The three of them stayed by Frodo’s sickbed as the morning wore on. Near midday, Elrond returned to examine his patient. He came alone and still seemed weary from his trials of the night before. His timeless face was worn and troubled and when his eyes met Gandalf’s a silent understanding seemed to pass between them. He sat beside Frodo on the bed and touched the hobbit’s brow. Frodo flinched and he gave a small gasp, his body perhaps remembering the touch from the previous night’s torments, but he did not waken. His pale lips moved soundlessly and he turned his head as if to avoid Elrond’s hand, but he was too weak to evade it. Finally he moaned and gave in, but his body continued to tremble.
“Fever…” the elf sighed softly after he had examined him and checked the bandages. Sam shot Merry an alarmed glance. He’d wondered as much earlier but his fear had made him dismiss the thought. “His will has flown but his body fights on,” Elrond continued, his voice tinged with surprised admiration “I am amazed at his strength.”
“But, sir!” Sam cried desperately. “I thought his ‘will’ was the only thing keepin’ him from becoming like those black riders?” He jumped up and cast his eyes frantically towards his master. “Mr. Strider said if he weren’t resisting anymore, he’d become like them only weaker and that was the only thing keeping him from it!”
Elrond nodded. “My foster-son spoke truly but I am afraid Frodo’s strong will was at last overcome at the ford. He had kept the evil at bay, but once he fell, the shard of the blade that lies within him was no longer held back and was able to work its evil course towards his heart. If you had been delayed but a few more hours in reaching us, that splinter would have had time to reach it and he would have succumbed.” The elf grasped Sam’s shoulder, as he quavered with horror again. “Fear not, my brave friend! Though I could not find it, I do not believe it has yet pierced your master’s heart. His will may be gone but we now protect him with light and the power of my people. For a time, he is safe.”
“And how long is that?” Merry asked, nearly as shaken as Sam was. “How long can he be like this and live?”
Elrond distant grey eyes warmed with sad compassion but Merry felt less than comforted. “Not long, I am afraid,” the elf sighed, “but do not despair. I have called upon the greatest healers of my house and when they have come and I have recovered my strength, we will search for the shard again.” He glanced quickly at Sam who had stiffened at this. “Be not afraid, Samwise. I will not risk him so again. I learned much from last night. Our time was short and I needed to act as quickly as I dared. I could not ease his pain more for fear it would drive him closer to the shadow, but I have some reprieve now and there are ways we can prepare and support him if there are enough of us to hold back the shadow.”
Sam shivered and looked down at the sleeping face of his master. A fine beading of sweat had been building across his nose and cheeks. Under it laid the faintest hint of rosy hue – but it was not the flush of health that caused it– Sam saw that now – it was the heat of the growing fever. He blew his nose on his kerchief and wiped his eyes then sat down heavily in the chair that was becoming like a second home to him. He shuddered. He did not want to go through another night like the one just past, but it seemed there was nothing else to be done. Frodo moaned softly and he looked up again. His master was making small sounds like snatches of words, but he was too weak to fully utter them. His head moved from side to side slowly and with his good arm, he appeared to be trying to brush something away from his face. He was becoming delirious. One more in the long list of torments for his master. Sam needed to blow his nose again.
“And what of this fever of his?” he asked, trying desperately to collect himself. “Should we not give him something for it? My old gaffer had some remedies for fever he swore by. I could make some of them if you like.” That was at least something he could do other than sitting in Frodo’s room and watching his master slowly fade.
Elrond actually smiled at that. “We are also skilled at treating fevers, and I will cure it if it becomes much worse, but I think we should let it go for a while. It counters the terrible cold of the morgul’s touch and keeps it in check. If he becomes too hot, or seems too troubled, send for me and I will cool him.”
“But is there naught can we DO?” Merry’s plaintive question voiced Sam’s feelings exactly. He felt so helpless. “This waiting and standing about like baggage is enough to drive me mad! There must be something we can do for him?”
Gandalf blew a cloud from his pipe. The whisp of blue smoke curled into the still autumn air and hung about the wizard’s head. “You can take care of yourselves,” he answered for Elrond. “And Sam getting a real rest might be a good way to start. Meriadoc, why don’t you take him along to the room that was prepared for you?” Sam opened his mouth to protest but the looks the wizard and elf gave him shushed him. “It will be all right.” Gandalf assured him. “I will be here by his side as long as I need be. Rest. These nights will be long and dark and Frodo will need you alert and able to care for him, not sliding out of your chair by morning.” Sam started at that, but it made him begin to feel more trust for these big folk. They did care, and really were trying to do their best for his master, although after the previous night’s activities, he had wondered about that. The fact that they had observed enough to know he was sleeping in his chair let him know that he was not so totally alone in this great house and that gave him a bit of comfort. He yawned in spite of himself and Elrond laughed. It was a warm, merry sound, despite the circumstances.
“Your body agrees even if you do not, little one. Take Gandalf’s advice and mine. Your master is cared for and since you are also my guest, I will care for you also. Come.”
And so Sam was led through the halls of the last homey house in Rivendell and for the first time since arriving, was able to look about him in wonder. It was a grand hall, carved and embellished with mysterious symbols that floated and wove about the delicate architecture. It was beautiful but to Sam’s mind, not as inherently elvish as the wooded hall where he had feasted with Gildor. It was warmer and less glorious somehow, but closer and more comforting to his hobbit heart. He felt he could lie in this house for a lifetime and know nothing but peace in it’s wooded halls. If only his present errand had not been so grim, he might have wished it. But this is no fit place for the likes of me, he thought. It’s too fine! I’d just be getting comfortable and then they’d find me out and I’d be tossed out on my ear! He allowed himself a little smile at the image before a yawn caught him. A bit of sleep in a real bed did sound tempting, and he had the distinct feeling that things were going to get worse for his master long before they got better. He thought he should take his rest while he still could.
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.