Title: A Little Walk [working title] 1/?
Author: Ancalime
Rating: PG, for a bit of wee hobbit suffering
Summary: Frodo becomes lost in Minas Tirith after deciding to take a late-night stroll
Disclaimer: I'm *so* not a dead English guy! ;)
Feedback: Please! I'm not sure I like the title, and the hamster muses just LOVE encouragement. :p

__A Little Walk, chapter 1__

Frodo sighed with relief as he stepped out of the Hall of Feasts into the cooler night air.  It was hot and stuffy inside, between the large crowds of people and the muggy summer weather.  They were having yet another celebration feast, though the particular occasion escaped his recall at the moment.  As he leaned against the cool pillar, he tried in vain to remember just why he was there, or even why he had come outside.  Oh, yes, that's right!  He had come out for air and to escape the overwhelming crowd of Big Folk.  It probably would not have been as overwhelming to a sober hobbit, but then, Frodo Baggins was not a sober hobbit.  At the beginning of the evening, he had not intended to drink much -if at all- but his cousins and Sam had pressed him to have just a little ale, to loosen him up a bit.  "It'll do you some good!" Pippin declared enthusiastically, shoving a full mug into his cousin's hand and spilling half of it in the process.

After the first couple of mugs, Frodo conceded that drinking would do him some good.  It made all his pains and worries go away, though he knew that was only temporary.  He would have one bad headache in the morning, but he certainly felt good now!  Well, no, he didn't feel *good* exactly, just numb.  Yes, that's the word.  Numb.  But numb was certainly an improvement on the pain and emptiness of before.

So he had been enjoying the free-flowing liquor as much as his fellow hobbits, though he seemed to be the last one standing.  Merry and Pippin had played one too many drinking games against each other and were now passed out in a corner of the large banquet hall.  Sam, on the other hand, was napping peacefully on a window seat.  He had been sitting by Frodo, making sure his master was all right and not too drunk or anything, but when he fell asleep, Frodo had taken the opportunity to escape.

Except the air outside wasn't much better than the air within.  Low, thick clouds obscured the stars and promised rain soon, a promise that was more than welcome by the inhabitants of the city.  The early summer weather had been sweltering these last few days, and not even nightfall brought any relief.  Frodo looked forward to the cooler weather that would follow the rain, for he did not much enjoy his clothing sticking to him like a second skin.  He soon grew restless standing by the pillar, and decided he wanted to take a little walk.  After all, he still had not seen as much of Minas Tirith as he might have liked, and now was as good a time as any.

His mind resolved, Frodo stepped off the porch and walked down the path toward the arched tunnel leading to the rest of the city.  He strode unnoticed right past the guards at the gate, for they had visited the party before coming on duty and were rather unaware of the world.  Frodo let his feet take him where they wanted as his mind wandered, paying scant attention to where he was or where he was going.

The hobbit made quite a sight, weaving unsteadily as he aimlessly walked the streets of the town.  He was brought back to himself when the clouds overhead unleashed a torrent of rain, accompanied by bright flashes of lightning and thunder rumbling across the heavens.

Frodo stood in the middle of the road, soaked to the skin, as he pondered what to do now.  He turned in circles several times, trying to remember where he had come from, and only succeeding in making himself dizzy and nauseous.  Falling to his knees, he crossed his arms acrost his stomach, trying not to add to his indignity by throwing up.  But everything came up anyway, and was quickly washed away by the pouring rain.

The rain was cold, and the breeze that now blew was cool, drawing goosebumps all over his exposed skin, and making him shiver despite the remaining heat.  His light shirt and breeches that seemed so hot before now felt non-existent as he hugged his arms to himself in an effort to retain some warmth.  Small rivers of water gurgled over the cobblestones and around his knees, drawn towards the lower levels of the city by the inexorable tug of gravity.  A little more clear-headed thanks to the cold water, Frodo realized that he would have to go opposite the water to reach the hall again.  He began to trudge back up the street, hoping he was headed in the right direction, and greatly desiring a change of clothes.

The downpour continued; the cold water striking the heated buildings produced billowing clouds of fog, and soon Frodo could not tell which way was uphill anymore.  He seemed to have reached a plateau, and had no idea where to find the gate leading up to the next level of the city.  Realizing his defeat, Frodo next looked for a place he could take shelter from the rain and wait until the storm subsided before trying again.  The nearest available doorway was suitable enough for his purposes, so he crouched down as far away from the opening as he could get, and waited.

~~~~

King Elessar stretched and sighed.  The banquet held in honor of various visiting dignitaries had proved to be a most enjoyous affair, in spite of the sticky weather.  It *was* to have been held outside in the courtyard, where the air was not quite so close, but the threat of an oncoming storm chased the party indoors.

Most of the guests had departed for their lodgings already, leaving only his servants and those asleep in the large hall.  He was not in the least bit surprised to see Merry and Pippin snoring over in one corner, having obviously greatly enjoyed the plentiful ale and wine supplied.  Aragorn scanned the cavernous room for the other two halflings he knew had to be around somewhere.  He had seen them at dinner, but afterwards when the guests were mingling, he'd quickly lost sight of the small folk amongst the large numbers of bigger folk.  Ah, there was Sam, sleeping on a window seat.  But where was Frodo?  Perhaps he'd already gone to bed; that would not have surprised him in the least.  Frodo didn't seem to enjoy these celebrations as much as the others, but the other hobbits made sure he didn't feel left out.

Aragorn went over to Sam, picking him up to take him to his bed, while two of his servants followed his lead and attended to Merry and Pippin.  The hobbits all shared a bedroom, more for convenience than anything else, as there were many folk being housed in Minas Tirith and all available lodgings were full to capacity.  When Aragorn entered, he was rather surprised to find Frodo not in sight.  He frowned, trying to think of where else the absent hobbit could be.  As he carefully laid Sam on the bed, a sudden flash of lightning and a loud rumble of thunder caught everyone by surprise, and Sam jerked awake.  The sound of rain beginning to pour relentlessly drifted through the open windows.  Realizing that Sam may know Frodo's whereabouts, Aragorn asked, "Did Frodo tell you he was going anywhere?"

Sam looked confused for a moment as he tried to make his befuddled mind work.  "He might've said he was going out for some air..."  Both pairs of eyes went to the window and the raging thunderstorm.  Silence reigned for a moment before Sam said, "He wouldn't be foolish enough to be out there in that . . . would he?"

Aragorn answered, "I hope not . . ."

Merry and Pippin, also awakened by the storm's raucous arrival, were now listening to the conversation.  Merry asked, "Has no one seen him lately?"

"Not as far as I know," Aragorn replied.

"I think he said he was going out for some air," Sam shifted uncomfortably, "but I don't rightly know.  I was more'n half asleep."

"How long ago was that?" Pippin asked.

"Uh... a while.  An half hour, at least."

"Then why don't we go look for him?  He probably didn't go far."

In silent agreement, all present left the room in search of the missing Ringbearer.

TBC