This vignette was a response to a challenge posted by Claudia at the Frodo Interspecies Tales group. The story had to include the words "damp, mushrooms, fragrant", and in it, Frodo had to be interacting with one or more Big Folks.

DISCLAIMER: Of course. The characters don't belong to me, I just get to think about them day and night.


It was nearly midnight, and the rain had finally ceased. Éomer strolled through one of Meduseld's many courtyards, enjoying the clear skies and glittering stars. It had been a long day, one of many emotions. His uncle now lay entombed beneath a barrow, in honored rest. No sooner had everyone returned to the Golden Hall than the rains had come, the skies also weeping, perhaps, for his uncle. Later had come the magnificent feast, attended by folk so fair it captured one's breath… and his sister radiantly happy at last, and betrothed to Faramir… it was too much to encompass. He stopped under a tree, inhaling the scent of fragrant blossoms and rain-washed air. Looking about, he was surprised to see someone else in the courtyard the Ringbearer sat alone on one of the large benches, gazing up at the stars.

"Frodo," Éomer called, walking towards the hobbit, "you are about at a late hour but I see you are also enjoying the night skies."

"My Lord," Frodo gasped. He hopped off the bench, careful of his well-wrapped ankle, then dropped to one knee on the damp ground and bowed his head.

Éomer's eyes grew wide, and he crouched down in front of the hobbit.

"Frodo," he said softly, "please do not kneel to me."

"But…" Puzzled, Frodo raised his head. "You are King of Rohan, my Lord."

"Sadly, that is now true," said Éomer. He reached out and helped the hobbit to his feet. "You do not kneel before King Elessar," he reminded Frodo.

"He has forbidden it," Frodo sighed. "He said that if either Sam or I ever knelt before him, he would issue a dreadful edict."

"Did he?" Éomer smiled. "And what edict would that be?"

"Hobbits are… fond of mushrooms, my Lord quite fond of them, actually." Frodo grinned. "The King has decreed that for every second Sam and I spend on our knees before him, the hobbits of the Shire will be deprived of mushrooms for one week."

"Such a dire threat!" Éomer laughed. "I may have to issue just such an edict, myself." Suddenly he grew concerned. "Frodo, what are you doing out here? Surely you did not risk further injury to your ankle by walking all this way?"

Frodo shook his head. "I asked Aragorn to bring me; he will soon return to take me to my room."

"And you are cold!" Although the summer night was quite balmy, Éomer could see that Frodo had begun to shiver slightly. He quickly unfastened his ornate, ceremonial cloak and wrapped it around the hobbit. "Are you unwell?"

"I'm fine, truly," Frodo reassured him. "The stars are so beautiful tonight, I couldn't resist a quiet moment with them. I just don't seem to be able to…" He sighed. "It's difficult for me to stay warm."

"After your many hurts and trials, it surprises me not," said Éomer gravely. He saw Frodo try to hide a yawn. "If you will permit me, Frodo, I will take you back to your room. It is very late, and dry clothes and a warm bed will suit you better than sitting on a damp bench." When Frodo hesitated, he smiled. "I will bear you most carefully, my friend; we cannot have you tumbling down any more stairways."

Frodo laughed. "Hobbits are quite unused to stairs, and the Golden Hall has many. I have become much more careful since our arrival." He found himself yawning again, and nodded. "Thank you, I would appreciate the kindness."

Éomer carefully took Frodo into his arms, making sure that the cloak covered him well, then stood up and bore him out of the courtyard and into the vast Hall.

"Is Aragorn your king, as well, my Lord?" Frodo asked.

"He is indeed," answered Éomer, walking as smoothly as possible down the long corridor which was lit with many tapers. "He is the High King, Frodo, and I am as subject to his laws and protections as any other."

"Bilbo met two kings," Frodo murmured drowsily, "and so have I."

"Is Bilbo one of your kinsmen?"

"Dear Bilbo. He's waiting for us… to return…" Frodo, sunk deep into the dark, warm folds of Éomer's cloak, found his eyes closing.

Éomer was nearing the rooms reserved for honored guests when Aragorn came striding down the corridor towards him.

"I was just coming for him," Aragorn smiled, looking down at Éomer's small burden, now sound asleep.

"It has been a long day for us all," Éomer said. They walked together to Frodo's room, and found that Sam had laid out his master's night clothes. Éomer sat on the bed and unwrapped his cloak from the sleeping hobbit, and Aragorn gently eased Frodo out of his damp clothing and into one of the nightshirts the seamstresses of Minas Tirith had sewn for him. Frodo stirred only slightly, sensing, from deep slumber, care and safety with no hint of danger.

"He knows your touch," Éomer marveled, "and trusts you." Tucking Frodo under the blankets, he straightened up and turned to Aragorn with a frown.

"Did you know that he is often cold, even on warm nights such as this?"

"Yes." Aragorn regarded Frodo sadly. "He has become more fragile since his ordeal, and Gandalf suspects that he might remain so. Whatever lays or tales you have heard, my friend, I can assure you that what Frodo and Samwise endured is beyond the imagination of any of us. That they live at all is a joyous thing."

"That any of us survived this War, and will now work together to reunite and rebuild your kingdom, is also a joyous thing," Éomer said, talking quietly. "And your realm now includes lands full of these valiant and remarkable hobbits." He smiled at Aragorn. "I understand that you have threatened the Shire with a fate worse than death, should Frodo and Samwise kneel before you."

Aragorn chuckled. "Indeed, the loss of mushrooms to a hobbit is akin to death, I suspect!" He bent over and rested his hand on Frodo's curls for a moment. "May this be the greatest worry ever to plague you again, little one."

"Frodo is close to your heart," Éomer observed.

"He is very dear to me," Aragorn agreed, "as are his companions."

"Is everything all right, sirs?" came a voice. Sam stood in the doorway in his nightshirt, a lit candle in one hand. "Is Mr. Frodo ill?"

"Everything's fine, Sam," said Aragorn. He lay a kiss on Frodo's brow before leaving him to his peaceful sleep. "We were just bidding him goodnight." He and Éomer walked away from the bed and joined Sam in the corridor. The hobbit looked up at them, his eyes flicking from one Man to the other, obviously distressed.

"Samwise," said Éomer softly, "you are not to kneel before me, either."

"That is what I was wonderin'," Sam said, relieved. "I'd surely hate to bring about any of those…"

"Edicts," said Aragorn gravely.

"Aye, that's it," said Sam.

"I will make a deal with you, Samwise," said Éomer with a smile. "If you agree not to kneel before me, I will try to remember not kneel before you."

"Kneel to me?" Sam frowned, then started to chuckle. "That's a fine jest, sir, a fine one." He entered Frodo's room and looked back. "I'll just be seein' to Mr. Frodo myself, if you don't mind."

"You do that, Sam," said Aragorn. From where he stood, he could see Frodo's face, seemingly aglow, bathed in starlight from the window. "Don't ever stop doing that."

"I won't. Good night, sirs."

"Good night."