The Calm in the Eye of the Storm

It was nearing sunrise, and the camp was silent. Dew glimmered on the white surfaces of the pointed tents and the river lapped calmly at the shore as the early-morning birds began to awaken, bringing with their song the first hint of a sweet, water scented breeze. In the clearing, the fire burned on, a steady stream of smoke curling into the midnight blue sky. On the red-hot coals, the latest in a numerous line of cooking pots rested, its peppermint and lavendar scented water beginning a boil. Over the sturdy drying rack, pieces of white cloth and tiny nightshirts lay draped, steaming gently in the cool night air. And beside the fire, two figures waited anxiously for an Elf to bring news and help from a fabled tribe of his kin, deep in the Anduin's forest.

Frodo was at his breaking point. The vomiting had stopped altogether - normally something he would have been happy about, but it had only stopped because he had no more in his stomach to bring up, not even acid. Aragorn had found a rare herb in his pack that quelled the brain-shaking heaving spasms that took so much out of the little Hobbit, and Frodo lay in the Man's arms, finally able to relax for the first time in two days without the fear of throwing up all over himself and everything else. Unfortunately, there had only been a little of the herb, and it didn't take away the quaking nausea that had Frodo lying as still as he could manage for fear that he would jar the tentative equilibrium he seemed to have achieved. The Hobbit wondered which was worse - the constant vomiting that made him limper than a wet dishrag, or the awful nausea that had his face turning a myriad of colours every five minutes. And then, of course, there was the ever-present diarrhea.

It hadn't stopped; no, far from it. In fact, it seemed to have gotten worse with every sip of ginger tea that Aragorn tried to coax Frodo to take. With the promise of water, Frodo's ravaged little body had gone into complete revolt, and his bottom was constantly wet with the thin scour that caused Aragorn to change the Hobbit's minute nappies with every spasm for fear that the sensitive skin would peel right off. Frodo was having trouble breathing, so Aragorn supported him quietly in a reclined sitting position against his own broad chest. It seemed to help; plus the sharp fumes of peppermint-lavendar tincture rubbed on the Hobbit's little chest let him take deep breaths, drawing the precious oxygen into his lungs and remedying that problem for awhile, anyway. But all the hair had been shed from the Hobbit's feet, and his skin was sunken, at its worst around the blue eyes which didn't help by constantly tearing up, releasing more of the precious water that Frodo desperately needed. And Frodo's fever was so bad that he was passing out for alarming periods of time. If the Quest did not depend so much on the health and strength of this little Hobbit, Aragorn would have done the humane thing long ago and quietly disposed of the sickened life in an act of mercy.

But Frodo had a strong will, and he would not submit to the illness. No matter how many times he passed out, something in Frodo always made sure he came back to the world of the living. He may have been throwing up for hours, but his stomach had given him a tentative rest, with the help of the alphard herb, named for the constellation in the sky. However, Aragorn was worried about the diarrhea which did not let up. Frodo had not had an outputting of urine since suppertime, and though he still complained about being put in nappies like a baby, the Hobbit was beginning to see the practicalities of that decision. He did not have any feeling left in his bowels, and any spasms that he had happened without his prior knowledge. The stool itself was the sickly colour and odour of bile, and Frodo tossed and sobbed alternately on Aragorn's lap, crying heartbreakingly whenever he was put down for any reason. The only comfort the Hobbit seemed to get was from the warmth of Aragorn's arms, and he clung to the Man like a drowning man to a lifebelt. Aragorn had never seen any man this ill, and that was the gods' honest truth.

However, there was still a glimmer of hope. Legolas had still not returned, and Aragorn took this to be a good sign that perhaps the Elf had found his kin so deep into the forest. If he had, then the herbs needed to cure Frodo would surely be in their care and the Ranger knew from the hospitality of Wood-Elves that they would gladly give some to help the heroes on their Quest. It would take another day or so for the herbs to do their job on Frodo's illness, and he could not be moved in the state that he was in. Poor Samwise Gamgee had been up and down all night, fetching and carrying faithfully for his sick little master as much as he possibly could. Finally, Aragorn had sternly sent him to his bed with strict orders to stay there. The last thing he needed was for Sam to catch Frodo's horrid complaint, and with two Hobbits ill they would have to abandon precious days that could be used on the Quest.

Aragorn was startled suddenly out of his reverie by a sharp cry from his charge, and he looked down quickly at Frodo to make sure he was all right. The little Hobbit arched his back and cried out again, the source of his pain manifesting itself in a surge of burning heat that Aragorn could feel even through two layers of thick nappies and his own pant leg. The Man had no idea what else to do but to rub Frodo's back soothingly, speaking to him in the healing Elvish tongue until the Hobbit relaxed again. However, this time Frodo did not settle back into his uneasy sleep, but began to wail most disconcertingly. Aragorn had heard that sound before; it was the sound of a man close to suicide.

"Frodo . . . hush, hush. Legolas is coming; he will bring you the herbs that you need," Aragorn tried to soothe the hobbit.

"Bilbo . . . " the hobbit sobbed. "Mama . . . it hurts, Mama . . ."

"I know, doushka, this I do know." Aragorn shifted Frodo's position so that the Hobbit was lying in his arms, and lifted the nightshirt slowly, so not to chill his tiny charge. Sure enough, the clean nappy was soaked again, and Aragorn slowly drew it off, trying not to jar Frodo. For a moment, he wished he hadn't sent Sam back to his bed so that the gardener could cradle his master while Aragorn cleaned him up. Dipping his cloth into the warm scented water, he gently sponged Frodo's buttocks and fastened a clean cloth around the Hobbit's hips. Frodo's wails quietened a bit with the comfort of being warm and dry, for the moment. Aragorn shifted him into the sitting position against his chest again and rubbed the tiny hot back, murmuring alternately in Elvish and in the language of the Rohan, which he had learned on one of his many trips and was very soothing to animals and small children.

Frodo was quiet again, his eyelids fluttering closed. Aragorn sent up a silent prayer for Legolas to return speedily; before sunrise, if at all possible.


The Elf ran quickly, his feet making no sound on the forest floor. Animals with keener hearing than his looked up at his passing, but none of them were disturbed. Elves, after all, were very like themselves, and would not harm them. So the deer and small forest animals he passed simply returned to their night's rest as the Elf speeded his way to the heart of the Anduin's forest.

There was no telling if the Elves were still there; nay, if they had ever been there at all. But Legolas knew from his vast experience of the forest where the certain herbs that Frodo needed grew; and they loved the canopy of shade they would get in its heart. He could feel the Hobbit's pain from this far away; Frodo was close to death and Legolas knew the Hobbit's future depended on his mission. So he hurried, keeping a watchful eye as the trees grew closer together and the forest floor became bare of anything but pine needles and leaves.

As he ran, he kept an ear out for the music of the Wood-Elves. As they were his kin, it was not surprising that he should be able to pick up their soul-song from quite a ways away. He could sense some sort of music, but whether it was the constant ominous bass rumble of the Dark Lord or the light flute-like sounds of the forest itself, he did not have time to determine. He was listening for the silvery bell-tones of those who knew the forest as well as the Valar that made it, and when his sensitive ears picked up the melody, he increased his speed tenfold to get there.

The problem was, he kept losing the song. He didn't know why this was; Elven-song was constant and static. Even the brass tones of the rising sun, finally showing a crack of light along the wooded horizon, didn't interrupt it. But Legolas could not hear his brethren regularly, and this worried him. Could his own hope be so strong it could pulse a melody of his homeland, falsely leading him nowhere? Legolas decided maybe the Elves wished to be hidden, and an occasional note would mix with the symphony of the forest when they were caught off guard. But he needed those notes to be more frequent, because time was running out.

It was another hour before he found the mallorn tree. They didn't grow naturally outside of Lorien; if a golden tree was found anywhere else, Elves had once been there. The Elf's light heart leaped and he stopped to examine the age of the leaves. They weren't very old - mallorn trees also didn't regenerate themselves unless Elves were around to lend them their necessary rebirthing strains of melody. Legolas knew then he was on the right track, and was as happy as he had ever been in his homeland when he glimpsed the carefully hidden silver-knotted dwellings of the Wood-Elves ahead.

He didn't know if it would reach Aragorn, but he sent out a trill of excited music towards the unhappy little clearing he had left. If Aragorn heard it, he would know help had been finally found.


The sun burst in all its flaming glory over the trees, gilding the river and lighting everything in its path. Aragorn arched his back in a stretch, feeling the stiffness of a white night deep in his bones. Frodo was asleep, his tiny worried face peaceful for the moment. Things seemed to be looking up.

And in the thrill of the melody that was the forest, a frenetic little trill sounded at the end of a phrase. Hope was still alive in these parts, and thank Eru, thought Aragorn, getting up to change Frodo before the others awakened and decisions would have to be made.

The Hobbit still had a fighting chance.