen the clothes, if they were near to a size, or had them made especially for this work. If the garments were custom-tailored, we might be able to track down the maker and find out who paid for them.”
The Elf-lord nodded. “I have already sent a rider to ask those questions. The rider carries his cloak and surcoat, and will stop at every town and hamlet along the delegation’s path and ask for news. If we are fortunate, we may gain some intelligence so.”
Their voices had gradually been growing louder, and all (save the Master of Rivendell) were startled when Frodo’s door opened and the hobbit leaned shakily against the jamb. “Good morning, everyone. If you are going to hold a party in my room this early in the morning, could you have not at least brought some food?”
Gandalf chuckled and placing a hand on the Ring-bearer’s uninjured shoulder, guided him back to the bed. “Breakfast is on its way, Frodo. First, drink some water – oh, you did. Good. How do you feel?”
Frodo’s beautiful eyes closed briefly, pain-lines standing prominent in their corners. “Stiff, sore, aching, tired, hungry and weak,” he recited after a moment. “But very glad to be alive. A few aches and pains quite pale in comparison to the alternative.”
Leaning up against the headboard, he allowed Sam to pull the covers back over him. “Have you found anything out about the Man?”
“We should have some news by mid-day,” Aragorn told him.
Another knock at the door interrupted further discussion. Opening it, Sam discovered an Elf holding a well-laden tray, accompanied by Merry and Pippin carrying covered platters. Pippin grinned at Sam and shoved the plate he was carrying into his arms. He darted past Sam and skidded to a halt by Frodo’s bedside.
“Hullo, Cousin! You’re looking much better this morning! Merry and I – and Lilireth” (a nod to the Elf, who regarded him with amusement) “- have brought you breakfast. We’re joining you and Sam. We heroes have to keep our strength up!” The Elf Pippin had named Lilireth was quietly laying out knives and forks, plates and cups, and arranging the dishes on the narrow table against the wall. That done, he bowed to his lord and departed.
“Good morning, Lord Elrond, Gandalf, Aragorn,” Merry said, following more decorously. “If we had known you were here, we would have brought some more food. You’re welcome to join us … but you might not want to.”
“Good morning yourselves,” Aragorn returned. “Why wouldn’t we want to?”
Pippin pulled the white linen cover off the platter Sam still held, there being no more room on the small table. “Mushroom omelets, mushroom-stuffed sausages, braised mushrooms, baked mushrooms, broiled mushrooms…” he listed happily. “Merry, where’s the roasted mushrooms? Oh, there they are. Sam, I saw you eat that one!”
Deciding that further talk was impossible until the hobbits had eaten (which was likely to take some time), the Elf-lord, Ranger and wizard left them to it.
* * * * *
“He will not speak,” Elrond said quietly.
The man in the cell glared at the three who stood before him. The fine clothes were torn and creased, his hair dirty and disheveled, a night’s growth of dark beard stained his face. The sizable lump left by Sam’s cast-iron pie plate had been examined and treated and the man had been given water and food. Aragorn, returning the man’s glare with one of his own, wondered if his foster father might be too civilized in his treatment of this thwarted murderer.
He was not even housed in a true cell; Imladris did not have such things. The man had been borne, unconscious, to one of the House’s few interior rooms. A thick wooden door was all that kept the intruder contained. There was no need for a guard; the lock was dwarven-make and could not be opened by other than the rightful owner. Upon awakening, the man had paced around the small room like a caged animal. After some time, he had taken the food and water left for him. Then he had sat on the small cot and ignored Elrond as the Elf-lord examined his head. After having the lump cleaned and bandaged, he continued to ignore every overture and question put to him.
“If he continues to refuse, is there not some potion or herb that might loosen his tongue?” Aragorn was impatient, all too aware of passing time. They did not have time to waste, waiting to hear what this man might tell them. Evil forces massed along the road the Ring-bearer must soon trod. Each day the threat grew.
“There are such things,” Elrond responded. The man glanced quickly at the Elf-lord, then lowered his gaze to the burnished wooden floor, his heavy shoulders stiff and set. “But I greatly suspect that this one does not fear them. Such concoctions are of limited value when the taker is forewarned. And there is no guarantee that they work.”
“Gandalf?” Aragorn gritted out.
Beside him, the wizard shifted his staff, his sharp eyes thoughtful. “I might be able to force the truth from him, depending on his strength of will. But it would be most unpleasant for both of us, and it would be dangerous.”
Aragorn fingered the long curved knife at his belt. “If there is no other way, I will get the truth from him.”
“My son –“ Elrond began but Aragorn silenced him with a savage gesture. “It would sicken me, but I will do it, if there is no other way.” After a moment the Elf-lord nodded, accepting such an action as sometimes needful in war.
“We will return at mid-day,” said the Master of Rivendell to the silent man. “Your mission has failed. No one will help you, now.” The man raised dark eyes to the Elf-lord then resumed staring at the floor. “Please … do not force us to actions that we will all regret.”
Receiving no response, Elrond motioned for Gandalf and Aragorn to precede him from the room, and locked the heavy door behind him.
* * * * *
A quarter-hour before midday, the Ranger and the wizard met again and waited for the Elf-lord to join them. Aragorn’s face was pale but set, and he had added several smaller knives to the great one at his belt. Gandalf looked at him sorrowfully but said nothing.
Elrond joined them after some little time. He had wanted to check on Frodo and had just left the Ring-bearer. Frodo slept, he reported, and would recover with no ill effects, if Samwise could keep him quiet. And if there were no further attacks or mishaps. It had been a very near thing with the Morgul-wound, a very near thing indeed. The hobbit could ill-afford the additional blood loss from the reopened wound, caused when the intruder had slammed him against the balcony rail. Frodo would be weak and listless for some time to come as his body slowly recovered.
The three walked to the small interior room and Elrond unlocked the door and opened it. The man lay on his cot, back to them, the single blanket drawn up to his ears. He did not acknowledge their entrance.
The three exchanged glances. Elrond took a step nearer. “Sir,” he said softly, “will you not speak? There is nothing to be gained by this silence.”
The man ignored them.
“Enough. I am sorry for this, but you have chosen. Aragorn.”
The Ranger stepped forward and drew the great curved knife, pulling the blanket off. It stuck and Aragorn pulled harder. The man turned towards him … and rolled off the cot onto the floor. He did not move.
The Ranger knelt swiftly by the supine form. Exhaling softly, he sheathed the great knife. Turning the man’s head so the other two could see, Aragorn showed them the silken cord around the man’s throat. It was almost hidden under the dark beard and hair. The fibers had been twisted in so tightly that the flesh had given, blood drying and causing the blanket to stick.
Aragorn rose and stood by his foster father. “We will have no answers now.”
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.