Title: Cold (1/5)

Author: Frodo Baggins of Bag End (FrodoAtBagEnd)

E-mail: frodoatbagend@yahoo.com

Characters: Frodo, Sam, Faramir, others

Rating: PG (A bit dark, no profanity, no sex, non-slash)

SPOILERS ALERT: if you wish to avoid them, save this story till *after* you've seen the film.

Summary: Frodo's encounter with one of the Nine in Osgiliath proves ill for him, and Sam and Faramir find themselves working together in spite of themselves.

Feedback: Welcomed. Constructive only, please. . .no flaming.

Story Notes: Movieverse-based , though this then turns and deviates from the movie. Yes, I prefer book canon over the movie, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the movie or the plot bunnies. ;)

Dedicated to Baranduin and Claudia.

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.


Chapter One: Faramir

"You have to help him!"

My attention, for the moment, was on ensuring no other Nazgul were within sight, and I found myself wryly wondering what I had just done if not helped him: that gardener may have been quick, but he could hardly have protected his master from one of the Nine for more than an instant. Yet as I turned, I saw what he meant: Frodo, despite having held a sword quite firmly to Sam's throat only moments earlier, lay nearly motionless upon the stones, a ghastly pallor blanching his narrow features. His breath came with the swift panting I had too often seen in men close to death from grave wounds or great sickness, and an icy sweat drenched the dark hair, perspiration trickling down the face, running in rivulets to the chain about his neck.

So close.

It had come so close.

And here sat his gardener, barking orders at me as if I were some lackey. Respect had been hard-won. I could feel my men's eyes upon me.

The hour of reckoning.

So be it, then.

Hurrying to the overlook where Frodo had stood, I dropped to my knees beside them, seeking signs of some injury. I had seen no blade drawn, no blow delivered by wraith or beast, yet it was now the left hand which, trembling and icy, grasped the Ring, the right clutching at his left shoulder, as if some grave injury had been dealt.

"Did anything strike him? Even a glancing blow - "

"Not just now, no." Sam shook his head insistently, his chubby brow furrowed as he searched frantically through his pack with one hand, the other presently occupied in holding Frodo's over the Ring. Finally retrieving an oversized handkerchief, he promptly proceeded with patting his master's sweat-drenched face. "It's from before. They. . .they've been chasin' him since we left home, and they stabbed him once." He glared up at me, blame writ large in the accusing brown eyes. "He needs warmth, and if I could boil some water without bein' interrupted - " (the glare darkened, and I remembered with a wince the pot we had discovered in Ithilien, the herbed stew a thin but impressively fragrant concoction) "then I might be able to make him a *proper* hot drink and try gettin' him comfortable."

Frodo stirred, gasping softly, morning-glory eyes still tightly shut as he whimpered. At once Sam began shushing him, dropping the handkerchief to rub the right hand in both of his own, his tone softening.

"It's all right, Mister Frodo; it's all right. Just you lie quiet now."

He turned back to me, and I was surprised to find that some of the angry resolve seemed to have faded.

"They said he was healed. But it's happened before. Only. . .never as bad as this."

I watched as the Ring-bearer gave a faint nod, tears beginning to trickle from beneath the heavy fringes of dark eyelashes. . .and tried to tell myself that my first duty was to my father, and to the memory of my brother. Something told me that there was more yet to his death than either of these had spoken. Perhaps they had more to do with the circumstances than they admitted. Perhaps. . .

Perhaps, I reminded myself, one should beware of "somethings."

Something had certainly drawn Frodo directly into the Nazgul's path.

Something had driven Boromir, or he would not have attacked one so small.

And something had brought these intruders into my path. Not another's.

"We will take him below. There are tunnels beneath the buildings. They are built to withstand grave danger. There is sufficient ventilation for a fire. . .and a spring providing fresh water."

"'Bout time," muttered Sam darkly, eyeing me with skepticism. I bit my lip, bending to take Frodo in my arms. He weighed little more than a small child, and I wondered at the readiness with which he allowed me to take him: indeed, he shuddered, as if chilled, and nestled at my chest a little. Sam made a slight face.

"Don't you go thinkin' that means he's forgiven you. Like as not, he's half out of his head still, and thinks you're Strider. . .Aragorn that he mentioned, the other man."

"I do not doubt you in that." Turning, I led the way down the nearest stair, moving swiftly, pausing only when I reached the bottom to ensure that the short, stout legs trotted close upon my heels.

Indeed I did not doubt it in the least.

I had given the Ringbearer precious little reason to trust me.

~to be continued~