6. Fading Hopes
Rorimac Brandybuck stood at the window of his study. Thoughtfully he observed the sky. In the late afternoon the first clouds had appeared and ever since he had waited for the return of his sister and her family, but they did not come. He sighed watching the brewing grey outside with concern.
"You should not worry about them," he told himself. "Primula knows how to deal with boats and she also knows that it's no good, being on the river in the rain."
He sat down and, filling his pipe, he found himself again glancing to the window. The light of day was fading; they should be here by now.
Dropping his pipe on the table, he stood up and went outside. He would not settle down anyway, not before they had returned. Seating himself on the bench in front of Brandy Hall he gazed south. The first raindrops were falling down.
"They should be here by now," one part of his mind called, but the other part assured him that there was no need to worry, not yet.
Soon the rain got heavier, but still Rorimac sat on the bench and looked south, his face showing no sign of his inner tautness. The wind was blowing fiercely and somewhere in the distance he could hear the soft murmur of the river, but still there was one part of his mind that told him not to trouble himself, although this voice grew more and more silent.
He looked up startled to find Esmeralda standing beside him.
"Will you not come in?" she asked. "You will catch a cold if you stay here."
He smiled at her. "Let me stay here only a little longer."
She nodded and was just about to return into the hole, when she heard a desperate, choked cry.
"Frodo," she heard Rory gasping. A sudden fear grew in her mind, as she turned around and followed her father-in-law who was running towards the distraught child.
"Frodo, dear, what happened? Where is Primula? Where are your parents?" Rory kneeled down in front of the frightened boy. A horrified apprehension had filled his mind as soon as he had heard Frodo shouting his name. Something terrible must have happened.
The lad was shivering all over. He was pale, soaked through and his lips had turned bluish. Panting heavily he looked at his uncle with glassy eyes. "An accident " he whispered through trembling lips, trying to fight back his tears, " the water so cold down by the hills."
Rory looked at him wide-eyed, as the lad suddenly collapsed into his arms. Esmeralda stared at them in shock, but Rory did not lose a second. Lifting up Frodo's trembling form, he slipped him into her arms. "Go and get my sons!" he told her. "And look that Frodo gets warm again."
With that they both dashed off, Esmeralda towards Brandy Hall and Rory to the stables.
Quickly he saddled three of the ponies. He was just about to bridle the last of the beasts when his sons Merimac and Saradoc came running into the stable.
"What happened?" Saradoc asked concerned.
"I don't know exactly," Rory answered, handing him the reins. "But I am ill at ease. I fear something terrible has happened to Primula and Drogo. They would never let Frodo go all on his own. He looked frightened to death and all I could find out was that the three of them had been down by the hills and that there has been an accident."
"Down by the hills?" Merimac exclaimed.
Rory nodded, his face pale with sorrow.
As they galloped along the meadow, the rain whipping their faces and the wind blowing icy cold, Rorimac's concern grew even worse. He had warned them about the current, had he not? So why were they there anyhow? Or maybe Frodo was mistaken? But if so, why was he all alone and frightened as if dark nightmares were hunting him?
The current; what if the current had ? No, he must not think of this.
They reached the forest. Rory urged them to haste but they had to lead the ponies and so their journey was much slower than he wished it to be. He felt that he should have reached the hills much earlier and a sickening feeling overcame him as well as the sensation of urgency.
The wind whistled in their ears when finally the three hobbits left the forest and mounted their steeds again. Saradoc and Merimac exchanged worried glances as their father hurried forward once again. They too felt some kind of urgency although they did not understand why.
Rory caught sight of the river. His pony's pace slackened as he reached the hills. He could hear the loud rushing of the water, which seemed even angrier now that it was mingled with the sound of rain and of fiercely blowing wind. He could see nothing. No boat and no trace of Primula or Drogo. His steed climbed down the hill again and up the next one. Saradoc and Merimac were by his side, also searching the river anxiously.
The Master of Buckland could feel his fear increasing. He was trembling slightly as his thoughts wandered back to the dangerous currents. They could not have fallen victim to one of these currents, although that seemed the only thing that could explain Frodo's distress. He shuddered. Just the thought of it made him feel ill. Rain was dripping from the hood of his cloak, as suddenly an odd feeling overcame him and he halted his pony. Gazing to the river his eyes met one of the currents. The wind screamed in his ears. The water was as black as the stormy night about him. But his eyes were keen and so he dismounted and, walking towards the riverbank, he stared at the rushing water, hoping to find a sign of life; a sign of his sister and her husband.
Esmeralda dashed into the living room. All eyes suddenly turned to her. "Saradoc, Merimac, get to your father, he's in the stables," she panted with eyes wide open. "And you, Menegilda, help me! Put on some tea, quick!"
"What ?" Menegilda began, but then she saw whom Esmeralda was carrying and hurried out of the room.
Esmeralda ran to the small room Primula shared with Drogo and Frodo during her stay in Buckland. She quickly took out a blanket of the cupboard and, undressing the shivering boy she wrapped the blanket about him. As she did so, she recognised many small scratches on his arms and legs and also a deeper one at his upper arm. Tears were welling up inside her, as she grabbed one of Frodo's freezing hands and gently started to rub it in order to get it warm again.
"What happened to you, little one?" she asked frowning as she held him tightly, stroking his wet curls.
Menegilda entered the room, carrying a tray with a cup and a steaming pot of tea on it. She placed it on the nightstand and glanced nervously at the child. "What happened?" she asked taking Frodo's other hand, shocked by its coolness, and rubbed it. "Where are Primula and Drogo? Why is he all alone?"
Esmeralda shrugged. She felt hot tears stinging in her eyes. "I don't know. He said something about the hills and an accident." She looked at her mother-in-law intensely. "Could it be that their boat has sunk?"
Menegilda stared at her wide-eyed, swallowing hard. A heavy silence, full of foreboding, filled the room.
Frodo moaned in his sleep and shifted uneasily. The women watched him with concern.
"No," he whispered in a hoarse voice. " promise "
Esmeralda gently stroked his cheek which was still quite cold. Rocking back and forth she waited until he calmed down again. Worriedly she looked at Menegilda, asking a silent question about what the meaning of these words could be. But Menegilda just shrugged, watching her nephew with eyes full of pity and concern.
Frodo lay captured in some dark dreams. He was running, running over root and stone. Cold raindrops were whipping his face and an icy wind was blowing. But he neither heard the sound of the wind, nor the noise his feet should make as he stepped on the leaf covered ground. All he could hear was the constant, angry rushing of the river. He feared that noise, although he did not know why.
Somewhere in the distance he saw his mother. She was waving at him, as if to say goodbye.
"No!" he cried, suddenly sensing an unbearable anxiety growing within him. "You have to promise!" He did not know what or even why she should promise, he just wished her to.
Suddenly the world changed. He was alone, standing in utter darkness. Fear was in his every limb; an anxiety as cold as ice, choking him. Desperately he gasped for breath.
"Frodo! Frodo, wake up!" Esmeralda shook him gently but firmly.
He opened his eyes and started up with a cry. He grabbed her arm in panic, his eyes wide with fear. His hands were trembling and he felt hot tears streaming down his cheeks.
Esmeralda looked at him nervously. She had got quite scared when Frodo suddenly gasped for air as if he was about to drown. "It was a dream," she told him. "Everything's alright."
Frodo looked at her bleary-eyed, swaying slightly as black spots danced before his eyes. He sighed and finally closed his eyes in relief. Relaxing again he sank back into the pillows. His heart was pounding wildly and he felt afraid. He knew he had been dreaming, but what his dream was about he had already forgotten. Wiping away his tears he looked at the ceiling, thinking for a moment.
"Here, drink this," Esmeralda said handing him a cup of steaming tea.
He accepted it gratefully for he found that he was quite cold although he was wrapped in a blanket. His head was swimming and he felt dizzy, as he looked around and tried to remember how he got into his bed.
"What happened?" he asked taking a careful sip of his tea. Frodo bit his lips and closed his eyes in pain. He found that his throat hurt terribly, especially when he was swallowing, and there was some sort of burning pain in his lungs, which he could not explain.
Esmeralda eyed him closely and tucked the blanket about him. He shivered and handed back the cup, unwilling to drink more while his throat was hurting. She looked into his eyes, hoping he would not see her worry, and stroked a strand of hair from his forehead. "I hoped you could tell me that. But don't you worry. Everything will be alright. You just need some rest now and maybe another blanket?"
Frodo nodded, shivering slightly. He felt terribly tired as he nestled into his pillows. Esmeralda got up to get a second coverlet.
"Where are my parents?" he wanted to know but she did not answer.
Swallowing hard she turned to him again and wrapped the blanket about him, kissing his brow. "Sleep now."
"Good night, auntie Esmeralda," he whispered, too tired to insist on an answer to his question, his eyes already closing.
She took a seat by his side again and watched him for a moment in silence. Whatever had happened, it must have been a shock for the child or he would remember something.
Outside the entrance-door clicked shut. The Master of Buckland had returned.
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.