Author: Frodo Baggins of Bag End (FrodoAtBagEnd) and Elwen E-mail: Frodo, Elrond
Rating: PG-13 (Dark themes; no profanity, no sexuality, non-slash)
Summary: Not only those things made by the Rings have begun to fade. . .the destruction of the One has wrought more damage than any could have anticipated, and in the smallest of lives. . . .
Story Notes: Very AU. PLEASE - if stories involving canon character deaths, or stories that are radically AU, upset you, I ask that you either abstain from reading this story or do so at your own risk. Please don't flame me for canon character death or AUness; I do realise this is pure deviation from Tolkien, and I make no claim that it even attempts to follow the spirit of the tale as he wrote it. This story is the result of collaboration between FBoBE and Elwen - an RP session turned into a story, as it were. The transformation from RP to story is by FBoBE. Please note that this is purely an angsty little piece adapted from the RP, and as such may have rather a different feel than many stories. Maybe someday I'll attempt a regular fic on this, but not presently, and we both felt the RP was something special enough to deserve a second life in fic. . . . And please don't hate me: I promise to get something lighter up to compensate ASAP. -FBoBE
DISCLAIMER: The characters, places, and story of The Lord of the Rings are the property of J.R.R. Tolkien and consequently of the Tolkien Estate, with select rights by Tolkien Enterprises. This piece appears purely as fanfiction and is not intended to claim ownership of Tolkien's work in any way. Please e-mail me if you have concerns. Furthermore, please do NOT consider any treatments or remedies within this story safe or effective for use: these are included as fictitious hobbit care, not real human medical practice, and while some can indeed be traced to actual therapeutic practices, could be dangerous. Please consult your health care professional before treating yourself or others for any condition or symptom.
February 1421 - Imladris
From the Daybook of Elrond:
The Ringbearer grows weaker.
It takes no healer to see it now: he has not been very well since his rescue from Mount Doom, nearly a year earlier, suffering greatly from fever and chills, pain and tormenting memories. . .though in our close care, he has at least regained a little liveliness. . .enough to enjoy the songs and poetry in the Hall of Fire, to visit the gardens, and to work on his book. . .which he has, at last, completed, though not without great effort.
Many have offered to assist in his care: it has become quite the amusement in Imladris to see Glorfindel carrying a tiny bundle about, treating his charge as if the little creature were some grand prince; the twins, too, have taken to Frodo, and often tend him together, the two working smoothly to prevent any disturbance to their small guest, caring seamlessly for him. Even Legolas and Gimli have arrived, eager to see their tiny companion, and willing to take turnabout in tending him. . .the combination of elven grace and gentleness with dwarven strength has proven a comforting one, and Frodo has seemed quite happy to be nursed by two of his Fellowship. The two also brought letters from their other companions. . .not least among them Eowyn and Faramir, who have been given leave by King Elessar and Queen Arwen to visit Imladris, should its lord permit, in the summer. . .and who are quite eager to see Frodo again.
Though aging and oft-confused, Bilbo spends time at his nephew's bedside daily: Frodo is not without his guardian's attention at least twice a day, often more frequently, and it seems a source of some quiet joy to hear them chattering softly together of things long past. Bilbo's brief periods of wakefulness are no longer an issue, for his heir requires frequent rests, now more frail than his aging uncle. The other hobbits write frequently, and Sam - heartbroken at leaving his master, offering to stay behind - speaks of a late summer visit moving into autumn, ensuring that he will be with Frodo on the Baggins birthday. I am glad to see this interest, though I confess that I feel troubled in the matter: though Frodo pressed Sam to return with the others, at times I wonder whether he should not have stayed, for he will be sorely grieved should he not see his master alive again.
Whether because I was one of the first to see to his needs since the Quest, or whether because a familiar touch provides comfort - and mine is now familiar as any to him, having tended him after the wound inflicted at Weathertop, Frodo seems to prefer my care over any other attention: he begs for me when feeling especially unwell, in the rare moments when I am not already by his side.
And the Little One has been very ill. . .during late autumn he had pneumonia, his tiny chest too weakened to fight off sickness so well as he once did. Slowly he has recovered, convalescent whims catered solicitously to by his companions, but the improvement is only a brighter point on an ever-darkening continuum. He grows weaker, confined now to bed (and, when carried, chair), sometimes too sick to eat or to keep down what he has eaten. . .but content, for the most part, to be comforted and kept warm and quiet, tended for continued fever when necessary and sustained with nourishing foods (these days, often soft foods or liquids) whenever possible. And lately he seems increasingly fragile, too weak even to sit up unaided.
It is evening now, but the twins have reported that their small charge seems sleepless, and wants his favoured caregiver. . .and he has yet to take his supper, though it is being sent up shortly. . .and so I must close for the present.
Used to entering without having to knock, in case his charge might be sleeping, Elrond crossed to Frodo's bed and settled in the chair now kept there. It was one brought from the healer's own study, a large but elegantly upholstered armchair that was comfortable to doze in if necessary, whether the dreamlike state that, for elves, provides rest. . .or the slumbering of mortals, such as the aging Bilbo.
His healer's eye assessed his friend. . .for friend Frodo had become, and the elven healer smiled, grey eyes softly reflecting the candleglow. A hand was laid across Frodo's brow, then fingers pressed gently to the pulse-point in the tiny neck. . .a familiar pattern of movement by now.
"You wanted to see me, Frodo? Is there something I can do for you?"
"Mmmm-hmmmm. . . ." The tiny hobbit gazed up at him gratefully, fretful blue eyes revealing relief as the master arrived. He felt feverish. . .far too warm to the touch. . .though the little heartbeat remained slower than one would expect: unsteady, and quite weak, as it had been for all those long months since the Quest. "Thank you for coming. . .I. . .I wanted you here. . .to talk a little, maybe. . .and. . .I can't get comfortable. . . ."
(A chronic problem in those days: Frodo was so slight, even when eating well, that one could only position him with pillows and sheepskin and hope, giving what little relief was possible by comforting and reassuring him during bouts of fever or sickness.)
"They said supper will come soon. . . ."
Elrond's practiced eye roved across the bed, noting the position of pillows and hot water bottles. He slipped his hands beneath the covers, adjusting a pillow under the left shoulder here, another along the hips there . . . moving a hot water-bottle closer to the feet, plumping a pillow ever so slightly beneath Frodo's head, folding back an overstuffed quilt from under the diminutive chin. "Does that help?"
The tiny bundle relaxed a little at once, nodding gratefully with a soft sigh. "Yes. . .yes, thank you. . .that's a bit better. . . ." Slowly he settled against the new arrangement, snuggling into a small nest, tucked cosily into bed. "It's very cold out, isn't it? Elladan brought me some snow, just so I could see it. . .he drew lovely frost-patterns on my window while I slept earlier. . . ."
"It will be the last snowfall this year . . . already the snowdrops are pushing through it beneath the trees in the garden. Spring is around the corner," Elrond advised knowingly. He had lived long enough in Middle-earth to know her patterns and he still held some control over the climate within this small valley . . . despite Vilya's fading power.
At the bedside stood a selection of drinks: part of the effort to tempt Frodo into taking sufficient liquids, and for other reasons more urgent. . .thirst was a constant problem for the tiny Ringbearer by that point, and the drinks were an effort to keep him comfortable. It might have been noted that Frodo's bedside arrangement seemed disturbingly full: the little hobbit had, in addition to his drinks, an assortment of tiny treats - refreshed daily - provided in hopes of coaxing him to eat, to keep up his strength: miniature sandwiches with a variety of fillings. . .fresh oranges and apples. . .light jellies. . .spiced nuts, such as the sugared ones he favoured. . .roasted pumpkin seeds. . .freshly baked scones and muffins, accompanied by honey and jams. . . .
Yet most of it seemed untouched.
Elrond paused to pour some lemon barley-water into a small tumbler of cut-glass, then lifted Frodo's head just enough to help him swallow it. Eagerly the little hobbit sipped: the lemon barley-water remained his favourite, and this he took greedily, resting trustingly against Elrond's arm.
"I don't mind it so when I don't have to go out in it. . .this time last year, I. . .I think we were wandering through the Marshes. . . ."
Once the cup was emptied, the healer pushed it back onto the table and lowered his friend back into his pillows. "And I was waiting impatiently for news of all of you. Celeborn sent word that you had reached Lorien and were moving on down the river, but beyond that I knew nothing, and could only sit and wait." Elrond shook his head. "Elves are noted for their patience, but I found that time of waiting the hardest in all my long years."
"And we had lost Gandalf. . .I can hardly remember being so frightened. I was so surprised. . .but so glad. . .to wake in Ithilien to his voice. . . . He and Aragorn were both there, and. . .and at first, I. . .I feared the worst. . . ."
"It must have been very confusing. I knew, of course, that the One had been destroyed, but I did not know of your fate until the eagles came to Imladris." Elrond selected a small apple and a fruit knife and began to peel it with all the precision of a master-surgeon, finally producing a perfect coil of skin, which he set aside. He cut off a small slice for himself, then a much smaller one, which he touched to Frodo's lips, coaxing.
"It is quite sweet. . .try a little, to fill a corner before your supper arrives."
But the tiny hobbit hesitated. . .only after a long moment did he yield, taking the niblet of fruit cautiously, nodding as he listened.
"It was terribly confusing. . .and. . .and I was still so ill at first. . . ."
Shuddering, he snuggled into the nest of covers, hollow-set blue eyes gazing up at his caregiver for praise as he finished the bit of apple.
"That's it. . .very good. . . ." He cut another piece for himself and a fine sliver for Frodo - so fine that the candlelight shone through it - and offered it again, sighing. "I am sorry that I could not be there for you at once. The fight belonged to mankind, and I could not intervene. . .although I could not keep my children away, it seems."
"But you came when you could. . .and you have taken care of me since. . . ."
The Little One's tone was free from criticism, and he took the thin bit of apple again, comforted by Elrond's soft tones.
There came a light tap, and slowly someone entered: one of the servants, pushing a cart laden with dishes and with fresh drinks to the bedside. The cooks, well accustomed to their tiny guest's tastes by that time, had provided a variety of foods, hoping that something among the dishes might interest Frodo. There were silver dishes of creamy chicken and mushroom soup. . .a hearty winter vegetable-barley soup with plenty of beef broth. . .sponge-cake. . .pears with cranberry relish. . .stuffed mushroom caps. . .a bit of roast duck with applesauce. . .roast chicken with a variety of dipping sauces. . .a tiny mushroom pie. . .carrots mashed and whipped with honey. . .peas. . .a tiny serving of creamed corn soup. . .mashed potatoes. . .spiced pumpkin, smoothly prepared. . .acorn squash with cinnamon and honey. . .a dish of spiced peaches. . .cranberry-apple pudding. . .coddled eggs in a little bowl. . .toast circles with butter, honey, and jams. . .pumpkin cookies with creamy icing. . .jam thumbprints. . .cinnamon-sugar snowflake cookies. . .gingerbread. . .a basket of assorted breads and muffins, freshly baked treats of all kinds. . . . There is even a fluffy puffed apple pancake with maple and cinnamon syrups. . .and a dish of candied oranges, topped with fluffy brandied whipped cream.
"Thank you, Tinovel. Over here, by the bed, please." The servant complied, leaving with a small smile at Frodo and a nod to his lord. "And here it seems, is the food to fill up the rest of the corners." Elrond smiled, putting the apple aside.
He slipped an arm beneath the thin shoulders and raised Frodo just enough to slide an extra pillow beneath them. The Ringbearer was so frail that Elrond could feel hardly any weight on his arm, thesmall body no heavier to the elven lord than that of a tiny bird.
"Oh, my. . .I don't think there's room in all the corners. . . ." Nonetheless, the little hobbit smiled, though he winced a bit at the change in position: despite Elrond's gentle touch, any motion was painful in his present condition, and he whimpered softly, yielding to the new position, but still fretful. "It. . .it does look nice. . . ."
Noting Frodo's disposition, Elrond dampened a cloth in a basin of cool water, scented with mint and athelas, by the bedside: a small item on a much larger table than the orginal, for so many items had become necessaries required close at hand those days. He wiped Frodo's hands, then rinsed the cloth again before folding it across the pale brow. "What would you like to try first?"
Comforted, the tiny patient studied his tray, mulling this question over for some minutes.
"Soup, please. . .the chicken and mushroom. . .and then maybe a bit of duck with applesauce. . .just a taste. . . ."
Indeed, most of the dishes were quite small: all hobbit-sized, and small portions carefully arranged to suit the Ringbearer's flagging appetite. A spoon was dipped into the soup without question and offered to Frodo, followed by a tiny morsel of duck sitting in a little pool of applesauce on the spoon.
"I had a letter from Prince Legolas this morning . . . apparently he took Gimli to visit his father and there was some confusion at the gates . . . which resulted in the poor dwarf spending an hour in the dungeons before Legolas could make arrangements to set him free." Elrond chuckled. "They did not stay for long."
Frodo laughed, shaking his head, before taking the tiny mouthful.
"Oh, dear. . .somehow I'm not surprised. . .Bilbo will laugh to hear it."
Finishing the taste, he pointed to the mashed potatoes, looking interested in those.
"One would never have expected them to become such fast friends, and yet. . . ."
He smiled, still shaking his head, careful to try and avoid losing the compress cooling his brow.
"The past year has seen many unexpected friendships formed," Elrond smiled as he offered the requested potato, moving swiftly to adjust the compress as it threatened to slide down over Frodo's eyes. "And that is to the good. Only together could the people of Middle-earth overcome the power that threatened them. I only hope that things will not return to their previous pattern now that the darkness has gone."
"So much would seem. . .in vain, then. . . ." Frodo looked sad, though he swallowed the spoonful of warm nourishment readily. "I don't understand why Big People always have to complicate things so."
Studying the potatoes, he hesitated, looking a bit fretful again.
"Bilbo used to make birds' nests for me. . .he'd pat a hollow into the potatoes, then put the peas there. . . ."
"There is a High King now to hold them together."
Elrond took a little potato in the spoon and delicately balanced one juicy pea on top. This Frodo nipped up more eagerly, nodding.
"In a way, I. . .I feel badly for Aragorn, for his work has only begun. . .and mine has ended. . . ."
"He was chosen for his task and he has worked towards it all his life. . .just as you were chosen. And he has friends to help him, just as you had. I do not worry for Estel," Elrond announced calmly, touching a spoon to his patient's lips.
This reassurance seemed to comfort Frodo, who tasted the soup, sipping dutifully as he studies the contents of the tray.
"I. . .please, could I have some ginger tea? And. . .some of the apple pancake, if. . .if that's all right. . .I'll try some of the chicken in a few minutes. . . ."
Lifting the cup, Elrond first supplied a tiny mouthful of pancake before putting the warm rim to waiting lips.
Outside, the moon had risen, the newly-fallen snow sparkling in its soft light. The little hobbit gazed out, staring mournfully at the snow, though he continued to eat and drink for his gentle caregiver.
"Where. . .what do you think. . .happens to hobbits? Since no one knows where we. . .came from, then. . .maybe we. . .we don't go anywhere except. . .back to the ground."
He took another sip of the soothing tea.
"That is why I want very much to. . .to be buried somewhere nice. . .just in case. . . ."
"We may not know where hobbits came from but they are a part of Middle-earth and all of Middle-earth was sung into being by Iluvatar," Elrond replied gently, taking Frodo's hand. "I cannot believe that some place was not set aside for your people by the Creator. He would not be so cruel." He followed Frodo's gaze out of the window to the pale moon-washed landscape of the peaceful valley beyond.
"As for your body . . . had you any particular place that you would like it laid to rest?"
"There was a place I especially liked when I first came. . .near Lady Celebrian's rose-gardens, I think. . .very peaceful. . . . I even found a little patch of mushrooms growing near there, which. . .seemed to amuse Aragorn and Arwen immensely. . . ."
Frodo settled a bit more cosily into the pillows, studying the tray as if no longer seeing it, his mind wandering.
"It looked like the sort of place I would have hidden when I was a child. . . ."
"I believe that I know the spot you mean . . . near the willow tree?" Elrond brushed the spoon against Frodo's lips. "Arwen used to climb into the branches to hide when she was no bigger than you. She thought I did not know."
"She showed me. Sometimes I used to climb up there to think because of it." The little hobbit yielded, swallowing the spoonful of nourishment as he nodded. "That is exactly where I want. . .there. . .something simple. . .though please, I would like my name there. . . . There have been other Ring-bearers, and. . .I would like for my name to be there, if. . .if that is all right. . . ."
"I will see to it, Little One. A small stone with your name, and I will plant some bluebells to flower in the spring."
Elrond cleared a suddenly thick throat and offered another spoon of soup.
"Thank you. . . ."
A tiny sorrowful smile. . .and the little hobbit swallowed the spoonful of warm soup.
"How long. . .do you think?"
"You have asked me that before . . . and my answer is the same now as it has always been." Continuing to coax small tastes of soup to Frodo's lips, Elrond paused. "I do not know, for I did not sing your life into being . . . but it is closer now."
Frodo nodded sombrely.
"Do you think. . .if I eat, and try. . .I could. . .last until the autumn. . .our birthday, and. . .Sam's visit? He promised to bring Rose. . . ."
"I believe so . . . but beyond that . . . ." Elrond sighed.
"I do not think that you will see another snowfall, Little One. In the spring, bluebells will be blooming beneath the willow tree."
For a long moment, Frodo remained quiet.
"Take me outside."
The tiny voice was scarcely audible.
"Please. . .take me outside."
For a moment Elrond hesitated. Frodo was so frail. . .and the air was so chill.
But how could he refuse this request to see the last snow?
Gathering a thick eiderdown from the bed he lifted Frodo from the nest of pillows and wrapped him tightly in it, holding him close to the warmth of his own chest, drawing the folds of his mantle over the dark curls. The long windows of Frodo's room led out onto a terrace: this being the path of choice, Elrond opened the door and carried his charge out into the sparkling, moonlit world of frost and snow, elven feet making hardly an indentation in the crisp blanket.
His efforts were rewarded with a fresh sparkle in the blue eyes: Frodo beamed with delight, though his gaze glistened with tears. One tiny hand poked out from the blankets, allowing the remaining light fall to dust onto his palm, where it promptly melted.
"So beautiful. . .so very beautiful. . . ."
He rested against Elrond's chest, still catching snowflakes in the now-healed right hand.
"My mother used to tell me that. . .there were. . .guardian angels, and. . .snowflakes were when they cried. . . ."
"And each snowflake is different . . . no two ever the same." Elrond watched them melt in Frodo's palm. "When the flake is gone there will never be another like it."
Pausing, he looked out across the silent valley, the snow muffling even the sound of the many waterfalls that refused to freeze through the depths of winter. Would the being that would put such extravagant work into a tiny flake of snow that is gone in a moment allow the life cradled in Elrond's arms to melt away too? Please. . .surely not. He raised his eyes to the stars in supplication, all pretense of stoic acceptance chased from his heart.
Please . . . no.
"Will anyone remember it, though?"
Frodo shivered a little.
"That is what I wonder. . .whether anyone will remember."
The small hand withdrew, folding back into the eiderdown.
Elrond pulled his eyes away from the stars and looked down at the tiny form, painfully reminded that his own life would move on through eternity.
"I will remember, Little One. I will."
"Thank you. . . ."
The whisper was followed by a soft sigh. . .and Frodo seemed suddenly very still against his caregiver's chest.
The healer touched fingers to the still-warm neck to verify what his heart already knew: no soft flutter of blood rushing through the tiny body. He looked up to the stars once more, a sheen of tears flowing freely down the ageless face.
Then he gathered the tiny form closer to his chest and began to walk. . .across the terrace. . .into the rose garden and out. . .across the lawn to the bare umbrella of the willow tree. There he sat in the snow, Frodo cradled in his lap. . .watching as the snow flakes fell, unmelting, upon the peaceful upturned face.