Chapter 1: An Echo Of Footfalls Author: Kidders Fandom: Lord Of The Rings Rating: PG-13, for violence and mild torture and bodily fluids Genre: Angst, horror Setting: A split between movie-verse and the book, the story takes place after Bilbo leaves Bag End, and Gandalf departs. The book says that Gandalf popped in from time to time to check on Frodo's health, before he left on his journey. This is a little drabble on how the Ring starts to affect Frodo before Gandalf returns. So it's pretty much movie-verse, maybe slightly AU. Disclaimer: I, of course, don't own anything here, it belongs solely to JRR Tolkien. I'm just having a bit of fun with the characters. And thanks to Peter Jackson, who made a wonderful movie, which I only rented recently and discovered, much to my chagrin, what I had been missing! I marched straight out and bought the books after watching the movie. All I can say is.WOW!!! Feedback: Please keep flames to a minimum. Like I said, I am very new to this fandom. And I've noticed that LOTR fans, on the whole as compared to other fanfic I've read, are really, really fine writers! POV: Frodo first person, with a nightmare peek into someone else's life.


Footfalls echo in the memory

Down the passage which we did not take Towards the door we never opened

~T. S. Eliot

The steady, clanking rasp of metal forging upon itself drags me from a restless slumber, as my eyes open to darkness and shadow, neither of which belongs in Bag End. I blink, assuring myself that my eyes are indeed open and seeing, though the sight that meets my beseeching gaze leaves me wondering if I should be better off blind. For a great pillar of fire rises in the night sky, plundering everything in its path as it lays waste to forests and meadows and lands I do not even recognize. Black destruction is left smoldering in the wake. 'Twas a mountain churning out fiery death to great legions of armies that dare to put down siege, where the foul stench of smoke and ash and decay makes the air nearly unfit to breathe.

I shrink from this bleak vision, tearing my eyes from it so I can watch no more. But find though my eyes are squeezed tightly shut, I cannot turn away. Drawn like a moth to a flickering flame, the heat bakes my skin until sweat is a burning trickle down my face and every breath is torture. Pressure grows in my arms and legs, until I writhe under the onslaught, my limbs stretched taut so they will not move even a little, this uncomfortable positioning soon transforming to a piercing agony where muscle and ligament are forced to slip their natural bounds.

Then comes a loud pop, like a cork flying loose from a barrel of spirits, and my shoulder is gripped by a pain so sharp and sudden, it rents an agonized scream from my throat. As I lie there gasping and sobbing, trying to ignore the wrenching ache that pounds my arm without mercy, a horribly disfigured face looms over me. The twisted mouth gurgles out a question, sputtering a vile spray of saliva across my chin. Great, red- golden eyes leer at me from above, full of anticipation and perversion, harsh peals of growling squeals expressing delight at my pain and an eagerness to deliver more cruelty. Soon, an orange glow descends toward my prone flesh, a brand poised to consume me in fire.

"Where is it? Where is it?!" the creature shrieks, joined by a raucous cacophony of voices that roar so loud I think my eardrums might surely burst. "Where is the One Ring?"

Ring?, I think, dazed. Bilbo's ring? I don't understand.

Panicked thoughts swirl desperately in my mind, none evidently forming on my tongue because the terrible fire is immediately pressed to my bare flesh, and everything is pain. Scream after scream is ripped from deep in my throat, until I can no longer draw breath, the need for air diminishing my cries into pitiful, hiccuppy whimpers.

"Where is the Ring, you gormless rat?! You'll tell us, or that hide of yours will be roastin', a bubble-an'-squeak, good to' nice little cobblers."

The Ring, the Ring, my, no, it's mine. My own. Not to take .mine! This strange thought continues to echo in my mind, unvoiced, leaving me with next to nothing to fathom its meaning. Ideas here, though, matter naught. Fire no longer sizzles against my chest, but the burning still lingers in the wound, branding the hurt in deeper. Orcs, I realize numbly, they are orcs. Abominations. Hideous, ugly creatures seen only in nightmares, never in truth. Bilbo wrote of them, in one of his tales.

"Where is the One?" they cackled.

"No.please, have mercy!" I cry. But they care not.they have no pity, no heart. Flames swoop down to tear at my tattered skin, and the shrieks born from my mouth sound hoarse and anguished, a guttural cry not like my own voice at all. Two words form, driven upon my trembling lips as another scream gathers in my lungs. Why I speak them, I know not.


Then darkness sings to me, calling me home, and I succumb at last, falling over the precipice and into doom.


Thus, the darkness holds me still when my eyes fly open, and I feel the scream lodged somewhere deep in my throat quickly smother into silence. Staring wildly into the blackness, my heart trips a fearful rhythm beneath my ribs, sweat pouring down my face as gasps shake away my feeble efforts for control.

I recognize at length the familiar shadows of Bag End, and while the thought of Bilbo's inheritance should comfort me, it does not. No fire burns in the hearth, and I shiver in the cool, night air, wracked by chills in spite of the fact the rays of summer stubbornly cling to the lands of Hobbiton. It feels as though winter's cold embrace has reached my very bones, terror striking me dumb where I stand, frozen as if death itself has ridden down from some hellish plateau and lain claim to my inanimate body.

A faint breeze stirs through a half-open window, tickling a few stray tendrils of my hair where it is not plastered to my scalp, drying the sweat on my skin. It almost seems a living thing, whispers rising to taunt at my thoughts, breaking into a haunting melody. Frodo.Frodo of the Shire. Voices, voices in the wind, I must be going mad. Falling into fever- dreams. Hearing spirits that hold no form.

You will be ours.soon, my Precious. It comes, wrought by despair, adopted drown in despair to the pity of all.

"No." I am awake now. How do they know my name? I clamp my hands over my ears, head shaking frantic denial, wet fringe slapping low across my brow. Resistance stiffens my spine, forging a hardened resolve into my words which I truly doubt I can maintain should this smite continue. "No, you're not real, I won't listen! Leave me and return to whatever tormented dirge you hail from."

Frodo.Frodo, luv.I've missed you.

I think I make some sound then, a ravaged squeak of pure fright because all at once, the apparition that speaks to my mind has taken my mama's voice, her sweet gentle tones perverted into something unspeakable.

Frodo.precious Frodo.put on the Ring for Mama.

A claw of terror closes around my throat, and suddenly I can't breathe. The air hangs suspended in my lungs, my tongue imprisoned by a cloying dryness that makes it feel attached to the roof of my mouth, grief and mindless fear weaving together into a tapestry of such panic that I believe my heart might stop from the sheer shock of it.

Come here, my sweet.let Mama hold you.

"No,'t," I slur, trying to coax what little sight I retain into something more than faint lines of shape and shadow. Finding when I blink, that I am standing near the hearth with no memory of leaving my bed. Dry parchment curls under my fingertips, and with a start I see that I hold the sealed envelope into which Gandalf had placed Bilbo's ring. Oh, Elbereth! The wizard's warning rekindles vividly into recollection, like dragon's breath upon a drought-parched field. Never put it on, Frodo. Keep it secret.keep it safe. Escape.I must flee. Before it is too late.

With a disgusted cry, I fling the evil thing into the now-dormant hearth, but twirl too fast in my haste, sending a wave of dizzying disorientation hammering through my senses. I can't see! Why is it so dark? Cold, icy hands draw around my shoulders, clutching me in a hard embrace, skeletal fingers raking through my lank, tangled curls, brushing the back of my neck before coming to rest on my flushed cheeks. And then the smell of briny water and decayed flesh hits me, and I let loose a piercing shriek. I have known fear, but never like this, never such a horrid and repulsive sensation that makes acid rise in my throat and plucks away any shred of control I have left.

"NO!" The gasp is torn from my lips, sounding as if it has broken something inside. A hot surge of foul wetness rushes from between my legs, dribbling about my feet and staining the muslin cloth I wear. Some small part of my mind still able to function registers this mortifying indignity, but the fear has gained such momentum that it is all I comprehend. Fly,!

Dashing through the study, I take the quickest route-I dive out the open window, landing hard in the prickly hedge that runs along the sill, smashing flat the last blooming sunflowers and snap-dragons, my nightshirt twisting about my legs like a snare tripped proper. I scrabble frantically, churning up dirt and grass, making small whimpering noises as I gain my feet and race through the garden and down the hill, hardly daring to look behind me.

The silvery beams from a new moon barely illuminate a path through the pitch-black night, and I plow into the West gate at a full run, wood splintering and digging into my palms as it springs open under my weight. I spill into a shadowy field bordered by well-tended hedgerows, which rise in the darkness like sentries defending a tower wall. My breath is sobbing in my throat, and still I run, ignoring the tearing pain in my side, tears blinding as they coat my eyes in a blurry film, and I can hear the water gurgling now, it is so close.

But the night denies me any warning of the obstacle which lies in my path, a rotting Alder limb that I vaguely discern a moment before my right foot catches and twists, sending me sprawling in an ungainly heap. I throw up my hands to break my fall, feel a raggedly-sharp branch scald across my palm, the spear shredding my flesh and sending a fierce jolt of pain up my arm with such speed, I am yelling before I hit the ground. My vision dwindles to twin points of blackness as I land with my middle folded over a bit of smooth bark, not sharp but unyielding, so as to force every trace of air from my lungs.

My chest heaves as I lie there, stunned senseless by pain and fright, and I truly cannot breathe now, this new fear clouding my mind, my panic not eased until my gasping struggles at last drew breath back into my starving lungs. I twist to glance behind me, glimpse no ghostly demons converging from the Western fields to mount an assault. With a ragged sigh of relief, I crawl free from the Alder and roll onto my back, clutching my right hand around the wrist and squeezing, wishing to trade the throbbing sting along my third finger for a lesser pain. A steady rush of warmth trickles down my hand, sticky and sweet in aroma. I am glad I can't see the blood that leaks from my body, glad for the cover of darkness.

Sitting up makes my head spin in nauseating circles, my vision hazy at best as I listen to the panicked beat which still flutters in my chest, struggling to take deep breaths, my eyes tearing up from the pain. A warning twinge in my ankle suggests it mightn't be wise to stand just at the moment. It takes great effort to crawl the remaining distance to the river, the pain in my hand plucking away my strength as I drag myself through dirt and mud, the sound of the swiftly, bubbling water of the Brandywine stirring both release and dread in my heart. For my parents drowned in this place. It was many years ago, though I remember it as yesterday. The darkness and the water stealing away everything I had. Leaving me alone in an endless despair, until Uncle Bilbo brought me to Bag End, and I finally was allowed the chance to heal. But now, with Bilbo gone, I feel a seed of the same sad hopelessness creeping upon me, like a vine growing unchecked in the garden, twisting and expanding until it chokes the life from everything around it. Bilbo hasn't come back, nor do I think he ever will. Gandalf-I've not seen him for months. If not for Sam, I think I would wilt and wither away.

At the water's edge, I shed my nightshirt, tossing it into the water to soak, gingerly lowering myself into the cold, but not unpleasant, bath. The sand and silt are a tad rough under my bottom, but not enough to hurt, and least I'll be clean again. Liquid relief washes my legs and feet, rinsing away any residue of my earlier embarrassment, and dunking my head rids my hair and scalp of the sour smell of sweat. Using my good hand, I proceed to scrub my nightshirt until it, too, is unsullied.

Which leaves the task of dealing with my injured hand. I am loathe to have it in the water, however necessary it might be; only with the blood continuing to flow freely, I really have no other choice. The wound needs tending. 'Tis a simple matter. But nothing in my life ever seems to follow such rules. So, after a fortifying breath, I gather my courage around me like an Elven cloak and plunge my right hand into the river.

Halflings never do anything halfway, as they say in Bree. Perhaps they speak of foolish, accident-prone hobbits who have not the sense to stay in their beds during the night? The water merely touches my wound, and my eyes snap fully open, pain sluicing a fierce swoon of torment through my head, such that piteous whimpering seems the only noise I am capable of making. I nearly recoil from the task right then. Breaths hiss between my clenched teeth while the fingers of my left hand haltingly traced the torn edges of flesh that flap loosely under the stir of current. My face pinches tight at the raw hurt, and while I can't see the blood, my questing touch encounters a smooth, foreign hardness which I conclude to be exposed bone.

My next breath hitches on a tremulous gasp, stomach contracting in a violent spasm that floods my mouth with bile, snapping my head forward, and I heave and gag and spit until my ribs feel ready to split apart. Staggering to the bank, I awkwardly tug the shirt over my head, finding that being out of the water causes me to begin shivering uncontrollably. Wearied beyond measure, I collapse on the shore and curl into a pain- wracked ball, right hand clenched in a fistful of cheesecloth to try and staunch the bloody flow.

The direness of my situation begins to ponder in my scrambled thoughts unfettered. Coming this far, alone, I have not steered a wise course. I should never have abandoned Bagshot Row. With my ankle hobbled, and my hand broken and bleeding, how am I ever to get home?

To Be Continued.

A//N: Well, should I keep going? Hope it's not too much of a Frodo fluff- fest, riddled with angst and hurt (no comfort yet). Everyone has already written about practically any plot I could dream up, and wonderful pieces they are. This was the only thing I could think of that might be as yet untried.