1. Incurable Wounds
The sun was sinking low, sending her pale golden light over the dark green hills of the Shire. It was a peaceful light, heralding the day's ending. Dark-blue clouds shimmered in a blazing red sky. A fresh wind was blowing, stroking its fingers gently through the grass-blades on its way.
A small form, wrapped in a grey cloak, was walking beside the Water, slowly making its way to Bywater Pool. Few would see it, for the cloak it wore was of elvish origin, shielding its wearer from the eyes of others, if he wished.
Frodo did not wish to be seen, for there were thoughts that troubled him and he had to think them through. Alone.
The wind's fingers brushed through his hair, tickling Frodo's nape. The hobbit's eyes were fixed on the last sunbeams glimmering in Bywater Pool, until faint laughter met his ear. His gaze wandered to the road above him, where two hobbits were making their way to the Green Dragon, laughing and joking as they came along.
A smile crept over Frodo's face. They could laugh again, knowing nothing of the darkness that took hold of the lands outside their borders. But the Shire had not been wholly safe, for even in that peaceful country evil had been sown; slowly and without much heed of the Dark Lord, but no less painful and frightening to its inhabitants.
Many had now forgotten what had happened or why things had come to pass the way they had. Only one stone held the remembrance of those who had given their lives in protection of their home at the Battle of Bywater, the only battle fought in the Shire since the Greenfields and hopefully the last.
No one remembered Frodo, although he had gone far and suffered to protect his beloved home. No one ever asked him what had happened, or why he was missing a finger. And if they did, they didn't really want to know. It was not that Frodo was angry. He had never sought to earn glory and honour. Somehow he was even relieved that no one asked him, that he didn't have to talk about what happened. Of course there was a lot of gossip, but as people paid little attention to the deeds done outside their borders (even if it was one of them who had accomplished them) the leaving and the unexpected return of the four hobbits had soon lost interest.
This was one of the reasons Frodo loved the Shire. People were able to forget.
Frodo sighed as a chill ran down his spine. Wrapping his cloak closer about him, he shivered. The sunlight had faded and was almost gone. Above him Frodo could still hear the distant laughter of hobbits in the inn. He sat down on the soft grass, a sad smile on his face. Slowly he reached out his hand, his fingers gliding gently through the dark water of Bywater Pool. The surface curled and small circles drifted into the deeper parts of the pond.
Frodo watched them silently, while midges whirred about him. He waved them away, as his eyes fell upon a dragonfly which was zipping along the lakeside, disappearing in the reeds and then coming forth again. Frodo's eyes followed the little insect, when far away the hobbit heard the grumbling of thunder. He looked up to see the sky getting darker and rain clouds gathering slowly. Still, it would be some time until it began to rain, so he looked into the water again and remained seated on the grass while his fingers stroked through its blades. This was his home, but he couldn't truly recognise it anymore. Others might be able to forget, but he could not.
For so long his only wish had been to return home. Now that he was home, he didn't feel the comfort he should. He was not the same as when his journey started. He was wounded with knife, sting, tooth, and a long burden. He could not forget.
He had betrayed them all. After carrying the ring so far, after he had endured the pain it caused him, suffered the fears that haunted him, and resisted the ring's promises, he had failed them. In the end, his will was not strong enough to destroy the ring and finish the task laid upon his shoulders.
New chills shook the weary body and the hobbit quickly drew his cloak closer, gazing silently into the dark water of Bywater Pool.
He knew that he shouldn't think that way. Everyone kept telling him that he had accomplished a great deed. Great it may have been, but it was Gollum's deed, not his. Frodo knew that, if not for the wretched creature, Middle-earth would not be as blessed as it was now. Hobbits in the Shire would not be able to forget, if they were still alive.
Another chill shook him, this one of fear. It was always the same. Frodo knew it already. Often did his thoughts drift back to the very moment he claimed the ring as his own, but never did he dare to think of the things that could have been afterwards. What could have happened, if Gollum had not followed them.
Frodo's hand fumbled desperately for the gem around his neck, as dreadful images filled his mind. Suddenly he could smell the heavy air of Mordor again. He was stumbling across Gorgoroth plain, dust and stone scratching his weary feet. Cold, raw hands were touching him, searching and stripping him. The growling voices of orcs filled his mind and then he could see them. Smiling maliciously they questioned him, their gloating eyes resting insidiously upon his naked body. Then there was fire; a red, blazing eye.
Frodo gasped for breath, as his fingers clutched the gem.
'When the memory of the fear and the darkness troubles you, this will bring you aid.'
Slowly the images disappeared and Frodo realised that he was still sitting by the pond, the noises of the inn faint above him. He sighed and the tension in his body lessened.
Carefully Frodo opened his hand, gazing thoughtfully at the white gem it held. He wondered if the Lady Arwen had known that he would be haunted by his memories, when she gave it to him. Whatever her reasons, the star-like gem had aided him, though it could not ease all his pain. Some wounds were too deep and would not be cured easily.
He could not forget and this caused him to suffer. All Frodo wanted was to return and go on with his life as he did before. He wished to be a plain hobbit again, taking pleasure in feasting, singing, laughing, and smoking a pipe by the fireside. But he could not return to his former life, though he was always trying to. He had changed too much.
Sometimes he found himself longing to feel the weight of the ring again, to touch its smooth surface, to hold it one last time. But it had been destroyed. Frodo knew that it wasn't his deed, but he was unsure if people around him knew it as well. In the end he had given in to the temptation of the ring; but whether it was only he who was not strong enough, or if no one could have resisted its evil power, Frodo knew not.
The hobbit blinked as a soft drizzle dampened his cheeks. In the distance he saw a flash of lightning. The thunderstorm was closer now. Swiftly Frodo got to his feet, wrapping his cloak closely about him and hastened back to the road above. There he stopped for a moment, gazing at the Green Dragon which shimmered in the inviting light of many lanterns. Still he could hear the hobbits laughing and, as he turned to leave, somebody was beginning a drinking song. For a moment Frodo was tempted to join the merriment in the inn, but then he shook his head and slowly headed back home. His eyes were fixed on the ground, as he trotted along the road, while the drizzle changed into rain.
Frodo had changed and sometimes he found it difficult to join in the happiness of others. Since his return almost two years ago he had tried to be as joyous and light hearted as he had been before, but ever so often his thoughts drifted away and grew dark. Especially on anniversaries like the attack on Weathertop, darkness overcame him. Frodo tried to conceal it from his friends, especially Sam, but he felt himself tiring.
The last time he was ill had been in March. Frodo remembered writing in the Red Book. He had been sitting in his study in Bag End, his quill moving swiftly across the pages, writing, writing as if his life depended on it. Remembrance overpowered him. One thought chased the other; one picture hunted the next. Frodo didn't even think about what he was writing. His hand just moved, while he stared blankly at the pages. He felt dizzy. The small wound of Shelob's bite was red and swollen and the pulsing pain from it slowly spread through the hobbit's body. Frodo tried to ignore it, but the pain grew stronger. And still his hand was moving swiftly across the pages. Hardly was he aware of his laboured breathing and his bleary sight until at length his head lolled forward and hit the desk. The quill slipped from his hand, its tip forming a dark spot of ink in the midst of the page.
Frodos eyes were closed, as his trembling fingers weakly felt for the gem around his neck. When he finally got hold of it his knuckles turned white, so desperate was his grasp. Slowly he sat up straight again, trying to blink away the dizziness. His hand quivered as he gripped the quill and laid it aside. For a moment he stared at the spot of ink which seemed to grow in his mind and then...
Frodo shook his head and got to his feet in a swift movement, his chair almost tipping over. Darkness should not take hold of him. This was his home; it had always been safe and should not cease being so now. He swayed and for a moment leaned heavily against the desk. His breathing was laboured, his hands sweaty. In his heart Frodo knew that he could not succeed, but nevertheless he tried to.
He straightened again, as he heard Sam coming down the hallway. Reluctantly Frodo let go of the white gem and forced himself to smile, though his eyes betrayed him. Still he hoped that Sam would not recognise his illness, for his dear friend had other worries and could not be occupied with his sorrows as well. But as soon as Sam entered the study, Frodo knew that he recognised it, though Sam kept silent and only glanced suspiciously at his master's pale face.
Frodo began to run as the rain grew harder. Only then did he realise that he was holding Queen Arwen's gem again. He slowed down to look at it once more. Small raindrops dimmed his sight, as he turned it thoughtfully in his hand before hiding it under his shirt collar. As he started to run again he remembered her words to him.
'A gift I will give you. For I am the daughter of Elrond. I shall not go with him now when he departs to the Havens; for mine is the choice of Lúthien, and as she so have I chosen, both the sweet and the bitter. But in my stead you shall go, Ring-bearer, when the time comes, and if you then desire it. If your hurts grieve you still and the memory of your burden is heavy, then you may pass into the West, until all your wounds and weariness are healed.'
Often had he pondered her words. He did not wish to leave. He loved his home and did not want to part with it a second time. Everything in the Shire had become dear to him, from grass to field, to river and hill; every hobbit, be he young or old, clever or stupid, had a place in his heart, and he did not want to part with them. Yet he knew that he would never find any peace here.
Another reason he was unsure about leaving was his friends. They had gone through darkness and pain with him and Frodo knew they would follow him again, wherever he might go. Yet his dear friends had returned, grown in mind and heart. All of them had been able to pick up the threads of their lives again, while the threads of Frodo's life slipped from his hands. They were lost to him, as soon as he had claimed the ring for his own.
Merry and Pippin led a jovial life together at Crickhollow, but they often came for visits. Sam, though living in Bag End, had a family of his own now, his small daughter being only five months old. Frodo didn't want to bother them with his worries and his nightly fears. Therefore he concealed his illness from them, although he suspected they already guessed that not everything was all right. Sam was especially suspicious. He least of all should worry about Frodo now. Sam had cared long enough for him and could not always be torn in two. He had to care for his wife and children, for there were many children yet to come; Frodo had seen them in his dreams.
Frodo was sure that his odd dreams came from carrying the ring. Two dreams there were that recurred. One showed Sam and Rosie and their family of at least six children. Sam sat in a chair at the fireside, reading from the Red Book, telling his children of the Great Danger they had fought in the age now gone. Everywhere in Bag End Frodo could see vases with flowers from the garden, which was in full bloom, shimmering in the light of the setting sun. Sam was smiling. He had so much love to give and to share with his family.
The other dream was wholly different. Frodo had had it before at Tom Bombadil's house. He heard sweet singing; a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain. All turned to silver and glass until at last the veil was rolled back and a far green country under a swift sunrise was revealed. Warmth filled his heart, but Frodo also felt a desperate longing for the light and the song.
'If your hurts grieve you still and the memory of your burden is heavy, then you may pass into the West, until all your wounds and weariness are healed.'
Frodo sighed quietly, as he laid his hand upon the garden door of Bag End. He didn't enter, but looked silently at the hobbit-hole before him - his home. A dim light shone from the window in the living room and smoke rose from the chimney. A flash of lightning lit up the sky, followed by a grumbling thunder. Still Frodo stood motionless at the garden door, raindrops dripping from the hood of his cloak. His thoughts came back to the same conclusion.
Sam had so much to give that should not be wasted on him, for Frodo knew that whatever Sam did would not help him. He could not find peace in the Shire any more.
His eyes filled with tears as he turned away from the hobbithole and followed the path further to the tree atop the Hill. Searching for shelter under its strong branches Frodo leaned against the tree's trunk. Tears mingled with the raindrops on his cheeks as he gazed down at the lights of Hobbiton. The Shire, though he wished it to be, was not his home any more. It did not offer him the rest and healing he longed for. And although he loved his country he didn't feel the warmth in his heart he had felt before.
"I wonder if I shall ever look down into that valley again," he had asked himself when his journey started. He had been allowed that last look and it was more pleasant than he had hoped, but now it was over. He had to leave.
'For about this time of the year, when the leaves are gold before they fall, look for Bilbo in the woods of the Shire. I shall be with him.'
As Frodo remembered Elrond's words he stood up straight again and dried his tears. He would go with them, joining Bilbo on his last journey. Deep in his heart Frodo begged that his hope of finding healing would not prove false. But then he knew that Queen Arwen would never have offered it to him if it were not true.
Frodo shivered, but he could not avert his gaze from the lights of Hobbiton. There were still some days left to him, days he could spend in the Shire, drinking in its sight before leaving it forever. Yet he felt as if he had to say farewell now and therefore he remained on the Hill a little longer, until at last he waved and trotted down the path again. He was not completely content, but he felt lighter in heart and mind.
As Frodo entered the hobbit-hole it was utterly dark. He wondered why for a moment but then remembered that little Elanor had cried all night long and her parents hadn't gotten any sleep. A loving, yet sad smile crept over his face as he carefully slipped out of his cloak and rubbed his wet curls.
His leaving would be hard to bear for his dearest Sam, but he would understand. Frodo was sure that he would. Sam knew his wounds as well as Frodo knew that he could not conceal his illness from Sam's watchful eyes. They had been through far too much. Parting with Sam would be the hardest thing for Frodo as well, for Sam had become his dearest friend. He would always have a special place in Frodo's heart, no matter how many miles lay between them. He loved Sam and would never forget what he had done for him.
"Frodo wouldn't have got far without Sam," he had once said and the further they went, the truer these words became. It was not only because of Gollum that the task was achieved, but also because of Sam, who had had the most important part. He had looked after all three of them: himself, the ring and Frodo, whom he gave the better part of his attention. Frodo would never be able to thank him enough for what he had done and suffered on their way to Mordor.
Thoughtfully Frodo looked at the room Sam shared with Rosie and little Elanor. It would be difficult to part, but he had to leave. He reached for a candle and lit it. The small flame flickered as Frodo slowly walked through every chamber, going from one corner to the next, his fingers gliding over desks and closets as if to say farewell. Last he went into his study, where he sat down in silence at the table. Of all rooms in Bag End this one had always been dearest to him. Carefully his fingers stroked the wooden surface of the desk where he had spent so many hours. He reached out for the Red Book lying in front of him. His fingers glided gently over its plain leather covers before he opened it and reached for a quill. Taking a deep breath, he dipped its tip into the ink bottle.
It took a long time but today I have come to a decision. I will leave the Shire, for I'm wounded and my heart is not at ease. Though I have been happy here for many long years, I feel that I can't find any more happiness now. I am home, but I cannot forget what happened. These wounds won't seem to heal. This pain is just too real. There's just too much that time can not erase. Not here, anyway. And if one last wish was granted to me, I would ask for many years like 1420 in the Shire and that people would love their land as I have done. Farewell my sweet home. Farewell…
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.