Cynical Flame: I think you have probably guessed what's wrong with Frodo now. It could result in lost limbs, I suppose. But it can also result in worse things.

ThE iNsAnE oNe: I can't promise. ;) But don't worry too much! I'm not cruel, after all… well, I'm cruel to Frodo sometimes, but that's different.

Zorra: Yes, it is very hard to cure, or so I've read. Even with today's medical techniques, it's still a serious illness. Luckily, we can prevent it these days.

NarsilC: Thank you! I don't think I've seen this particular illness done before, but I could be wrong. I always try to look for illnesses different or unusual to force upon the poor hobbit.

And, before I continue with Chapter 8, I must ask that you don't kill me! *cowers in fear of readers*. Nice readersss… ;)

Chapter 8:

The night's march was almost over, and the three weary travelers had already journeyed nearly half the distance across the Dead Marshes. The soggy terrain of the foul bog had slowed their progress further and made things doubly hard for both Sam, and especially, Frodo.

For much of the night Sam had found himself, and Gollum, practically having to carry the ill ring-bearer. Several times each hour his body had been gripped with muscle spasms, they had been increasingly severe with each spell. They were unpredictable and ended relatively quickly, leaving Frodo's muscles rigid to the touch and painfully stiff.

"Come on, Mr. Frodo," Sam encouraged his master, "Just a few more hours and it'll be dawn, you can rest soon."

"No… S- Sam," Frodo slurred as he stumbled and began to fall, his head drooping listlessly.

Sam rushed to provide extra support for his master. "Easy, Mr. Frodo. Careful now…" he whispered.

A choked cry from Frodo told Sam that it was happening again. His master's legs gave out fully then, and Sam carefully lowered his body to the ground.

Frodo's breaths quickened, and his eyes grew wide with fear and pain as another spell came upon him with a vengeance. "Sam…" he breathed, squeezing his eyes shut and gripping at the damp earth beneath him as his body stiffened painfully.

Gollum sensed that he was no longer being followed by the hobbits, and turned around to see Frodo lain out on the soggy ground of the Marsh, his small body contorting with muscle spasms and faithful Samwise kneeling at his side. The creature changed direction then and headed back to where the two had stopped.

Sam glared up at Gollum, always ready to blame him for whatever ill befell the trio, this time his fault would surely be with the pace of travel set by Gollum. His attention was turned back to his master as Frodo let out a quiet groan, his hand searching for the familiar comfort of Sam's.

"They're growing worse, Sam," Frodo managed, "They're pulling me apart," he whimpered, his neck craning back. His grip on Sam's hand tightened involuntarily, the muscles in his arms contracted forcefully, causing the arms themselves to curl inward as though he were flexing his muscles.

Sam winced, jerking his hand free of Frodo's as the grip tightened. "Mr. Frodo!" he cried, "What can I do? How can I help?" he took his master's face in his hands, and gently brushed back the dark ringlets of damp hair. He used his sleeve to dab at his master's sweating brow.

Frodo's fists were white knuckled, and his back arched slightly. His facial muscles tightened as well, pulling his lips back, forcing his mouth into a slight grimace. He cried out through clenched teeth as the pain continued relentlessly, tears seeped from beneath his closed eyelids.

Sam did all he could, though it wasn't much, and served only to increase his feeling of helplessness. He knew very well what it was that ailed Frodo now, and that there was no way to stop it, and no way to treat it. The symptoms were progressing at an alarming rate, he thought, one that could only be attributed to lack of rest and proper care for the infected wound on his broken leg.

Frodo's throat seized, he panicked as his air supply was cut off. He could not swallow, nor could he breathe. His eyes flew open wide, a chilling flash of blue in the dusky gloom of early morning. No part of his body would work; all he could do was lie there as his own body suffocated him. He could not even cry out for help that was not to be found.

Sam noticed quickly that his master had ceased to breathe. He looked down at Frodo, into the wide blue eyes fraught with fear and suffering. "Mr. Frodo!" he practically screamed at his master, "Mr. Frodo, please! Please breathe, you must… oh, me dear, you mustn't leave your Sam!" He wept, gently shaking Frodo's shoulders to no avail.

Gollum, too, grew concerned at the commotion; he came to kneel beside Sam over Frodo's body. He knew not how to help the suffering hobbit.

At last, Frodo's airway cleared again, and the painful spasms ended, leaving his body stiff, but free from further torment. "Sam," he gasped, speaking with difficulty as his jaw refused to function properly, "I can't go on, Sam…I'm so weary, and…and the ring is such a burden." His eyes slipped closed then. Frodo gasped as he tried to shift position, finding it nearly impossible due to his sore and unyielding muscles.

"Don't worry, sir, we ain't leavin' 'till you're ready. I don't care if we 'ave to stay 'ere for a whole 'nother month!" Sam answered.

Frodo chuckled grimly, "Dearest Sam, you can't linger here." He paused, gathering more energy to speak, "You must go on, and…" he stopped, emotion closing his throat, "You must complete the quest." He stared intently into Sam's eyes, hoping to convey the seriousness of his statement.

The words hit Sam like a rough blow, and his heart smarted at the sound of them, "Oh no! I'll not leave you here, Mr. Frodo!" he answered, angry at his master's lack of determination. "Never, Mr. Frodo, never. I'd lay down an' die before I'd leave you."

Frodo exhaled sharply, "Sam… you cannot stay. You must…" he paused, he could almost feel another spell coming on, "You must complete this task." He finished hurriedly, his eyes reflecting the determination his voice wasn't able to muster.

He didn't blame Sam. How could the gardener possibly understand this? How could he know? Frodo knew he was dying. He'd taken his last step towards the Mountain of Doom; his exhausted body could carry him no further.

Frodo's head fell to the side, he panted for breath as he felt pain returning anew to his heavy limbs. He shuddered at the force of the spasms as they wracked his slight frame mercilessly, and a single sob escaped him.

Sam gently pulled Frodo's upper body into his lap. He cradled his master's head, and gently rubbed his shoulders as the toxin flowing through Frodo's veins ravaged the ring-bearer's body once more. He could feel sweat from Frodo's body soaking through his master's cloak, and into his own clothes.


All that day none of the three travelers had any rest. Sam sat as he was, cradling Frodo in his arms as best he could, wishing more than anything that he could somehow ease the others pain.

Frodo dozed fitfully between spells, as the muscle contractions grew in intensity and endurance and the day dragged on. He had only managed to take a few sips of water that Sam had forced on him around noon.

Gollum sat close by; seeming to sense what was at hand. Already he was missing the presence of the one person he'd met that understood his plight to a certain degree. He was beginning to feel rather guilty for wishing death speed. Clearly it already had enough.

Upon the most recent spell, Frodo had screamed in agony as the muscles in his back caused his spine to bend and arch. Sam had heard and felt the sickening sound of bones straining and sinew struggling at its bonds, betrayed by the very muscles that supported it. The ring-bearer dug his bare heels into the soggy earth as his leg muscles contracted painfully. Frodo spoke no word, but reached up with difficulty and wrapped his own arms around Sam's as best he could.

Sam clutched his master close now, as if his care for the other could ward off death itself. Though, even his unquenchable spirit was beginning to falter.

Frodo stared blankly ahead, enjoying a brief moment free of wrenching pain. His face was ashen, and slick with sweat. Dark circles underlined his eyes, half-lidded in weariness. Every breath was a new struggle; one he didn't know if he wanted to continue to fight for, as fighting only delayed the inevitable. He needed to talk to Sam soon, as well as Smeagol, before it was too late.

He stirred slowly in Sam's arms, turning his head with difficulty to look into the face of his faithful gardener and dear friend.

"What is it, Mr. Frodo?" Sam asked quietly, in a tone of voice he might have used when speaking to a sick child, "Has the pain grown worse again?"

Frodo moved his lips wordlessly, willing his voice to work for just a while longer, "S…Sam, I need to talk to you… before it is too late." Frodo confessed. Trembling as a chill breeze rustled his curls.

"Of course, sir." Sam answered gently, struggling to keep fear from seeping into his voice. "Tell your Sam now…" he stroked Frodo's bangs soothingly.

Frodo smiled up weakly, "Sam, you must…must promise me that you will complete the quest." Said Frodo earnestly, "Everyone is counting on you. An—" he choked as his vocal cords seized briefly, "And… you must not fail. You shall carry on in my stead. I name you the new ring-bearer." He finished, his fever bright eyes shining up at Sam through the mist of the bog.

"Oh…" Sam breathed, "Oh no, Mr. Frodo. I can't possibly. I can't," he argued, "Not without you. I ain't brave like you."

Frodo couldn't help but smile at his friend's words, "Sam you're wrong, so wrong. You don't even see… you—you're the bravest hobbit I know." He clutched the gardener's sturdy brown hand in his slender pale one. "You can—you will—do this Sam. I can think of no one better suited for the job. Now please… help me get this chain off."

Sam bit back a sob, his poor master. Gently he lifted Frodo's head from the ground, slowly so as not to bring on another spell. He found the clasp on the chain bearing the ring, and carefully undid it. He lifted it away from Frodo's ashen form, and watched, momentarily fascinated, as the light glinted off of the trinket's polished surface.

"Put it on," Frodo's weak voice broke the spell. He regretted to see it pass into another's hands, yet there was no other choice.

Sam nodded vaguely, placing the chain around his own neck and fastening the clasp. He immediately felt the weight of it bear down on him. He felt pity and admiration anew for his poor master. He had continued to bear this weight, without complaint, until his own life was on the verge of ending.

"And you must promise me, Sam," Frodo interrupted the gardener's thoughts again, "You must… promise me that… that you will leave now. Do not wait for death to claim me, precious time is being wasted even as we sit." Frodo argued, his eyes pleading with Sam.

"I'll not leave you, sir. I'll not leave you now." Sam insisted.

Frodo sighed regretfully; he should have known Sam would be stubborn about this. He didn't want the younger hobbit to witness his death. He didn't want Sam to be eternally haunted by visions of his master's last painful breaths. "Please, Sam… go. I will not get up again… I am so tired, I cannot take another step." Frodo pleaded, "You mustn't wait."

Sam shook his head vehemently, "No, Mr. Frodo. No. I'll not leave you, not now, not now when you need me the most." Sam finished, his voice cracking at last with emotion, as the realization of what was happening began to sink in.

"Very well," said Frodo, "It does not please me that you would stay, but I cannot stop you." He paused then in thought, "But you must promise me at least this much. Promise me that you will not linger here after…" he swallowed hard, dropping his voice, "Do not linger after I am dead." He looked earnestly into Sam's face. "Take my belongings; you may need them yet—"

"No, Mr. Frodo!" Sam interrupted, "I will not!" he cried.

"You must. The enemy may find them…" Frodo reasoned, "Then we will be ruined. All our sacrifice will have been in vain. All will be lost." He paused again in thought, "Take Sting, and my Mithril coat, and the Lady's phial. Take my rations, as well as my cloak…" he pleaded. "Promise me, Sam."

Sam stared into his master's face for a long moment, his warm brown eyes full of tears, "I promise, Mr. Frodo." He sobbed quietly. "I promise I'll do as you ask, sir,"

"There's a good lad, Sam." Frodo managed a smile for his friend, "And do not waste time burying me," he spoke with difficulty, "Roll me into the water, and leave no evidence of our time spent here."

Sam gasped at this notion, "But, Mr. Frodo!" he cried, "I… what would the others say when I tell them!"

"Sam, worry not what they may think, for they will think nothing if you do not succeed, and you will be a hero if you do." Frodo tried to convince his friend.

Sam wept quietly by his master's side, not knowing what else to say. His dear Frodo was asking of him something harder than the task that lay ahead. It would be a long dark road without his master's company; made darker still by the nature of Frodo's death, and the gaping hole the loss would leave in his heart.

"Sam," Frodo's quiet voice invaded Sam's mournful thoughts, "Please fetch Smeagol, I wish to speak with him as well."

"That Stinker oughtn't be 'round here with you in your condition!" Sam practically growled.

"You must go with him. He knows the way into… into Mordor, Sam." Frodo whispered, beads of perspiration glistening on his face as he tried to hold off the next spell that he could feel beginning to build, "Be kind to him, but do not trust him fully." Frodo warned, "Follow him, but do not be led blindly."

Sam nodded tearfully, "Yes, Mr. Frodo. Your Sam won't let you down this time."

"Good," Frodo smiled, "I know you won't, dearest Sam."

Sam turned away from Frodo with a light squeeze of his master's hand, and went to retrieve Gollum, who had slunk off to the other end of the island of wet earth the three had found refuge on.

"Smeagol?" Sam asked, for the first time using the name Smeagol rather than Gollum, "My master would like a word with you."

Gollum turned to face Sam, his bulbous eyes flashing green in the light of evening, "Yes, precious… Smeagol will speak to the Master now." He answered.

Sam watched in silence as Smeagol slunk over to where his master lay on his back.

"Smeagol," Frodo whispered, "You must look after Sam once I am gone." He pleaded.

The creature couldn't ignore the emotion Frodo's eyes held at as he made this request. He'd never been entrusted to care for another before. "Smeagol will do what the Master asks. Smeagol will help hobbitses with whatever they wants us to do."

"Lead him into Mordor, Smeagol, to Mount Doom." Frodo requested, "And do not lead him astray, promise me Smeagol. Promise you will do this, and that you will be true to your word—as you gave it to me."

Smeagol nodded, saying, "Yes, precious… Smeagol will do what Master asks!" he said.

"Good," Frodo's answer was barely a whisper, and it seemed to Gollum then that Frodo became more at ease, more willing to accept what was coming for him. "Now fetch Sam," he requested.

Sam did not need to be fetched; he was standing within earshot all along, loath to leave his master alone with the creature even now. He knelt quickly by his master's side, taking Frodo's pale hand into his own once more. He felt his master's brow again, noting with concern that his fever had risen higher. "Take some water, sir," Sam offered.

Frodo shook his head, "No, Sam. Save it, I don't need any. You will need it."


For the remainder of the day, Sam kept a silent vigil by Frodo's side. His master spoke occasionally, of happier times, mainly to keep his mind off of the pain. Sam joined in, half-heartedly. He felt guilty, knowing that his master would now never again see those things. Although, he didn't rightly know if he himself would see them again either.

Gollum sat close at hand, quietly observing the two hobbits: one grieving, the other dying.

"Sam…" Frodo's voice broke the eerie silence that had befallen the camp an hour earlier. His quiet voice contained a hint of urgency, "Sam, I—again." The last part was little more than a strangled yelp of pain. He groaned weakly as he recognized the building tension as the onset of another attack. "Stay, Sam," he whispered, in spite of himself, "Don't leave me,". Now fear reigned over reason, fear of the pain he was about to endure and fear of leaving Sam alone. Fear of the unknown, fear of death. The muscles in his back and abdomen contracted painfully, the force of the two warring muscle groups nearly breaking him. "Oh!" Frodo cried out, "It… make it stop, Sam. It hurts!" he whimpered, digging his heels into the moist earth beneath him in desperation.

"Easy, Mr. Frodo, easy, me dear. I'm right here, your Sam's right here." Sam soothed, he could feel Frodo's quick shallow breaths in his hand as he cradled the older hobbits head, stroking one of his master's ashen cheeks gently. He was trying to reassure himself as much as he was his master, knowing all the while that there was nothing he could do.

Frodo cried out again as his arms and legs seized. He knew he had not the strength to endure this. He took strange comfort in knowing that this would be the last bout he'd have to endure, after this came blessed sleep. Already darkness had begun to limit his vision, and he hadn't even noticed that he wasn't able to draw breath. The toxins had now paralyzed his chest muscles. If he could, he would have clawed at his throat in a frantic attempt to reach air, but his hands and arms were clenched tightly in fits of their own.

He couldn't hear Sam's frenzied cries. He only saw his friends tear streaked face as a blur, unable to guess what sort desperate pleas he must have been making. His entire body shuddered just as his spine yielded at last to the pressure, snapping like a twig in a windstorm.

Sam felt his master's body go limp in his arms, and heard the dull crack, as Frodo's back finally yielded, unable to arch further. He was, however, spared the heart-wrenching cry of pain that would have resulted had Frodo's voice not been rendered silent. His vocal cords had seized for the last time, but his eyes contained the pain he felt, and they reflected it more acutely than any words could render.

Now Sam sat alone with Frodo's body still cradled in his arms, his master's eyes stared up unseeingly, as blue as ever yet at peace once more. He wept long in his grief as he held the cooling body of his beloved master. He knew Frodo had died afraid, and in a great deal of pain. For that he would never forgive himself. Even if he did succeed in reaching the Mountain of Fire, he resolved to throw himself in, with the ring around his neck.

At last, Gollum approached; gently he laid a hand on Sam's shoulder.

The hobbit turned around, his eyes red from crying.

"Master said to go, Master said not to linger." Smeagol said gently.

Sam nodded; he knew what Frodo had told him to do. How could he now go against his master's last wishes? He must move on. "I know, Smeagol." Sam said, "Mr. Frodo told me to take his belongings an' leave."

Gently, Sam undid his master's cloak, slipping it off of the mangled body. He unbuttoned Frodo's vest, and then his shirt, carefully slipping the sleeves from the stiff limbs. He managed to remove the mail coat by moving his master's rigid arms, one at a time, and slipping the Mithril coat over Frodo's head, his dark curls still drenched with cold sweat.

Sam bit back a cry, as his master's form lay exposed; he gently closed Frodo's eyes with his own hands. In the dusky evening light of the Marshes Sam could see Frodo's ivory skin in contrast with the dark earth, his finely featured face framed by a mop of dark curls. He almost looked to be asleep, were it not for the stillness of his chest, and the stiffness of his limbs, Sam would have believed it himself.

Frodo's body blurred in Sam's vision as another wave of tears washed down the gardener's face. His dearest friend, his master, was dead. No amount of calling his name softly, nor gently shaking him, would wake him up. He was gone forever, forever to sleep in the foul waters of the Marsh.

Sam reverently laid aside the Mithril shirt and began to put Frodo's blouse and vest back on, and refasten his Lorien cloak. Before he knew what was happening, Gollum pounced upon him, and began strangling him with the chain that held the ring.

Sam struggled to stand, but Gollum's weight was too much. He collapsed on the floor of the marsh next to Frodo's body, and fought to turn over so he could get a good hold on Gollum's throat.

Gollum pulled harder on the chain, and Sam could feel it cutting into his throat. He could scarcely breathe, black spots danced in front of his vision. Then Frodo's words returned to him, "Promise me that you will complete the quest." A new surge of strength welled within Sam. He couldn't fail his Frodo; he must succeed.

His gaze turned then to where Frodo's body lay close by, the hilt of Sting just visible. Sam strained to reach the dagger. His hand was almost on it; he was so close to reaching it. He had just placed his hand on the hilt when a blunt object struck him in the back of the head, and darkness claimed him.



The gardener regained consciousness to hear a blessedly familiar voice calling his name. He shook his head, rubbing the back of it where a lump was forming; he looked down ruefully at the rocks strewn about. What had happened? How had he managed to bump his head? Then another thought struck him: Where had Gollum gotten off to? He felt around his neck frantically, the chain was missing. Where was the ring? Then he began to panic. "That stinker!" Sam thought aloud, "He's made off with it, he has!" he pounded his fists angrily into the unyielding earth.

It was dark; a soft rain had just begun to fall, the wind was picking up. He was no longer in the marshes, but back in the Emyn Muil. "How..." Sam thought aloud, "What's this all about!" He cried to no one in particular.

"Sam!" came the voice again, interrupting the gardener's thoughts.

"Mr.—Mr. Frodo?" Sam called disbelievingly, thinking it was surely his ears playing cruel tricks.

"Help me up!" the voice called again.

The voice had come from the edge of the cliff he was standing atop. He looked around warily, unsure of what to do. Sam got to his hands and knees and crawled slowly to the edge of the cliff. He noticed for the first time that there was a rope going over the edge, it was secured to a rock, near to where he was standing.

Sam laid a hand on the rope; it was taut. He crawled to the very edge of the cliff, and peered down into the gathering gloom. His heart all but stopped at the sight his eyes beheld.

"Mr. …Mr. Frodo!" He cried, louder this time, his entire body felt numb with shock.

"Yes, Sam?" Frodo answered, his tone somewhat annoyed, "Could you please pull me up!" Frodo called, "I can't hold on, the rain is making this rope dreadfully slippery. I fear I shall fall!"


A/N: First, I'll go ahead and tell you what it was that Frodo had, in case you haven't already guessed: it's tetanus. Tetanus frequently begins with a headache, and irritability, and sometimes muscle cramps in the area of the injury. Usually the next thing is sore jaw and neck muscles, hence the name "lockjaw". The rictus sardonicus the creepy "grin" which is caused due to muscle contractions in the person's face. The symptoms become more severe, and it has been known to break bones, as well as backs, as the illness progresses. It is nearly always fatal when untreated, and sometimes even with treatment people still die. Luckily, we have vaccines today to prevent infection.

Due to the nature of Frodo's injury, with the deep wound and bone being exposed after his fall [open compound fracture, resulting from a high fall], and the dirt and grime of the Emyn Muil, I felt that there was a pretty real chance that he could have developed tetanus. Tetanus bacteria develops in soil, or where fertilizer is present. I believe Sam would have recognized the symptoms, as I feel certain that it's not an illness that is alien to the Shire (a farming community, breeding ground for tetanus bacteria).

About the fic and it's ending:

Basically, the whole fic, after mid-way through the first chapter was a "dream" Sam had after he slipped and hit his head on the rocks atop the cliff. So, as soon as he lowered Frodo over the edge, he had slipped himself and fallen and was knocked unconscious for the remainder of the fic. The fic was his dream—or nightmare, in this case.

Confusion about events Sam understood in his "dream":

There are some parts that I would probably change, to ensure the credibility of the fic, and that it was a dream on Sam's part. The two major conflicting factors would be:

Gollum The Dead Marshes.

Gollum: Sam had surely heard Bilbo's adventure stories umpteen times, including vivid descriptions of Gollum. By the first chapter of my fic, Sam and Frodo know they are being followed, and by whom. Sam's imagination put:

The fact that Gollum was following them


Bilbo's descriptions of Gollum and what he had heard from others (like Gandalf) regarding the name Smeagol.

Combining the two allowed him to create his own "monster" of sorts. :)

The Dead Marshes: Frodo and Sam could see, and no doubt smell, the Marsh from the Emyn Muil. I left out any details about seeing "dead faces"; because I don't think that's something he could have conjured up without seeing it or hearing talk of it first.

Anyway, thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed it; I certainly enjoyed writing it. :) Look for the epilogue to "September" soon. I hope to begin writing it this week. Then that will leave me free to pursue another route of Frodo-angst. :) Perhaps next time I'll do something from "Return of the King".