18. Sticks and Stones
Chapter Written by Angmar
When the sun rose over the Mountains of Shadow the morning of June 19th, the three sons of Fasthelm and Goldwyn had traveled over three leagues from Osgiliath. Making their way through desolate ruins, scattered woodlands, and old pasture fields, they thought of the great quest which lay before them - surviving to make their way back to the Mark. How ironic it was that just a few months previously, two hobbits of the Shire had set their course east for the perilous land of Mordor. Now the three brothers were desperately trying to make their way west, away from the evil land. Although neither knew of the existence of the other, the fate of both groups was interconnected, as was everything else in the never ending, interlocking circles of eternity.
Though he wished that they had covered more miles, Fródwine still halted them for the day's camp in a small clearing near a willow-lined stream. By his calculations, the spot where he stood, near the trunk of a gnarled old willow, was the midway point between the Great West Road and the Anduin. As they moved to stand in front of him, the two younger brothers looked up expectantly into his face. Though he had carefully conserved their meager resources, the food had rapidly diminished. He sucked in his breath, filling out his lungs, and then exhaled slowly. He might as well face it. His next announcement would cause his brothers to bellow like bears who had been robbed of their honey.
"Can we eat now, Fródwine?" Fritha eyed him hopefully. "I am so very hungry, I could eat anything, even frogs!" The little boy rubbed his stomach, his pleading blue eyes turning to molten turquoise.
"Things might come to that, Fritha, so you might as well get used to it and not whine. Rations must be cut in half. Each of you, hold out your hands," he ordered as he took out a small portion of dates and a meager piece of stale bread from the sack which held their supply of provender.
"Is that it? But, Fródwine, we are hungry!" Fritha moaned. He frowned with disappointment as he gazed in disbelief at his palm. "Please give us more!"
"Fródwine, so little? We cannot live on this!" Frumgár looked disparagingly at the meager portion. "Do you have any mushrooms left in the food pouch? Maybe I could stomach eating one this morning."
"Brothers," Fródwine explained regretfully, "I am withholding nothing from you. This is all I can allow you to have. The remainder of our food must be stretched as long as it can be, and, no, Frumgár, I ate the last of the mushrooms last night." He held the canvas bag open, showing there was nothing inside it, then shook it inside out to add more emphasis to his point.
"You think you can find any more?" Frumgár's stomach growled with hunger. His belly felt as though rats had built a nest inside and were chewing and tunneling through the walls.
"Perhaps," Fródwine hedged, "but they do not flourish in great numbers in just any place. The others I found were growing near evergreens, and there do not seem to be any of them along this stream."
"Can we not find something to eat? Maybe we could rip our clothes into strips and make a net to catch fish?" Frumgár asked uncertainly as he finished chewing the remainder of his wretched breakfast.
"A lance! Make a lance," Fritha exclaimed enthusiastically as he darted away to pick up a stick from the ground. Holding it high in his hand, he began jabbing the air with it.
Fródwine slung the pack over his shoulder. "Need I remind you that even if we could catch anything, we have no way to build a fire to cook the meat? Would you enjoy eating the fish raw, Frumgár, or you, Fritha?" He moved aside as the stick went whistling past his head and struck the trunk of a tree. "Be careful, Fritha! You could put someone's eye out like that!"
"You just wish you had thought of it, Fródwine!" Fritha taunted as he ran past his brothers and hid behind the trunk of a tree. Quiet until he could no longer contain himself, the little boy at last peered around the bole and stuck his tongue out at Fródwine.
Fródwine growled, "All right, Fritha! Just do that! Act like a baby! Run away in the woods and stay out there. That great big orc is going to catch you, and when he does, he is going to eat you up! Then at least I will not have to worry any more about feeding you!"
"No!" Fritha wailed and came running back to hide behind Frumgár and clutch his hand. "Do not let Fródwine hurt me!"
"No one is going to hurt you, Fritha," Fródwine sighed in frustration. "Now you two go to sleep. I will stand first watch until it is your turn, Frumgár." He walked forward and squeezed the younger boy's shoulder.
"I am not going to argue about sleeping, Fródwine. I am totally worn out," Frumgár mumbled as he walked over to a large willow at the edge of the stream. A mischievous smile traced over his weary face as he turned back to look at Fródwine. "I almost forgot... Happy birthday, brother... and I mean that."
"Happy birthday, Fródwine," Fritha wished without much enthusiasm, his eyelids already heavy with sleep.
"Aye, today is my twelfth birthday. Do you two know what this means?" he chuckled wryly.
"That you are going to have a party?" Fritha asked hopefully.
"It means I am a man now," Fródwine puffed out his chest and grinned proudly. "I am all grown up!"
"Not unless there have been a lot of changes since yesterday," Frumgár remarked as he yawned and closed his eyelids.
The sun had already passed her zenith when Frumgár was awakened by a dull thudding noise. He pulled himself into a sitting position, blinking the sleep from his eyes. Fritha, his left foot jerking, still slept beside him. While Frumgár had given himself over to the slumber of the exhausted, his bladder had filled, stretching the walls uncomfortably. He desperately needed to attend the call of nature. While he aimed a yellow stream against a willow trunk, he watched Fródwine from the corner of his eye. "What could Fródwine possibly be tinkering around with now? Looks like sticks and stones. Probably another one of his mad schemes."
After relieving himself, he walked over to peer down at Fródwine. "What are you doing?"
"I am pondering the making of weapons."
"Out of rocks and sticks?"
"Observe, brother," Fródwine explained as he held up a rock and a short piece of wood. "Think of this simple piece of stone crafted into a warhammer, club, or other weapon."
His brows meeting in consternation, Frumgár crouched down beside him. "But it is just a rock, Fródwine. What do you propose to do? Hit an orc over the head with it?" He shrugged his shoulders. "It is hopeless!"
"Brother, just keep your mind open to possibilities. Who knows what marvelous inventions could come from such simple beginnings! You see that piece of marble over there?" He pointed to a chunk of black marble, rippled with cream, lying close by. "That piece came from Osgiliath. Think what it would be like if we were able to drill a hole through and wedge the head onto the haft." Fródwine touched the piece of wood to the stone, demonstrating his ideas. "There, we have our weapon!"
"But we do not, Fródwine," Frumgár reminded him again. "You are only dreaming!"
"Maybe so, maybe not," Fródwine shrugged. Tossing the rock aside, he rose to his feet and wiped his grimy hands upon the side of his breeches. "But anyway, I was only using that piece of stone as a model to plan by."
"What do you mean?" Frumgár stood up.
"Perhaps over the road and into the mountains, we might be able to find some deposits of flint. If I could figure out some way to make a suitable hammerstone, we would be able to flake off the slivers of flint. Then we would sharpen them into arrowheads! Does that sound any better, brother?" He turned to gaze triumphantly at him.
"Fródwine, flint arrowheads? How do you know about so many things?" Frumgár asked incredulously.
"Because I listen and do not run out to play like a silly girl. Remember the old woodsman from the mountains who used to visit with Father from time to time?"
"Aye," Frumgár nodded his head.
"If you had been paying attention to him, brother," Fródwine smirked, "you would have heard him relate the account of how, when he was a young boy, he found a cave of the 'Old Ones.' Those people from ancient days made remarkably fine spear points, arrowheads and tools from flint, which they had knapped with hammerstones of quartzite or like hard stones. Simple, yes, but very effective. Surely our ancestors wielded the same.
"One day when you were out playing games with those two little girls from the next farm - maybe you were playing dollies, I do not know - the old man showed me some of the relics. If I recall correctly, about that time you returned home. When you saw the weapons, you referred to them as nothing but 'worthless rocks.'"
Fródwine was wearing that arrogant, supercilious expression painted all over his face again. Frumgár hated that look! Every time he saw it, he felt like smashing his brother's nose down and holding it in a wet, smelly pile of cow manure.
"While you were napping earlier like a baby with not a care in the world, I searched the stream bank but could find no flint or chert. When we arrive at the mountains, we will be keeping our eyes sharp for exposed layers of limestone and chalk along streams and gullies. Possibly there we will find flint, chert or quartzite. Besides being able to make real weapons from these materials, we will keep some of the flint. When we find any steel, what do we have then, brother? Think! Flint and steel! Then we can have our fire. Of course, we do not have any steel, yet."
Watching his brother explain in detain his plans for surviving in the wilderness, Frumgár thought that he could see that feral look which occasionally surfaced in Fródwine's eyes. That expression made his brother look like some kind of wild man. "More like a madman," he thought. "He thinks he knows everything, always coming up with some plan or new scheme!" Fródwine was always talking down to him, and he had tolerated all that he could for a while. "But, all wise one, one small matter. How are we going to eat in the meantime?" Frumgár asked sweetly.
Fródwine threw back his head and laughed. "More mushrooms, of course!" Suddenly he grabbed his brother by the hair on the back of his neck and pressed his palm into his face, shoving up his nose painfully.
"Oh, Fródwine, that hurts!" Frumgár protested as he grabbed Fródwine's wrist and tried to push his hand away. "Stop it!" Hesitantly, he hit out with his right fist, landing a tentative jab in his brother's stomach.
Fródwine's eyes gleamed maliciously as he slammed his palm harder into Frumgár's nose, bringing stinging tears to his eyes. "Do that again, little brother, and you will find a knee in your groin!" The two glared into each other's eyes for a long while until Fródwine at last released his grip. "Crybaby! Always crying, like a little girl! Remember next time that babies belong in cradles, not picking fights with men!" Giving his brother a sneering, sardonic smile, Fródwine stepped back. "If you ever think you are big enough to take me on, just let me know, little brother. Now I need some rest, so keep an eye upon Fritha. Awaken me when the sun is close to setting. We will eat then."
"Yes, my liege," Frumgár muttered sullenly, wiping his eyes with his knuckles.
Fródwine turned on his heel and sauntered away, his mocking laughter echoing behind him.
The sound of the quarrel had awakened the five-year-old, who opened his sleepy eyes and yawned. "I am hungry, Frumgár!"
"You are always hungry," Frumgár grumbled. "Fródwine said no food for a while. You are aware what he will do if you try to filch anything from that food pouch." His grave blue eyes promised dire consequences to Fritha if he failed to heed the warning.
"Probably break my arm or my neck," Fritha retorted in a whisper as he looked over at Fródwine, who was snoring under a willow. "He becomes meaner every day, especially now since he is pretending that he is a king! I heard you fighting."
"Although our brother is in rare fine form today, you really should not say things like that, Fritha. Fródwine has things upon his mind, such as seeing us safely home." Deep in thought, Frumgár sucked in his lips, not really wanting to defend his older brother, but feeling out of loyalty that he should.
"When do you think that Mother will find us?" Fritha blurted out suddenly. "I dreamed about her last night, and she was baking bread. I could taste it!"
"As soon as she possibly can, Fritha." Frumgár glanced away before Fritha could detect the skepticism in his eyes. Fródwine had told them that their mother had promised to return to them, but what if their brother was lying?
"I wish she would hurry." His lower lip trembling, Fritha looked down at his foot and aimlessly rolled a pebble to and fro on the ground. "Do you think when she finds us, she can bake some bread?"
"Maybe." Frumgár tried to sound cheerful, but his words were hollow. Attempting to distract his little brother, he pointed to an oak that grew farther up the stream bank towards the west. "Fritha, I am going to climb up that tree. There I can get a good view of the land that lies about us. Now you can either build another castle and soldiers from sticks and stones, or wade in the creek. You must not go downstream, for the water might be deeper there. You could fall in and drown. Now do you give me your word of honor that you will stay here where the stream is shallow and I can watch you?"
"Frumgár, word of honor," the little boy replied, slapping his hand over his heart. Frumgár knew that when Fritha made that oath, he would probably keep it. "I know what I will do! I will catch some minnows for us to eat."
"You do that, Fritha. We will serve them with some of Fródwine's mushrooms."
"Eww!" Fritha made a sour face and shook his head back and forth in disgust. "I wish Mother would get here soon!"
"She will, Fritha, she will... as soon as she can." Quickly looking away, Frumgár felt the tears washing over his cheeks as he walked towards the great oak. "Only babies cry!" he told himself fiercely. "But I want Mother, too!"
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.