Authors Quick Note – This story explores the idea about what might have happened if Strider had come to the Shire to forewarn Bilbo Baggins about the Ring Wraiths that would soon come hunting for the One Ring. Commences a few days before Bilbo's Birthday party and before Gandalf returns to the shire as well.

Strider had vows to protect Bilbo when the Ring Wraiths are sent by the Dark Lord but he is unaware that the legacy of who is to carry the Ring to be destroyed falls upon a totally different Baggins hobbit.

Disclaimer - I do not own any of these characters but enjoy writing them and their

adventures together.



recap of last chapter:

With a weakened tug on the band, the gold ring slipped from the hand of the halfling, enabling him to become visible again. Though it was not his physical form that shattered the hearts of his friends, but a second shriek of agony that drew the attention of all.

"MR FRODO!" Sam shouted, never hearing his master utter such a cry before.

The stout hobbit's vision had become blocked by that of the head Ringwraith. His attention and that of Merry and Pippin had still mostly been on Strider and the tumultuous fight that was still occurring between the Ranger and the two dark servants.

Sam now forgot all about watching the Ranger, and taking a few steps back around some stone ruins, rushed to get to his stricken friend.

Strider had heard Frodo's scream of pain, but was unaware of what had unfolded. With a flick of his wrist and the sword, the two Ringwraiths that he had been battling, suddenly retreated away from the ruins, back to whence they had come. Their screams echoing into the night.

Strider had stopped calmly for a moment, noting that the remaining Wraith had turned its shrouded head at the screams uttered by the other two. This time he did not seek his sword to vanquish his foe, but rather the one other weapon that he held in his left hand.

As the Wraith turned to face him, Strider threw the lit torch where the face should be, the creature flailing and screaming as the flames around it grew and seemed to consume him. It followed the other two into the darkness, the fire still burning the black fabric of its cloaks.

Watching for a moment to make sure they would return soon, Strider heard Sam's desperate pleas for him to come and help his master. Merry and Pippin had followed

Sam, but at seeing their cousin gravely wounded, stood stunned for a moment and not knowing what needed to be done.

Sam had reached Frodo as the last of the Ringwraith's was defeated by Strider, but his relief at reaching his master's side soon resolved into fear and horror as he saw the stab wound in Frodo's shoulder.

Frodo was unable to hold back the cries of pain, his face pulled into an awful grimace, his teeth clenched together tightly as he tried his best to work with the pain and not against it. But his efforts were getting sluggish and weaker. Though the initial scream had been more from the shock of being stabbed, the pain now engulfing his whole body.

"Strider!" Sam shouted a second time, just in time to see the Ranger kneel at his master's side. Sam couldn't stop the tears from running down his face at Frodo's fate.

"Pippin, get my bag, hurry!" Strider instructed, not looking up at the youngest hobbit, but the urgency in his voice being emphasis enough of how dire Frodo condition was. "Merry, you go and get that fire in the camp going good and strong now." The hobbit obeying immediately.

Pippin was halfway back with the bag in hand, running as fast as his little legs would carry him, when Frodo let out another cry of pain, tearing at his heart. He almost threw the bag at the Ranger in his haste to get to his fallen cousin.

Strider didn't explain what he was doing, reaching in and finding some bandaging material and balling it up and compressing it against the open wound, trying to stop the blood flow.

Frodo emitted a low guttural moan from the contact of the cloth, Sam immediately reaching for his hand and squeezing it gently to let the injured hobbit know that he was there. Whether his master was aware of his presence was difficult to tell.

"I am going to carry him back to the camp. I will be able to tend to him better there, and the warmth of the fire will be useful," Strider informed the two hobbits.

Merry had been scurry about the campsite, finding every stick of wood there was to be found. All the time, his heart constricting with his worry for Frodo, his hands shaking from what such a dreadful injury might mean for his cousin.

"Mr Pippin, you take the bag back for Strider," Sam urged the young hobbit, noting his pale face and the tears he had shed for Frodo. No doubt he had not seen Frodo so badly hurt before. There was a brief nod from Pippin, too scared to use his voice and his eyes fixed on every movement the Ranger made towards his cousin.

Frodo was almost spent physically and mentally from the pain, exhaustion setting into his features and his head lolling to one side. Strider carefully move his legs so that he would be able to lift in him in one fluent motion. The lifting of his shoulders and upper body was going to prove much more difficult and heart wrenching for all of them.

"Sam, you lift his head as much as you can. No doubt he will feel pain, but that may become unavoidable for a moment," Strider instructed. Sam nodded his understanding and set himself in place behind his master's dark head of curls.

Frodo's eyes had been closed, and Sam thought him to be unconscious until Strider placed his large arms underneath the hobbit's lower body. Immediately Frodo's eyes flew open as pain coursed through him. Sam did as he was asked and slipped his hands gently beneath the curls, lifting Frodo's head a few inches off the ground.

Frodo had utter half a cry, his voice and body unable to provide more than that to the pain from movement. His head rested against the Ranger's broad chest as Strider stood to his full height, bearing the small weight as though the most precious burden he had ever had to bear.

Strider's own features grew into a mask of concentration as he become aware of how dire the injury was to the halfling and what skills were going to be necessary to help him survive. They had only a little time, or Frodo's life might slip away from them forever.

Pippin came back to the campsite before Sam and Strider. The Ranger's steps were small, trying as best he could not to jostle his patient. The ground was uneven and any slip may be fatal for Frodo.

Merry had stopped gathering the wood as soon as he heard rushed footsteps approaching. The tear stained face of his younger cousin made his own heart constrict further. They held each other as they stood back and allowed the Ranger as much room as necessary to approach the blankets by the fire that had been carefully laid out.

"Sam, we are going to need as much water as we can spare. If the skins are emptied tonight, we will be able to gain more tomorrow," the Ranger said, reassuring the hobbits about their water supply, but not certain what tomorrow might bring in terms of continuing their journey.

Strider carefully as he could, lay Frodo on the blankets, easing him down, but still able to hear barely audible whimpers of pain that escaped the pale lips. The hobbit's face was waxen in appearance, his body trembling a little from the torrent of pain.

Sam appeared at his side with a bucket of clean fresh water. Merry and Pippin sat together, looking on, but their emotions and worry for their cousin, preventing them from doing much more than watch. They each held a blanket, ready to pass them to Strider when he asked for them. At least they would be able to offer some comfort to Frodo, even though a small gesture.

Strider placed a folded cloak beneath Frodo's head, keeping it a little more elevated than the rest of his body. The darkening stain a little more visible now with the flicker of the campfire giving a little welcome light.

Sam wanted desperately to help, but was mindful of disturbing the Ranger's concentration from the most important task at hand. His gaze kept wandering back to Frodo's face, noticing the closed eyes and the pinched expression at times.

"I am going to cut away the waist coat, and then cut the shirt here," Strider explained, pointing with his finger to the general area. There was no other choice, any attempt at trying to remove the weskit by conventional methods would cause Frodo unbearable pain, perhaps much more than any of them could risk.

"You might want to hold his hand while I do this, and be prepared to hold him a little firmer if I ask for it," Strider warned. With a small knife, he began cutting at the stitching that held together the side seam of Frodo's vest.

Sam took Frodo's limp hand in his own, noting that it was cold to the touch. Even pressing his lips to the surface of the skin told him that his master's body was dealing the effects of shock.

"Its alright, my dear, you just rest and let Mr Strider take good care of you," Sam said, barely able to control the emotion that was just under the surface. He told himself that he had to remain strong for his master.

Frodo turned his head slightly as part of his subconscious recognized tugs to the fabric of his vest. His lips pressed together as though he wanted to speak, but the exhaustion prevented him from finding the voice to do so. His eyebrows quirked, and then his eyes squeezed tightly together as the flame of pain was reignited within him. His suffering was evident to all and not easy for any of them to see.

A few more moments and the front of the vest was removed to allow clear view of the soiled and blood-stained shirt. The back of the vest remained underneath Frodo's shoulder and for now, there it would remain.

Strider cut a large section from the left side of Frodo's shirt, not wanting to expose his entire upper chest to the outside elements, and risk any further chill to his skin. "Hand me a cloth please."

A cloth was placed in his hand by Pippin, tears still falling down the younger hobbit's face as he watched the Ranger work on his barely conscious cousin. The sight of the blood on his shirt and the gasps of pain from Frodo were almost too much.

"This is going to hurt him, hold him steady Sam," Strider said, his voice solemn for what was going to be a terrible experience for all.

No soon had the cloth been placed with a gentle hand over the wound, Frodo attempted to rise, wanting to escape the pain, his upper body writhing in agony and torment. Sam's tears had resurfaced, but his strength held, doing his best to restrain the ailing hobbit and prevent further injury to himself.

"Stop it, can't you see you are hurting him more. He can't take it, stop it," Pippin blurted out, and then burrowing his head against Merry, his emotions running over.

Strider heard Pippin's requests to stop, but did not comply. They had to do as much as they could for Frodo to save his life. When he did withdraw the cloth a few moments later, reaching for a fresh one, he was startled by what he saw.

The ranger couldn't describe it well enough, and though one would expect the cloth to be stained red, the colour seemed much darker. Black almost. The amount of blood, or the lack of it also concerned Strider. There was not enough. The edges of the wound crusting with dark congealed blood.

"What does that mean?" Merry asked upon seeing the stained cloth. He had seen blood before, but never that colour on any hobbit nor any other creature. Sam appeared to be just as puzzled by the dark colour.

"Frodo has been stabbed by a most evil weapon. Perhaps by the most deadliest weapon at the hands of the servants of Sauron. A Morgul Blade," Strider said grimly.

The hobbits looked back at each other, fearful, but having not heard such a name before. What it meant for Frodo's chances of survival and recovery they were uncertain.

"This wound is beyond my skill to heal. Frodo needs Elvish medicine. I will do what I can until we can reach the safety of Rivendell," Strider admitted. He had seen but one such injury before, and he had no wish to see any other living creature have to experience such torment and cruelty.

"Sam, I am going to have to ask for your assistance. But this task I fear will cause much distress to you and Frodo. You must remain strong for your master."

Sam nodded his head in agreement, but was not trusting of his voice. He did not want to cause his master any more pain or discomfort. "Tell me what to do."

"I need you to gently push the skin together to close the wound, so that I may wrap it. I dare not stitch it as I fear of the infection that may be causing the dark stain to his blood," Strider said. Though he did not lie to the hobbits, he erred on the side of caution and gave only what information was absolutely necessary. To tell them of the horrors that Frodo may face from such a dreadful injury would do naught good until they could seek further assistance.

"With my bare hands?" Sam said, his mind a whirl at such a thing. "I will do what I must of course, but I fear to say that doing such a thing to my master is done because there is no other choice."

"Wash your hands thoroughly in a small amount of water that we have remaining," Strider instructed. "I am going to give a few small sips into Frodo's mouth. We will need to keep his fluid intake up over the next few days, even if he is unable to drink for himself."

Sam washed his hands as was asked, his heart pounding in his chest and his knees weak. Strider had taken one of the water skins and after lifting Frodo's head as gently as he could, poured a few drops into the hobbits mouth.

Frodo had been scarcely aware of the Ranger's actions, letting forth a small cough as the liquid slid down the back of his throat. His response to anything around him become more and more lax, his consciousness holding on by a thin thread.

Strider readied the bandages that would be used to bind the shoulder wound, shortening the lengths of fabric as was necessary, allowing for the smaller body size. He looked back at Sam and saw the uncertainty written on his face about what he was being asked to do, but the stoic expression about what needed to be done was also present.

The Ranger turned to Merry and Pippin, knowing that they would experience just as much anguish as Sam at what was about to happen to Frodo. "This is going to hurt him a lot, but I need to bandage the wound. To help stop the bleeding and to keep out any further risk of infection."

The two hobbits huddled closer into each other, heeding the Ranger's explanation, trying to use each other as a source of strength for Frodo's sake.

"Ready?" Strider asked Sam in a quiet voice. The stout hobbit nodded briefly and concentrated on Frodo's shoulder.

"Place your hands here and here," Strider instructed, pointing to the area of skin where the arm joined the shoulder and up higher on the neck near the collar bone. "Push a little, but not too hard all at once."

"Alright, now!" Strider said and Sam sprung into action, placing his hands exactly where he had been shown and pressing the skin, urging them together so that the gash was closed. The wound began to bleed again, the darkened blood oozing out and running down underneath Frodo's armpit.

What Sam was not prepared for was the utter primal scream of pain that his master let forth when his hands started pushing. It was low in tone and held so much pain within it, Sam's face awash with tears, but his hands remaining firm.

Merry and Pippin cried against each other, Frodo's cried of pain tearing at their hearts and souls. They tried to shield their eyes from the site of the blood.

"He cannot take much more than this," Sam said as his master tried his best to buck against the hands that restrained him. "He is hurting so much."

The struggles beneath Sam's hands although strong to begin with, soon faltered and began to wan as Frodo's strength reached its breaking point. His breathing was becoming more and more laboured. Tears streamed down his face when his voice became hoarse and barely audible.

Sam felt his own heartbeat stop, when without warning, the cries and struggles ceased. Frodo's body beneath his hands went completing limp, a small breath of air escaping through his pale lips, and his head lolling to the side.

Strider had seen Frodo cease moving, and had immediately stopped his bandaging of the wound, placing two fingers against the halfling's throat, looking for the beat of life. It was there, perhaps a little sluggish and weak, but Frodo was still alive.

"Fear not, Samwise. Your master has reached the end of his endurance and is unconscious. Do not fear, he has done very well, when others may not have been so lucky to survive this long from such a wound. He is now without pain for a time, and it is best so. You may remove your hands. I am almost finished bandaging the wound."

It took a few moments for the words that Strider spoke to sink in for Sam. He began to lift his hands from his master, they were stained dark in places from the blood, and trembling greatly.

Merry and Pippin had pulled themselves out of their own emotional states after seeing the distressed Sam, going to him and helping to his feet briefly and leading him to a large rock only a few steps away. Sam's gait was unsteady and his own features pale, that they feared he was on the verge of collapse.

Sam held the two hands up in front of him, speaking out loud, but at no one in particular. His voice was full of emotions, confusion and horror at what he had just done.

"My hands held Mr Frodo's wound together as you commanded. Now they are stained with the blood and caused him more pain. I shall never forget this night. Not at long as I still breathe. My hands, his blood…….."

and now the story moves forward again:

Over the horizon, the sky was darkening with nightfall once more. Almost a full day had past since last night, one that the hobbits and Ranger would remember for a long time to come. For Frodo, perhaps a lifetime.

Strider has urged on the side of caution at moving Frodo immediately after the wound was bandaged, sensing that the hobbit's body and strength reserves were spent. Although the need to get Frodo to medical treatment was of the utmost urgency, there was also a need to heed to the signs from his body that spoke of the dangers of making such a journey with too much haste.

Merry, Pippin and Sam had slept for most of the day, out of exhaustion and emotional worry over Frodo. But also at the insistence of Strider, who advised that the majority of their journey to Rivendell where possible would be under the cover of darkness.

For the first few hours, Sam had slept only in short bursts, awakening to each whimper and moan of pain from his master. The stout hobbit had been deeply affected by having to watch his long-time friend battle the pain from the morgul wound.

Strider had stayed beside his patient for most of the night, carefully monitoring his breathing, heart rate and the amount of blood loss. Although the Ranger was competent in his own abilities as a healer, he was truly afraid of what effect of symptoms would develop in someone as slight as Frodo.

Lightly brushing his fingertips over the pale brow, checking for a change in temperature, but also as a comforting gesture, knowing that this gentle being had already suffered greatly at the hands of Sauron's servants and it was difficult to know how much was yet to be endured.

"You have shown yourself to be brave, Frodo," Strider whispered in soothing tones. "Don't let evil rule your path, let the light guide you and the love of those around you be your stepping stones."

The Ranger had never expected a reaction from the hobbit, thinking that Frodo was too deeply unconscious to have taken heed of his comforting words. He was more than surprised to see those beautiful blue eyes open for a moment. There was pain yes, and confusion within those limpid pools, but there also seemed to be a spark of determination.

Frodo's eyes had closed again and he looked as though he had not stirred at all. The temperature of his skin was not a concern at the moment. Not cold and not warm, but somewhere in between.

Strider pulled the blanket covering the hobbit up further until it was under Frodo's chin. The temperature of his skin may be misleading, and he could not risk a chill setting in on an already weakening body.

"Has he woken at all?" came Sam's voice from behind Strider. Turning, the Ranger could see Sam approaching with careful footsteps, as though he was afraid that he would awaken and disturb his master, Mr Frodo.

Although Strider knew that Frodo's opening his eyes didn't amount to much when the injury was so dire, he could see that Sam needed some reassurance that his master was going to be able to overcome this foe. That Sam himself could find a way to cope with the events that had unfolded.

"Frodo opened his eyes but a few moments ago," Strider said truthfully, but leaving out any further details about Frodo's lack of response for most of the night. "He needs to rest at the moment, and any excessive time awake will only deplete his energy levels further. It is best that he sleeps for now."

Sam appeared quite satisfied with the Ranger's explanation, even bending down and sitting beside Strider, and taking the time to tell his master, whilst fussing over the blankets himself. "You heard what Strider here had to say, Mr Frodo. You just rest and don't worry about anything. We are all going to take good care of you."

Sam found himself wiping dry his eyes, trying not to let the tears fall down his face in front of Strider. Not here. Not now, when Frodo needed him the most. He would be the strong one for a while, and care for his master as best he could until they could reach more help at Rivendell.

With their night of walking almost ready to begin, Strider roused Merry and Pippin so that they could eat a little before they set out on the journey. Sam had made some small meals out of fruit and bread and cheese, hoping to tempt Mr Pippin at least.

Both Merry and Pippin still seemed to be lacking in sleep, each clutching a slice of bread in their hand, but looking over forlornly at their unconscious cousin and feeling guilty that they were able to enjoy something so simple as the bread, when Frodo was in so much pain.

"Don't you young hobbits go worrying now, Mr Frodo would not want you to be going without food now on account of his sake!" Sam said, trying to encourage them to eat the morsels of food without sounding like he was scolding them.

"Will Frodo be having anything to eat before we leave?" Pippin asked in a small voice.

Strider smiled and could sense the deep worry and concern plaguing all three hobbits at present about their friend and cousin. "Fear not, I plan to give Frodo a nourishing drink before we leave tonight. Something that will help replenish the blood that he had already lost and help him become a little stronger."

"Is that all? A drink?" Merry asked, not doubting that the Ranger knew what was best, but like Pippin, thinking that Frodo would be needing to consume more than liquid to start the healing process.

"The drink is a special mixture that had been used on many patients in the past who have suffered blood loss and shock such as Frodo. Would you like to help me make it?" Strider asked, knowing that it was very important for the hobbits to feel that they were helping Frodo in some small way.

"Yes," Pippin and Merry both answered in unison. Sam had packed away the dishes, preparing to leave, and as soon as he was done, resumed his seat beside his master.

Strider brought his bag out into the open beside Frodo, and allowed the two wide-eyed and inquisitive hobbits to see what was being prepared. He explained a little about the ingredients as he worked, making sure that the correct measurements were used.

"This is ordinary sugar, to help Frodo regain some energy. Shock and blood loss take their tolls on patient's and take away their strength," the Ranger instructed. Merry and Pippin watched the spoonfuls of sugar being mixed with a cup of water. Only when the sugar was fully dissolved did he reach for the next ingredient.

"This is salt. Like Sam uses in cooking. This is the most important part of the mixture as it will aid Frodo to overcome the effects of blood loss. Three parts water, one part sugar and one part salt."

Pippin could be heard to hitch in his breath at hearing of what the Ranger was mixing for Frodo to drink. He wouldn't dream of touching something as horrid as that to drink. How did Strider think he was going to encourage Frodo to drink it?

"Frodo is not going to like it," Merry said straight forwardly, knowing his cousin's unique stubborn streak that didn't always show through on the surface of his handsome face.

"He probably won't be aware that he is swallowing, and it is best so for now," Strider replied. "I do not expect him to take more than 2 or three spoonfuls now, but we will keep the mixture and when we pause to rest, give him more. It will become a regular part of his care over the next few days to compensate for the amount of blood he has lost."

"Still must taste pretty awful," Pippin admitted, his face grimacing a little at what such a mixture might taste like to someone who was conscious and aware of what was being forced upon them.

"I may need your assistance for a moment," Strider informed them. "Samwise, you support your master's head and I will spoon the mixture carefully into his mouth.

Merry and Pippin, I may need you to calm Frodo should he become more aware and try to expel it."

All three hobbits nodded their understanding and were only too willing to help their stricken friend as much as possible. Sam knelt behind his mater's dark head of curls and after a brief nod from Strider, placed both of his hands very carefully behind Frodo's head. He raised it only a little above the blanket being used as a pillow, fearing that too much movement would disturb the bandaged wound and cause fresh bleeding.

Frodo seemed to sense Sam's touch, at some level anyway, attempting to turn his face a little when he felt himself being moved. But the relief in Sam and the other hobbits was short lived when they heard a raspy gasp of air escape Frodo's lips, indicating that even taking a simple breath was causing him immeasurable pain.

With his lips slightly parted now, Strider had the perfect opportunity to give the first few spoonfuls of his mixture to Frodo. Placing a small amount on the front edge of the spoon, he carefully dribbled the salt and sugar solution into Frodo's mouth.

Merry, Pippin and Sam all held their breath as they waited to see the reaction that they all expected, but fortunately for them and more so for Frodo, it did not eventuate. The small amount of liquid trickling down and coating his throat, his neck muscles contracting enough for them to see the involuntary swallowing.

"You did well, Frodo," Strider whispered to the unconscious hobbit. "Rest now, and continue to regain your strength," he voiced, more for reassurance of Frodo's friends.

He knew that the battle that lay ahead of Frodo would be a long and difficult one, but he tried to give encouragement where he could.

"Is there anything else we can do for him?" Sam asked as the very gently lowered his master's head back onto the makeshift pillow. He caressed the dark curls for a moment, noting their softness, and for a brief moment, feeling utterly helpless that this had happened to Frodo and he had been unable to do anything to prevent it.

Someone as caring, wonderfully giving and generous as his master, who deserved no less than to be loved and be surrounded by his friends and family. Now they all found themselves in an unfamiliar places with even less familiar foes around them, but no less menacing or threatening. For saving Middle Earth Gandalf had said, and Sam fully understood why his master had taken on such a task. To save Hobbiton and those he cared about the most, but who would save Frodo?

"I would like to recheck the wound briefly to make sure the bandages have remained in place and that there has been no significant amount of fresh bleeding, but then we need to begin our journey towards Rivendell whilst the night sky acts as our cloak and shields us against increasing evil.

Once the Ranger was satisfied that he had made Frodo as comfortable as possible to begin walking, he first placed his pack over his shoulder and secured his weapons so that he would have two free hands to carry his injured patient. Wrapping a folder blanket and tucking it around his left arm, Strider placed one hand under Frodo's slender neck, and one underneath his knees and lifted.

Frodo gave a moan of pain that caused concern from Sam and his cousins, but Strider had remained focused on settling the hobbit in his arms, knowing that any amount of movement would undoubtedly cause him discomfort. Apart from the first protest of pain, Frodo made no other sound to show that he had awoken, his head now laying comfortably against the Ranger's arm, the back of his neck supported by the folded blanket.

Strider ensured his sword would be close enough to be drawn against any threat as they walked, but for now their main purpose had to be getting Frodo to Rivendell and the medical attention he desperately needed.

Sam gathered his own belongings, and then tucked the edges of the blanket around his master to help keep out the night air. He would remain as close as he could to his master tonight as they walked, knowing that he needed to know that Frodo was alright.

From the moment they set out that night, Strider became aware of how different the continuation of the night was going to be. Before leaving Bree and before they reached Weathertop, the hobbits had come to sort themselves out into a particular pattern as they walked.

This pattern rarely changed, and it meant that not only could the Ranger keep an alert eye over his companions, but it meant that they were also able to keep track of each other. Should one of them start lagging behind because of tiredness, the other hobbits were soon to notice.

Strider heard a small voice beside him ask, "He is alright isn't he?" Pippin questioned, a frown on his face. A deep concern that the youngest member of the group felt just as any of his companions.

Merry had watched over Frodo when they stopped for short rests and Sam hovered near his master at all times during their journey. Pippin's emotion and inner turmoil over what had happened to his older cousin were more evident in his facial expressions.

"We are doing everything we can to take good care of him, Master Pippin," the Ranger replied, not wanting to dash the young hobbit's hope that Frodo would overcome this most terrible injury, nor put more fear into him over the graveness of the situation.

They were still many days away from the help that Frodo truly needed to survive, but now was not to dwell on what was not before them. For now, he needed to keep the hobbits on continuing towards Rivendell.

"We shall stop here for tonight," Strider announced as they came across a secluded and sheltered area. They had travelled about eight hours this night, more than he had suspected the hobbits to accomplish when their minds were on Frodo.

"Sam, will you get a small fire going. I wish to get some warm liquid down into Frodo's stomach if he will take it. The Ranger knew that a fire was a risk of drawing attention to their whereabouts. But the night air was chilly and it would serve no purpose for any of the hobbits to get too cold during the early morning hours until dawn.

Pippin tried to take his mind off Frodo's condition and their bleak journey, "Dark out here this time of night isn't it?" he asked, before realising how gloomy his question sounded.

Merry put a reassuring hand on the younger hobbit's shoulder, "It just looks dark because we can't see the moon. Don't worry, Pip, the sun will start rising in a few hours and the daylight will make things seem much brighter."

All had heard Merry's optimistic outlook, and knew that he had been talking about Frodo's recovery as well as the night sky. Strider knew that the hobbits had to stick together now more than any other part of their journey, and they would need to give each other the encouragement and confidence to carry on. If not for their own sakes, then for Frodo.

The hot drinks were gratefully accepted once ready. The warmth the mugs generated seeping into the hobbit's small hands. Strider set a half filled mug aside to allow it to cool more. He also drew the salt and sugar mixture that Pippin had helped prepare.

Merry and Pippin set about helping to set out blankets for bedding. Once he was satisfied that the Merry and Sam's beds where prepared, Pippin turned towards Strider with blanket still in hand, a questioning look on his face.

"Will you be sleeping today?" thinking it an odd sounding question. He knew that Strider would probably need some rest before they set off walking again. Though Frodo's fragile condition was a great worry for them all, and someone would no doubt need to be watching over him.

Strider smiled at the young hobbit, "I have been a Ranger for a number of years, Master Pippin. I have taught myself to rely on less sleep when underneath the sky. Have no fear, I will take care of your cousin today while you, Merry and Sam rest."

"Might get a bit cold though, so you better take this," Pippin said sheepishly, handing the blanket to the Ranger.

Whatever the faults of hobbits as thought by other races, lack of care and consideration for others was certainly not one of them, Strider noted to himself. Although circumstances beyond their control had brought him into their company, and although scared and unsure of the immediate future, the hobbits found strength in each other.

Later that day, the camp was quiet. The three hobbits were huddled together in their blankets, taking what refuge in sleep that they could. At first it had taken some time to convince Sam that he could not watch over his master every waking minute.

After clearing away the mugs, Sam had taken up position next to Frodo. He held his limp, pale hand and watched intently for any sign on his master's face of movement or consciousness. There was none, and with each passing hour, Sam's heart seemed to constrict a little more about the plight of Frodo.

Diligently, Sam had aided Strider in dosing Frodo with the sugar and salt mixture.

Frodo attempting to turn his head away from the cup, perhaps sensing the bitter taste that was to come. Sam had whispered a few comforting words of reassurance, his voice appearing to work, calming him down enough for a small swallow to be placed in his mouth and trickle down his throat.

Frodo's brow had furrowed briefly, his eyelids twitching, as though he was trying to wake. Sam had almost gasped with delight of seeing his master open his eyes, but was disappointed when there was no further reaction.

"These things take time, Sam," Strider said softly. "Your master has endured much, and must rest a lot to recover from the blood loss. You should also rest now and regain your strength as there is still a long way for us to travel."

The stout hobbit nodded his head in reluctant agreement, and rather than allowing his unshed tears to fall in front of the Ranger, Sam took himself to his blankets and forced himself to drift off into an uneasy and light sleep.

Strider had risen from his vigil briefly to restoke the dying fire embers, when suddenly, Frodo began tossing and turning, grunting from the pain and looking as though he was trying to get up.

"No Frodo, no," Strider said, trying his best to restrain the hobbit before he injured himself further. "You must not move around so."

Fresh pain flared in Frodo's shoulder again, extracting a scream from the hobbit, which awoke his cousins. Merry and Pippin were at his side a few seconds after Sam, all of them alarmed at the level of pain etched on their friend's face.

"N-o-no (heavily panting), they ar-are coming again," Frodo said through clench teeth, acting as though he could sense the presence of the Black Riders. "Ah-hhhh," he screamed again, arching his back and twisting his neck from the agony of his wound.

Exhaustion didn't take long to settle into the small body, and despite his desperate attempts, Frodo could no longer muster the strength to pull his upper body upright, and slumped backwards, Sam preventing him from jarring his shoulder any further.

Frodo now lay collapsed against Sam's chest, his breathing very shallow and raspy to hear, in between the moans of pain. His suffering was very difficult for any of them to watch.

"You just rest, Mr Frodo," Sam said, "Ain't going to do you any good getting yourself all upset now. Me and Strider won't let anything else happen to you and Mr Merry and Mr Pippin are here to help too."

"He is in terrible pain, Strider," Merry commented, knowing that he was stating the obvious. "He still thinks those things are out there."

Frodo had not moved for a few moments, and his pale features noticeable. Strider placed two fingers against the pulse in his neck, showing a little relief at its pace. Strider carefully lifted one of the eyelids and noticed the lack of response from the pupil. "He is unconscious once more. His body does not have the strength to withstand the pain, and such an outburst seeks only to weaken Frodo further."

"I don't know which is worse, seeing him laying as pale as a bairn, not moving, or writhing about and screaming out from the pain," Pippin remarked. "I wish there was more we could do to help him," echoing the unspoken thoughts of them all.

"He will not wake for a few hours. The best way to help is to rest so we may continue our journey tonight with haste and get him to the medical attention he needs in Rivendell. There is no better place that could help him," Strider told the hobbits.

"Then it is back to bed for us then, and no question about it," Sam said in his usual practical tone of voice. "Nothing is more important than getting Mr Frodo to that place you just said," Sam added, giving the two younger hobbits a nudge to encourage them back to bed.

"Rivendell, Samwise," Strider repeated, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth at the gardener. Of course he could have told them that Rivendell was also known by yet another name, but decided to leave that little piece of information until they had reached the place he called home for the majority of his childhood years.

The Ranger's constant vigil continued for the new few hours. At various intervals, he checked temperature, the bandages for any fresh bleeding and dosed Frodo with the salt and sugar solution.

Although very weakened and frail looking, Strider noted that the hobbit seemed willing to live rather than take the easier path and succumbing to death. The Ranger's keen alertness now drawn to Frodo's face as the hobbit appeared to show some signs of regaining consciousness once more. He did not wish to hurry Frodo, and allowed him all the time his body needed to fight the fog and bring himself awake.

Frodo's point of view:

"I feel so heavy. As though a great weight is seated upon my chest. I try and draw a fresh breath of air into my lungs and almost cough from the resistance in my lungs.


Where am I? but the thought is interrupted by more pain. I cannot escape it and it

is all consuming, like a great fire.

I try and listen to my surroundings for a clue that might help my incoherent thoughts

to focus more.

Dizziness swarms in my mind, threatening to lower the dark veil once more.

I attempt to lift my hand to my head to stop the spinning sensation, and although I can

feel my hand moving, I have yet to determine in which direction my head is.

Without warning, a memory floods into my thoughts like a tidal wave. I hear myself

scream and the pain engulfs me again……………

Frodo's eyes suddenly snapped open at the memory of the moment when the Nazgul blade entered his shoulder.

""Easy Frodo, easy," Strider soothed, assuring the hobbit that the threat had subsided

He notes that the hobbit's brilliant blue eyes are more alert, and there is a little more colour to his face.

Frodo turns his face towards the voice speaking to him, and he allows his mind to put a name to the face……. Strider.

The ranger sees the slight change in Frodo's stare that signals recognition. His hand is trembling a little. Frodo tries to speak, but his throat is very dry. Probably a side effect from the doses of salt and sugar that have been necessary up to now to restore some of the blood he has lost.

Strider brings a small mug to his lips, and gives him a few small sips of plain water. There is a little relief from the dryness in his throat, but a grimace also from the pain that is ever present.

"S-Sam?" Frodo croaks, barely audibly.

"Resting," Strider replied, adjusting the blankets over the hobbit who appeared to be shivering a little from cold. "They have been very worried over you."

Frodo wanted to ask another question, but the dizziness was getting worse and he had to close his eyes briefly to stop the world tilting on its side.

The Ranger could see Frodo's delicate condition, and assumed what the question would be, and answered it the best he could, fearing too much information may frighten the hobbit and cause him to injure himself further.

"You were injured by a blade through your shoulder," Strider said gently. "You must not move too much or it will only cause you more pain."

Frodo nodded his head slightly to signal he understood, the pain flaring once more as though in emphasis of the Ranger's warning.

There were more questions that needed to be asked and answers sought, but the Ranger could see even such a short length of time awake had taxed the hobbit's strength. He used the palm of his hand on Frodo's forehead in a stroking motion to encourage him to return to sleep.

Frodo's brow frowned a few more times and he moaned as pain assailed him, but the Ranger's motions were gentle and soothing. The dizziness had not abated and Frodo found the only way to regain any relief was with his eyes closed. Once the lids began to droop, he did not have the will to keep them open any longer.

Frodo slept once more.

"Merry, am I dreaming or is that food I can smell?" Pippin asked sleepily, the aromas from Sam's cooking pot coaxing him awake.

Merry too was still dozing fitfully, and tried his best to ignore his cousin's question until he too could detect the rich smells. "You are not dreaming Pip, or else we are both having the same dream.

Both young hobbits came awake at the sound of a moan from Frodo and scrambled to be by his side. Sam had set down the ladle that he had been using to stir the evening meal, just as anxious over his master.

"He is becoming awake more often, still in short spans. He is very confused at the moment and the pain from his shoulder wound only adds to this and weakens him further," Strider explained to the three hobbits.

Merry, Pippin and Sam all clung to each word the Ranger said about Frodo's health.

They could see his pain and the confusion etched on his pale face, but did not fully understand whether he was showing signs of improvement or deteriorating.

Sam felt a slight tug on the hem of his coat, and quickly took the limp hand of his master. Frodo didn't open his eyes, but tried to say something. Sam leaned his ear closer, distressed by the shallow breath that escaped Frodo's lips as he attempted to speak.


A mug was passed into Sam's hand, and he gently placed the rim of the cup against his master's pale, dry lips as Strider lifted the dark head of curls.

Frodo only drank a small amount, and paused a moment afterwards. Very slowly, the Ranger and the 3 hobbits were rewarded with his eyelids beginning to flutter open. At first, just a crack, waiting until his eyes had time to adjust to the smallest amount of light.

"Oh, Frodo," Pippin exclaimed as his elder cousin opened his eyes and looked up at those gazing back down at him. The young hobbit was on the verge of tears, both in relief that Frodo was awake, and also because of the worry that still plagued them about his wound.

"H-Hello, Pip," Frodo said, his voice barely audible, but a little less hoarse due to his now moistened throat. He was prevented from saying anything further as a wave of pain ran through his shoulder, causing him to grimace and grit his teeth. His tenuous grip on Sam's hand grew tighter as the pain assailed him unmercifully.

"Frodo, I would like you to drink a little more of this please," Strider said, waiting until the hobbit felt the pain abating slightly. It was the sugar and salt mixture that he and Pippin had been replenishing, but the Ranger hoped that Frodo was not yet alert enough to resist.

Frodo allowed the cup to be brought to his lips and sips at the contents. The sugar and salt had settled a little in the water, and the taste took a moment to register on his face. The hobbit pulled away from the cup, showing his displeasure at the liquid.

Waiting until the taste had left his tongue, Frodo eyed Strider, and in a very quiet, but serious tone stated the obvious, "That was not water". Frodo's eyes now closed once more, and another wave of pain tightened the torn muscle in his shoulder.

"I must apologize for the taste my friend, but it necessary to help your body recover," Strider explained, but his next statement, was one he had been trying to avoid for a few hours.

"Frodo, the bandages on your shoulder must be changed. I have waited as long as possible, but fear that we must do it now to avoid the risk of infection setting in. I do not wish to cause you more discomfort, but have to warn that it may cause further pain. I will be as gentle as I can."

Frodo didn't answer, and Merry thought he had fallen back to sleep when all saw a small nod of his head, "Do what you must," Frodo said, as he moaned again at a fresh stab of pain.

"Sam will be here with you, and Merry and Pippin will be here to help," Strider said, trying to reassure Frodo.

"Merry, there is a small bowl in my backpack, please retrieve it. Pippin, you can aid me in helping to chop up some herb that I will submerse in water in the bowl. In this water I will then soaked the fresh bandages that will be used on Frodo's shoulder.

The leaves have a healing property and are well recognized in the treatment of many ailments."

For the next few moments, Merry diligently got the bowl as requested and then filled it with slightly tepid water as instructed by Strider. Pippin was shown how to chop a few small leaves of the dried herb, though most of it crumpled into pieces with the pressure of the knife blade.

"You are doing it correctly," the Ranger said to Pippin. "These leaves may not be as effective as the fresh leaves, but there are all I have available until I get gain a fresh supply. They will help."

Sam tried to take note of the instructions that Strider was giving to Merry and Pippin, but kept a close vigil over Frodo. He had brushed a few stray dark curls off Frodo's face, wishing that he could somehow bear the pain.

Strider had carefully folded a strip of fabric into a long bandage, but left it wide enough to cover a large surface area. He wanted to be able to treat the wound as best as he could without causing any more pain to Frodo than was necessary.

The ranger lay the fabric in the water and watched as the water began enfusing with the folds of fabric. Before it would be able to be used, they would have to first remove the bandage that already adorned Frodo's shoulder.

"Can you slip off his shirt when I lift him, Sam?" Strider asked. "It will be easer to reach the bandages and replace them if his shirt has been completely removed."

"Merry, you and Pippin be ready to assist Sam, if Frodo begins feeling too much pain. Try not to jostle him too much, this will be most unpleasant for all of us to endure."

The first part of removing Frodo's shirt seemed to be completed without too much fuss. And for a moment the three hobbits were fooled into thinking that Frodo may be asleep and may not feel being moved or the bandages changed.

They were soon sadly mistaken as a quick sharp intake of breath escape from Frodo, the hobbit becoming alert from the pain and trying to move out of Aragorn's hands.

"Sh-sh Frodo," Strider cajoled, but the hobbit would not be calmed and began becoming more restless as the pain in his shoulder increased.

"Almost done," Sam said, trying to concentrate as much as possible on his task, but the moans of pain from his master distracting him a little. "Just have to get his arm out of the sleeve. I don't want to cut it as he don't have many left and we be a long way from any market to fetch a fresh shirt."

Sam had almost completed the removing of Frodo's shirt, when a sharper, more intense wave of pain hit the hobbit, causing him to cry out and arch his back to try and escape his torment.

"S-stop," came the whispered plea. Frodo's failing strength was the only thing that prevented him from tossing his body about more.

"P-please, it hurts"

Merry had moved to the other side of Frodo, and taken the other hand of his cousin in his own, hoping to do something to calm his injured cousin. The cries of pain tore at him and he could scarcely keep himself from asking Sam to stop what he was doing.

"It hurts"

"I am trying to be as careful as I can Mr Frodo. Please forgive me, I didn't mean to hurt you more," Sam said in anguish.

"Merry, fill this basin with a little more of the warm water. I need to clean the wound before it is redressed," Strider instructed, handing the hobbit a small wooden bowl.

Merry left Frodo's side briefly to fill the bowl as requested, and handed it back to the Ranger. He once again held Frodo's hand, hoping to provide whatever comfort he could to his stricken cousin.

Pippin watched with an uneasy interest as Strider began cutting away at the old bandages on Frodo's shoulder. Unlike his shirt, fresh bandages could be made, and the old ones would not be used again. He would be ready to assist should the Ranger ask at any time during the procedure.

"Pippin, take these bandages by the ends and discard them into the fire. Be careful not to touch any part of the fabric which is stained. This wound was caused by a Morgul blade, and as such some of the evil remains," Strider warned the young hobbit.

Pippin did as he was told, only holding onto the old bandages by the very corners for as long as was absolutely necessary. A short flick of his wrist and they were placed amongst the flames. A slightly acrid stench could be detected as the fire burned the bandages to ashes.

Merry and Sam gasped a little at the sight of Frodo's exposed wound. Pippin rejoined the small group to view the Ranger's administrations and was as shocked as the other hobbits to see the black stains on Frodo's normally pale skin.

The edges of the gash where the sword blade had entered the fleshy part of his shoulder were puckered and jaggered. Almost as though there had been metal barbs on the edges of the blade that tore the skin as they were harshly withdrawn from Frodo.

The flesh surrounding the wound was reddened and appeared to be slightly swollen. Strider prepared a small fresh cloth and dampened it a little in the warm water that Merry had retrieved. This was going to be the most painful part for Frodo thus far.

"Hold him, this will hurt him, but is unavoidable if the wound is to be kept as clean as possible," Strider voiced in a serious tone.

The ranger took meticulous care, dabbing at the hobbit's skin as gently as possible with a soft cloth. But even this small amount of touch, caused Frodo's muscles to contract in spasm as pain flared once more. The hands that Merry and Sam had been holding onto were now formed into fists.

It was difficult for those watching over him, their futile efforts of comforting seeming to have little effect or aiding Frodo in coping with the pain in his shoulder. After a few more minutes of fighting, the struggles noticeably weakened.

To Strider's relief, Frodo's struggled ceased and he became quiet and still. Fainted no doubt from the amount of pain that was continually sapping his remaining strength.

The hobbit appeared to be restless and unable to achieve proper sleep or reprieve from the assault on his body.

"He feels a great deal less pain for now," the Ranger commented, seeing the downcast faces of the other hobbits still gathered by Frodo's side. The three hobbits continued to watch on intently at Strider's actions, but saying very little.

Strider was able to bandage the wound, still being as gentle as he could even though Frodo was unconscious. He did not wish to jar the wounded shoulder. When complete he took note of Frodo's other vital signs. His breathing was slower and a little shallow.

The last symptom that the Ranger checked in his small patient was Frodo's temperature, gentle placing the back of his hand on the hobbit's forehead. He frowned a little at the extra warm that he began to feel.

"A little warm perhaps, but nothing to be alarmed about," Strider commented.

"We shall increase his water intake to counteract the rise in temperature."

"What do we do now?" Merry asked, knowing that there was another long night of walking ahead of them.

"We shall allow Frodo to rest for another hour, and then give him some more water, but this time I think we can leave out the sugar and salt. His body should begin to renew the blood he has lost without any more artificial additives.

During the next forty-five minutes, the three hobbits went about eating a satisfying meal that would keep up their own strength during the night ahead. All seemed to be yawning from a little lack of sleep, but Strider believed them to be coping very well given their constant vigil over Frodo.

Half an hour later, Frodo began to stir, much to the amazement of Strider, and the delight of Sam and his cousins. At first the signs of waking were subtle, but they gradually increased.

Frodo lifted his uninjured arm to his forehead, as though trying to clear his thoughts and gain his bearings of time he had lost.

"Oh, Mr Frodo," but Sam couldn't find the right words to continue the sentence.

His eyes brimmed with fresh tears of joy at seeing his master beginning to wake. Frodo's luminous blue eyes looking back at him, clearly confused about what was happening.

"Frodo!" Pippin exclaimed with excitement, but Merry was able to pull him back a little.

"Give him some time to wake up a bit first, Pip," Merry scolded gently, but in return he was scarcely able to contain he own sense of relief at seeing Frodo gain consciousness.

Frodo tried to speak a few words, startled by everyone crowding in around him, but most of all unable to explain why he hurt so much. Although he wanted to ask what had happened, the first sound that escaped his lips was a low guttural moan as a result of the pain that had been reignited in his shoulder.

"Hurts…………….." Frodo managed to utter, his voice betraying his barely concealed urge to scream out as loud as he could.

"You must lie as still as you can, Frodo," Strider said, using a gentle hand to prevent him trying to sit up. The Ranger didn't think the weakened hobbit had the strength to do so, but he couldn't take the risk of Frodo injuring himself further.

It was clear to the Ranger and the hobbits that Frodo was more coherent waking this time than he had been since Weathertop. Although he couldn't mask the pain he was feeling, he was clearly trying to retrace his steps backwards in his mind to remind himself of how he arrived at such a time and to be hurting so badly.

Strider had been preparing the hobbits to begin their recommence their evening journey, but with Frodo wakening, he urged on the side of caution and waited a little longer.

Frodo turned his attention to Strider, looking at him with clear blue, luminous eyes, full of questions, but not being able to find the right word to begin asking.

"You were hurt badly, do you remember?" Strider released, not wishing to spill all of the terrible details to the frail hobbit at once.

Frodo seemed to think on the question for a moment. As though he was trying to recall to a time when he remembered getting hurt. Surely he would remember that. He closed his eyes, not to sleep, but to deepen the concentration and focus.

Then all at once, Frodo did remember, and the others clearly saw the reaction.

Frodo's brilliant blue eyes snapped open and he sat up urgently, almost screeching at the pain that erupted from his injured shoulder from such a sudden movement. Sam and Merry put their arms around him to prevent him to trying to stand up, but the hobbit was frightened.

That exact moment on Weathertop of the blade slicing through his flesh was being remembered so vividly for the first time. Frodo was gasping for breath, and his teeth were clenched as he battled the pain assailing his body.

"They were here……….." Frodo stuttered, not remembering any of the journey he had spent in Strider's arms unconscious. The hobbit was frantically looking about their immediate camping area, as though he expected to see the dark figures that he had faced.

His skin paled a few shades and Sam was worried he was going to faint dead away in his arms. The stout hobbit tried his best to whisper soothing words to his master, telling him that the horrid creatures had been chased off by flame and that he was safe.

"Frodo, calm down," Strider insisted, trying to reassure the terrified hobbit. "You are safe now and the Ringwraiths will not return upon this night."

Frodo seemed to hear the words that the Ranger and Sam spoke, looking at both of them and seeing truth in what they said. The pain in his shoulder had not abated at all and he forced a scream down to a deep moan, leaning heavily back against Sam, regretting that he had moved at all.

"W-Where…………" Frodo whispered, his throat feeling parched.

Pippin produced the cup of water and held it to his cousin's lips and was happy to see him drink and return a smile of thanks when the cup was withdrawn.

"Where are we going?" Frodo asked, his voice a little stronger. It would seem that he had lost track of some time, and the surroundings were unfamiliar.

"To get you and your cousins to a place of safety," Strider said, hoping that Frodo would take comfort from such an explanation. "You need not worry about anything but rest my young friend. You have much healing to do."

Strider couldn't have been sure that Frodo had heard his answer, the hobbit appearing to have sagged against Sam further and fallen asleep. His breathing was regular, though still sounding a little shallow.

"I believe it is time to leave," Strider said, not wanting to dwell much longer. He had been relieved to see Frodo regain consciousness and be coherent enough to understand some of what was going on. His outburst of the Ringwraiths being near was not expected, but understandable, given his state of confusion.

Sam gazed down at his master's sleeping face as Strider moved to pick Frodo up. He made sure that there was two blankets tucked in around his master before getting ready to carry his own pack.

Merry and Pippin had gathered their own belongings, and were happy that Frodo had awoken, even for a short time. They knew he needed a proper bed to sleep in and proper hobbit food, but after that, they didn't see any reason why Frodo shouldn't get better.

Neither of them knew just how wrong they were or how quickly things change……….

During this part of the journey, Frodo could recall some moments of consciousness and pain. Though vague and brief, his thoughts were slowly beginning to more cohesive.

The hobbit could feel himself moving, not from the power of his own feet, but the steady gait of a much stronger person. Strider must be carrying him, he wanted to know where his cousins and Sam where, but he quickly fell back to sleep.

The next time he awoke, he was much more disoriented than before. His eyelids were heavy and he could not determine if a long time or much shorter span of time had elapsed since his last awakening.

His shoulder was aching abominably, but he could not gather the strength to try and use his voice to tell someone. Frodo's discomfort and pain grew until all he could do in protest was allow some moans of pain to escape his lips.

Strider had been listening carefully to the hobbit's breathing, and had heard some whimpers of pain. The moans became more persistent and he stopped briefly, trying to see the cause for Frodo's displeasure.

Sam, Merry and Pippin noticed the Ranger's pause in walking, and the concern that showed on his brow as he reached a hand inside the bundle of blankets.

"He feels much warmer than before. Perhaps too warm," Strider said, voicing his concern.

"But that is good isn't it? Pippin asked, not really thinking before he asked the question. "Up until now his skin has felt too cold. Maybe it is a sign that he is slowly starting to pull through?"

The hopefulness and pleading on the young hobbit's face was difficult to ignore, but at the same time, Strider was not in a position to be able to help fuel those hopeful thoughts.

He did not want to openly admit that Frodo condition was very grave indeed, but at the same time, he knew that the other hobbits were holding on to the single idea that Frodo would beat his injury and begin to recover.

Merry could see the dilemma that the Ranger faced with Pippin's plea, but although he did hope for his cousin's rapid recovery, he could see for himself that Frodo fought to draw in each breath and that pain was consuming him relentlessly.

"Let us resume walking. We will stop in a while and take some rest. It would be time them to give Frodo some water and re-examine the wound," Strider encouraged.

As so the group did for a time, with Merry and Sam, both watching out for Frodo but also knowing that they needed to be mindful of Pippin. He was not a child, but not quite old enough to grasp the danger that Frodo was currently in.

The progress made during the night was equivalent to the distance they had covered the evening before. Strider was grateful for this, although he could see it visibly taxing the strength of the three hobbits walking with him.

(Frodo's point of view as he tries to wake and realises something is dreadfully wrong)

'Hot……….. so hot'

'I try to open my mouth to groan at the discomfort, but my lips are parched and this

heat is consuming me.'


'I try and focus on something else apart from my shoulder, but there is another sensation

that my dull senses are being alerted to that makes me hold my breath'

'My shirt feels hot and sticky. Maybe too sticky.'

'My thoughts are fading in and out and it is difficult to keep alert for more than a moment.'

"Try and alert the person carrying me that something is not right, but any movement

sends wave upon wave of pain through my whole body.'

It was during the last hour of walking before sunrise, when Strider felt a weakened pull on his tunic. When he looked down at the pale face, Frodo appeared to be still asleep, his eyes closed. His features are a little pinched with pain, as it had been before they began walking tonight.

'Sticky. Why does it feel so sticky? I am hot, but it does not feel like sweat on my body.'

'Then fear truly strikes me as my addled mind pieces together that the stickiness is blood.'

'Blood. The back and front of my shirt feel as though it is clinging to my upper body.

Strider does not understand at first the puzzling weak attempts by the stricken hobbit

to move. He is about to try and calm Frodo from hurting himself further, when he

feels a small breath near his ear.


Strider stopped his walking, intent on listening to the hobbit, making sure he had heard correctly.


The three other hobbits who had been walking slightly ahead of the Ranger, pause and rejoin him at the mention of Frodo's name.

"Did he say something?" Sam asked, trying to peer over the blankets and look at his master's face.


"No!" Strider gasped in alarm and laid the hobbit down as carefully as he dared, and trying to unwrap Frodo from his blankets. "Sam, water, hurry!"

Sam could tell from the tone of the Ranger's voice that there was no time for questions. He dropped his own pack where he stood, and loosing one of the larger pots as quickly as he could, filled it with some of the water from a skin that Merry gave to him.

One the blankets had been spread out enough for all to see, it was very clear why Strider was worried. The front of Frodo's linen shirt was soaked in dark maroon stains. Around the wound itself, the red was crimson, indicating its freshness.

"His wound is bleeding again," Pippin blurted out, noting everyone's observation.

Merry knelt by his cousin's side and put his hand on Frodo's brow, startled by the amount of heat he could feel. "His fever is much higher than before."

Strider was attempting to remove the blood soaked shirt as gently as he could, but with the crusted blood pulling at the skin, hisses of pain escaped Frodo's lips.

"I am sorry, Frodo, but this cannot be helped," Strider said in apology, but doubted that the halfling understood. He looked briefly at the pale face before thin, noting Frodo's attempts to open them amidst some more moans of pain.

Frodo's eyes were dilated and his pupils slightly glazed over, further evidencing the presence of fever and infection.

"Thankfully he was aware enough to sense the bleeding. It could be much worse if he had sustained a greater blood loss," Strider explained as he worked to stem the flow as quickly as possible.

Sam wasn't so sure, as he saw the amount of blood that stained his master's shirt and how delirious Frodo seemed as a result of the fever.

Merry blanched when he saw Strider's blood covered hands as he discarded the bandages that had been wrapped over the wound previously. "You are going to need more bandages," he stated.

"There are some already prepared in Sam's pack," Strider informed him, not looking up from his work. He was unaware of Merry's queasiness and did not fully understand the hobbit's rushed offer to fetch them rather than remain watching.

Pippin tried to make himself as useful as possible, by dribbling a few drops of water into Frodo's mouth. He helped his cousin to moisten his parched lips, and could feel the same heat from the fever that Merry had noted a few moments ago.

With his throat feeling raw and the heat still suppressing and overwhelming, Frodo moaned low and harshly as the pain assaulted him. He began to try and roll away from the pain, but was prevented by a firm hand on his uninjured shoulder by Strider.

The Ranger could see that the fever was growing and that Frodo's state of confusion was worsening. He had to try and calm the hobbit down and get him to relax as much as possible. The movement would only cause further bleeding and weakening upon his already frail condition.

The wound was now clearly visible again, with the dark crusting around the edges of the gash that had been seen earlier. The skin surrounding the area was dark and swollen and puckered in places.

"Sam, I am going to need your help as well you two, Merry and Pippin," Strider instructed. "I am going to try and clean around the area with a dampered cloth before fresh bandages are applied."

The three hobbits nodded their assistance and placed themselves as the Ranger asked, their faces worried by calm.

"Forgive me Frodo," Strider said sofly as he began washing away the blood on his upper chest. He started as far away from the wound itself, but as soon as the cloth made contact, Frodo's pain fill eyes flew open, and a scream escaped his mouth.

The three hobbits did their best to restrain him, but even though they tried to talk soothingly to him, it seemed that Frodo did not heed their words of comfort. He had tried to lift his upper body from the ground, but lacked the strength and the resulting pain from such sudden movement, left him panting as he fell back partly against Sam.

"P…..Please….. don't…," Frodo whispered, his agony clear. There was no other way to express his pain or his misery except to allow the tears fall down his pale face.

Merry and Pippin cried openly along with their fallen cousin, without shame, still trying to help as much as they could. Pippin was becoming tired and exhausted himself. The emotions of the night and the long walk had sapped his youthful strength.

Strider could see his distress and motioned for Merry to take Pippin and put him to bed. They had not planned to camp here this day, but the was enough shelter nearby offered by the trees that could be used and Frodo was obviously in no condition to travel any further.

Once Pippin had been settled a little, Merry took on Sam's usual role and began setting up the meagre camp site. He build a small fire, hoping a hot cup of tea would help all of their spirits. He wanted to help Frodo, but understood that the best hands were already doing as much as they possibly could. He silently prayed that it would be enough.

Frodo's moans of pain had become less frequent and quieter, but Strider did not think it was because he was feeling less pain. He was worried that the fever was spiking again would need to sponge down his young patient with cool water as soon as his shoulder was tended to.

"Sam, I am going to need to make a poultice to try and draw out some of the infection from the wound. It will take a few moments to prepare. I dare not stitch the wound for fear of causing more damage until the wound can be examined properly," Strider told him.

"His wound is still bleeding," he noted, even though Strider had only cleaned the area a moment ago. "He will bleed himself out."

"I need you to stay with him whilst I crush the ingredients for the poultice. You must keep him calm, but the most important task for you will be to hold the wound together to give his body a chance to stop the bleeding naturally."

Sam swallowed the lump of fear that was in his throat at the thought of having to do what Strider asked. He knew what had to be done, but to bring pain upon his master was almost more than he could bear.

"You will not have to do so for long, but Frodo will grow weaker and weaker if we cannot stop the bleeding. The fever will take a stronger hold on him then it already has," Strider said, knowing it was a difficult time for Sam.

Sam wiped away the stray tears from his face and set his jaw to what needed to be done. "Show me what I need to do, please."

"Place you right hand here," Strider instructed, guiding the smaller hand to where the pressure needed to be. "Your left here," he continued. "Not enough pressure and the wound will continue to bleed. Too much and it will be too painful for Frodo."

Sam nodded his head to indicate he understood the Ranger's words, but did not trust himself to speak. Strider watched, and did not have to leave the scene, but now looked for the ingredients to make the poultice. There were many that could be used, but he wanted to keep the ingredients as natural and simple as possible.

Frodo moaned in pain, and Sam was worried he was causing the pain, but with Strider's reassurance he maintained the position of his hands . The blood was slowing, but there was enough to cause more alarm for the stout hobbit.

"Try to see if he can hear your voice, Sam," Strider suggested, hoping to distract both hobbits from their torment.

"You want me to talk to him?" Sam asked, unsure if his master was up to a conversation of any kind.

"Just let him here your voice, it has helped to calm him on our journey so far," Strider said, remembering back to the storm and on a few other occasions that Sam's gentle nature shone through.

"Mr Frodo," Sam said, barely loud enough to be heard, his hands lifting a little, and a small trickle of blood forming on top of the wound and tickling down underneath his master's injured arm.

Strider smiled encouraging but did not interrupt his attempts. He had placed 3 leaves of the same type in a bowl and a fourth that was of a different texture and he was using a mortar to crush the leaves into smaller pieces.

And then in that moment, something happened that no one could have ever guessed.

Merry had fallen asleep a few minutes ago, out of exhaustion like Pippin, and therefore had unfortunately missed such a telltale moment.

"Frodo?" Sam asked, in a clear, but soft voice. There was no call from servant to master. Only friend to friend and a desperate need from one to see the other well again.

At first there was no response, but then, ever so slowly, those beautiful eyes, still glassy with fever, but with a hint of recognition in them, opened and looked back at Sam.

There was a silent pause for a few moments while Frodo tried to smile through the pain. Reaching up with his good hand and gentle caressed the side of Sam's face with the tip of his fingertips.

"You called me Frodo," came the tired response.

Sam turned his face into the gentle touch but the expression on his face was one of puzzlement at Frodo's statement.

Frodo's eyes fluttered a few times and Sam didn't know if he had the strength to stay awake much longer. He can hear the battle just to breath, the exertion and the whimpers of pain.

"No Mister," Frodo said, trying to smile at the thought, but it quickly turned into a grimace as a fresh wave of pain coursed through his shoulder, causing him to groan low and deep.

Sam now understood what his master was trying to say and for a moment thought that he had over stepped the boundaries of his rank, but seeing the half-smile on Frodo's face he relaxed a little that no chiding was forthcoming. His old Gaffer certainly would have, and that was the straight out truth.

Sam was brought back to as he heard Frodo's breathing become a little raspy and harsh. As he checked the pressure that he still maintained over the wound itself, Frodo's hand that had stroked his cheek, now fell away limply.

"He is unconscious again," Strider said, having full appreciation of the tender moment that was just shared between the two hobbits.

Sam could only now release the tears that he had fought so hard not to show in front of Frodo. He couldn't help but feel that he loosing is best friend and master.

"Fight, Mr Frodo, fight. As hard as you can, don't let them evil things win."

"I am ready to place the poultice over the wound now, Samwise."

"Release your hands slowly now, and I will put in gently over the area," Strider instructed. "When you have cleaned your hands, pass me some of the bandages that Merry supplied."

Sam did as he was asked and removed his hands, which where now stained a mixture of black and crimson. Shakily he washed them with some water and handed the clean, fresh bandages to Strider.

"Help me lift him up a little so that I can wrap the bandage around his back," Strider asked, focusing on his task, but bearing in mind to be as gentle as possible with his young, frail patient.

Sam would have preferred to hear some moans of pain coming from his Master's lips as the Ranger worked to rebandage his injured shoulder. But the fact that no sound could be heard at all and that his features were very lax, only confirmed how deeply unconscious he was.

The only spot of colour on his face being the flush on his cheeks due to the fever. Sam brushed back some of the curls from Frodo's face, noting that the heat was still present.

Once he had fastened the cotton bandages, Strider gave Frodo some water and bathed his forehead and neck with cool water to try and bring down his fever. It was only when he had finished all of his administrations that he thought about moving the injured hobbit from where he had been first laid down on the ground.

Sam had used some of the spare blankets and spread them only a few feet from where Merry and Pippin where sleeping. He realised the important of keeping the group as close together as possible on this journey, from they knew not from which direction their foe may strike.

"You have done well this day, Sam and I thank you for your diligence and patient. I know some of it was very difficult. Frodo's recovery is very slow and he is a great deal of pain."

"I hate seeing him laying there all pale and hurting," Sam admitted. "T'aint right that he should suffer so."

"No, but we are doing everything we can to help him. I suggest you take some rest with Merry and Pippin as Frodo may require you later if he wakes," Strider said, but he doubted that Frodo would be awake anytime within the next few hours.

"I don't think I could right now, even if I wanted to," Sam said. "I will sit here with Mr Frodo and see that he is comfortable."

Strider didn't have the heart to try and dissuade the stout hobbit, but knew that Sam was growing weary as well. Neither of them bothered with food and Merry and Pippin still slept.

Strider began to hum a gentle, but sad song that he had learnt long ago. The notes almost hypnotic and allowing any listener to relax to its melody. After humming half the song, the Ranger had accomplished his intended task, turning to see Sam's head bowed on his chest, his hand resting on Frodo's uninjured arm, protecting him even in slumber.

Seeing no reason to move him, Strider carefully lay Sam down beside his master, covering him with a blanket. He positioned himself to be closest to Frodo so that he could monitor his patient through the day. He intended to keep up the cool bathing and dosing with water as often as he dared, but for now, Frodo needed uninterrupted rest.

From where he sat leaning against a tree where he could readily see all four hobbits.

The Ranger began to think about the journey that was yet before them. It was growing more perilous every day and there was still some days before they would reach Rivendell.

Looking at the four sleeping bundles near him, Strider realised that he was the one that they all look towards for protection.

Each of them having their own strengths and weaknesses that had worked well together up to now. Frodo situation caused the most concern, with them being many miles away from proper medical treatment. He had some supplies with him that had helped up until now, but the evilness of the morgul blade could not be denied.

They had barely escaped the darkness that had threatened them on Weathertop, and Frodo had paid a high price for their current freedom.

Strider suspected that they had only just begun to see its full effects upon the frail halfling.


Author's notes: Okay – this is the end of this story ESCAPE THE DARKNESS, but the series will continue on in SPY IN RIVENDELL. The next chapter will carry on from here to the Ford and who will reach Rivendell.

There will be many new faces to meet and the road will begin to darken for Frodo.

SPY IN RIVENDELL is due to have some major updates and changes. The chapter that appears now, will be added to and changed significantly.

I wanted to include the Ford scenes at the end of this chapter, but it will be one of the more complicated chapters that I have had to write so far, and the plot needs to work for the continuation of the story line.

Please know that there will be no Arwen arrival in my story to rescue Frodo. I have a different idea planned that will differ from both book and movie, but will contain some canon material.

I hope there are still a few people out there reading. Please let me know you are.

Anything that isn't movie or book related is just how I have wanted to change the story and add some different flavour.

My portrayal of Frodo and Sam is merely friendship and nothing else – but pure friendship in the most fiercest way – the strongest bond. I am still playing with the personalities of Pippin and Merry a little, and it may differ from how others have perceived them in the past.

I apologize for the length of time in updating, but real life leaves me next to no writing time at all at the moment, though I am always very keen to keep writing this story.

Please keep reading.