In the warm silence as spring broke in Ithilien the grass was clean and fresh and the wind sang in the boughs of the beech trees. Amongst this silence one could lose oneself in sheer peace as nature bloomed and the miracle of season changing before your very eyes. The silence was shattered, however, as one of the tent flaps burst open and a small figure appeared gasping for breath. He gripped a small crutch and used it to maneuver himself as quick as he could across the field rousing many of the wounded soldiers.

He stumbled and groaned as his wounds were disturbed by the hard ground that still clung to the icy frost. He lifted his head and his free arm found the crutch again. As quick as his partially crushed form could move he made his way to another tent and stood gasping. He wanted to bound in or call out but he could muster no more energy and fell forward.

In an instant his shaking form was caught by someone who emerged from the tent. "Pip! Honestly what gets into your head! You want to kill yourself is what it is!"

"I'm sorry, cousin," said the younger hobbit as he looked up gratefully at his rescuer. His eyes peered into Frodo's tent. "Is-"

"Shh. He's gone, Pip, you know that." Merry steadied his cousin. Pippin glanced up and blinked but Merry turned away quickly and ran a sleeve across his eyes. "You're crying." Pippin stated rather slowly as if his young mind could not perceive such a thing, yet tears filled his own eyes.

"Not now, Pip. Why did you come so quickly?"

"Oh yes!" Pippin cried almost forgetting his urgent reason for coming. "Sam's awake! Throwing a good fit in there too!" Suddenly his voice lowered. "I'm afraid for him, Merry, you don't think he'll end up like-" He was cut off by a choking sob that he could not keep in his throat much longer.

Merry tossed down Pippin's crutch and leaned his cousin on him, "We can go faster if you lean on me," he whispered. Pippin nodded, eyes still wide and teary. They left the area as Frodo's tent flap waved softly and silently in the breeze. There was sadness in the silence as the very grass and trees and breeze mourned.


"Where's Mr. Frodo!"

Merry paused in front of Sam's tent and exchanged a worried glance with Pippin. He noticed the weary fatigue in the younger hobbits eyes and sighed mournfully. *He was put through too much to be straining himself like this.*

They entered and were met instantly with Sam's fuming eyes. "Mr. Merry! Mr. Peregrin! I don't demand much but I am demanding this..!"

"Sh, Sam, I know. You can't see him right now," said Merry, warily.

"Why were we put in different tents?!" Sam raged, then fell to the covers sobbing. "I made a promise! A promise!" He rambled never ceasing.

Merry helped Pippin to sit at the foot of the bed then came to Sam's side. When he put his hand on Sam's shoulder the sobbing hobbit jumped back up and looked about, confused. He turned to Merry, eyes pleading, "I've failed him! I just know it! I promised to stay with him. To never leave his side. And I failed." He groaned and fell back as if in agony.

In moments he was reduced to occasional sobbing that racked his feeble frame. Pippin sat up and cradled his crushed arm. "Merry maybe some water," he whispered, motioning to the pitcher in the corner.

"Good idea, Pip."

Merry walked over and poured a cup full of clean, pure water that seemed to sing as clear, bright glass as it was poured. Sam did not take heed of that foreign sound, his ears too full of tears. Merry clambered onto the bed careful not to spill a drop of the precious liquid. He tilted Sam's head back and the weak hobbit complied surrendering his will. Merry poured a small stream of water into Sam's mouth and gave him a moment to swallow.

Quick as a flash Sam's teary eyes snapped open and he coughed up every last drop of water. Pippin watched in shock as his cousin was sprayed and tried to hide his chuckles.

"No, Mr. Frodo! Saving- water- for you-" Sam gasped.

Merry and Pippin stared in shock. Pippin leaned over and whispered in his cousin's ear, "How long do you suppose he went without water?"

Merry's voice cracked, "I don't know."

Sam buried his face in his pillow and sobbed, "I've lost him! Lost him! Lost him! After Gandalf told me not to and I did! I've failed!"

"Sam!" Merry cried, gripping the other hobbit by the shoulders and forcing him to look straight into his eyes. "You have not failed! Don't you ever say that! Don't you ever think that!"

Sam closed his eyes and looked away, "What do you know about it," he mumbled, "I killed him."

"What?" Merry let go of Sam and he burrowed back under the covers.

"I killed him," he repeated, his voice was muffled by the covers. "I did a terrible thing in the end. I let go."

"Let go of what?" Merry inquired.

"Hope. I let go of it after I promised him I wouldn't. I've broken so many promises don't you see. So many. Oh, it's all my fault!"

There was a long silence until Sam mustered the courage to speak again. "His last words to me- I- I didn't understand them! Oh curse me a thousand times! I didn't understand! Just one word. One word I remembered. One word I understood.."

"Sam?" Merry tugged at the covers but Sam just whimpered.

"Mellon. That's what he called me. Friend. I can remember it from Moria. It's all I have left of him now. But- he called me friend. I can barely remember if he called me that before. I was too off my head to remember. But I've failed him now. I did not deserve to be called a friend. I was his servant! And a terrible servant I was!"

"Off your head? What are you talking about?"

"Merry!" Pippin scolded, "You could be a little softer than that. After all he's gone through."

"I'm sorry. But, Sam, tell me, what happened out there?"

And so Sam burst like a dam and his tears flowed as anxious as the river behind it. He told of everything and his sentences ran together and stumbled over each other but Pippin and Merry just nodded understandingly and gave him a tight embrace when he broke down into nothing but sobs and gasps. Finally the tale was spilled and not a fact was left out. They knew of Frodo's madness. Of Gollum's treachery. They knew of the water and Frodo saving Sam. They learned of the torment and the anguish and somewhere deep inside them they felt it too. The three hobbits consoled each other but Merry and Pippin had not the time to tell their tales.

Sam had seemed to be broken entirely, mind body and spirit there was nothing left of him. When the tale was over and Sam tried to recall Frodo's dying words he fell back to the pillows and wept repeating over and over; "I've failed him! I've failed him!"

Merry glanced at Pippin and both hobbits nodded. "He is not dead, Sam."

Sam sat bolt upright, "He's- he's alive?" he whispered hoarsely.


Sam was gripped by a sudden madness and strength as he snatched Merry's collar and held his face close to his own. He growled angrily, "Where is he!? Why am I not beside him!?"

"Sam," Merry said softly easing himself from Sam's grip. "He's- he's not who he once was."

"What are you talking about?" Sam spat.

"He's-" Merry stuttered.

"Now, Sam don't you go taking this out on Merry!" Pippin jumped in protectively.

Sam gaped at the bandaged hobbit, "Pip. What happened?"

Pippin's face turned red but he said nothing. A slight frown creased Merry's brow, "We have all seen our trials, Samwise."

Sam gripped his head as if he were struck by a hard blow. "Oh I'm sorry! Sorry! Sorry! How terrible I must seem! But you said he was alive. You must take me to him. Nothing would heal me better than to see him alive. To see Frodo again without the terrible influence of the Ring. To see Frodo, our old Frodo again, alive and well."

Merry glanced at Pippin warily.

"Sam this is hard. So hard on everyone," Merry began. Sam just stared at him wide eyed and expecting the worst. "You see, Sam he took a terrible blow to his head. Mind you he's healthy. Well what I mean is- that he's alive. Well of course he's alive- but I mean- I mean he's- well he's not dead, Sam." Merry began but he fumbled with his words trying to put this as easily as he could possibly do.

Pippin cleared his throat, "What Merry means is. He's alive and he's well-"

Sam grew agitated, "Yes, yes I know that."

"Well you see he's alive and well but- but the person-"

Merry broke in, "The person we're talking about is not Frodo."

Sam groaned and rolled his eyes, "What do you mean? I'm sure there are a lot of people out there that are alive and well and *not* Frodo. But I want to hear about Frodo. Is he alive- or-" Sam choked.

Merry and Pippin exchanged glances again, "We don't know."

Sam groaned again, "How can you not know!"

"We don't know if he's in there," Pippin blurted out.

"What?" cried Sam.

Merry put a hand on Sam's shoulder, "He's not the Frodo we knew, Sam."

This was all Sam needed to hear he was on his feet in a flash and storming out of the tent. He burst outside taking absolutely no notice to the spring as it blossomed around him. He looked left and right at all the tents then spun around and growled at Merry and Pippin. "Take me to him! I want to see for myself!"

Merry and Pippin exchanged their wary glances again and complied.

A/N........Weeeell?? Not a bad start? Hah but I didn't kill him now did I? The question is; Is this much worse? Oh please Review! Next chapter should be up soon.