When There Is Little Hope: Chapter 1 (The Power of the Ring)

Summary: Struggling up the resisting slopes of freezing Caradhras, Aragorn starts to notice Frodo isn't as physically healthy as he should be. Soon enough, something happens to change the situation for the worse, and there is little hope…

Rating: G

Disclaimer: I do not own and never have owned Middle-Earth: its settings nor its characters (though I wouldn't mind taking care of Aragorn or Legolas for a while ;)). They all belong to the fantastic works of J.R.R.Tolkien and nobody else. The first scene, however – and another later to follow – is taken from the movie of The Fellowship of the Ring so I'm assuming the lines spoken there belong to Peter Jackson, New Line Cinema and Wingnut Productions.

Author's Note: Hello, this is the first time I've attempted to share Lord of the Rings fanficton with others on FF.net. I actually started this fic a whole year ago now, but I kind of lost my inspiration and completely forgot about it after a while. However, the other day I happened to come across it and it's not too bad (I was 13 years old when I started writing it so don't expect anything brilliant) – so I thought, why not?   

As I mentioned in the disclaimer, this fic contains two scenes from the Lord of the Rings films, and is set upon the snowy slopes of Caradhras. This first chapter is quite short, but it was the most appropriate way to split the story into sections. Depending on whether people like it or not, I will update with the next few chapters soon enough. I would very much appreciate reviews, so if you read this, please spare a little effort to do so. Thanks.

***

"Frodo!" shouted Aragorn as the breathless hobbit tumbled down the slope in the snow, rolling over and over unstoppably. Aragorn ran to him and set him back on his feet, placing his hands on his shoulders and back, steadying him.

Frodo hurriedly brushed the snow off his front and then groped around his neck in sudden panic for the item which usually rested there, untouched against his pale skin, a sharp coolness to his upper-torso as if it were strongly magnetised. But it appeared, at this moment in time, its fixed attachment to Frodo's own bonding flesh had slackened, become idle. It was gone. He looked up desperately to see Boromir – who was a little further ahead – slowly bend down, as if some gradual, heavy weight was leeringly pulling him inwards, and pick it up by the matching gold chain on which it hung.

As it was lifted out of the snow, terror and doubt crept into Frodo's mind and he froze, immobile, unable to do anything save for gasping intakes of chilling air and fearfully observing the scene set before his wide eyes. Aragorn felt his shoulder muscles tense suddenly, even in his intent concentration of studying Boromir's present facial expressions, and he gave them a gentle, reassuring squeeze. He strongly suspected that Frodo sensed something strange about Boromir, as he himself did – something of small quality, along with the man's normal, friendly self, which over all desired power. Aragorn had gathered a certain disliking to one side of him ever since The Council of Elrond back in Rivendell, and ever since he had been cautious, on his guard. The suggestions Boromir had made would have never even attempted to cross Aragorn's thoughts.

"Boromir," he said to the other man, but Boromir did not seem to hear him; it was as if he was trapped in some sort of mystical trance.

The plain white, rocky surroundings of himself and the Ring were blurred and faded, like a torch had been blown out but it was still just possible to see; but Boromir's own body and It shone with a powerful breaking forth of intense bright light, radiating it blindingly. Squinting, he breathed shallowly as he realised that the glow beamed out distinctively from the both of them. He and the Ring were bound together in magnificence, they were one, and together they would do terrible, but wonderful things.

Shadowy shapes, an audience, were still gathered around, motionless, all facing their way. Why it was so, Boromir did not know, but at any small rate, the dark figures were of no great threat. He and this ring were all that mattered; it was meant to be; they were together, as he had desired so for such a long while…

"It is a strange fate, that we should suffer so much fear and doubt, over so small a thing," said Boromir softly to himself, staring transfixed at the tiny glint of gold held in line with his face, unaware that the wary eyes of the entire Company were fixed upon him. "Such a little thing," he continued, muttering, and he put out a hand to touch it…

"Boromir!" called Aragorn again, louder and much more sharply than before. "Give the Ring to Frodo."

Boromir was knocked back into the present scenario, swaying ever so slightly as the firm tones cracked his thoughts and sightings. He hesitated before taking slow, heavy steps towards them, reluctantly holding out the Ring to Frodo.

"As you wish," he said casually. Frodo snatched it off him and drew back hastily to the Ranger behind him, narrowing his blue eyes, although not in hate. "I care not." Boromir glanced up steadily at Aragorn who was frowning deeply, a penetrating stern look set within his dark eyes.

Chuckling, he ruffled Frodo's mop of hair in an affectionate manner, much to the hobbit's annoyance. He slung his round shield over his broad shoulders and walked away, avoiding all eyes that were following him, especially those of the pondering Wizard up in front.

It was only then Aragorn took away his hand from the hilt of his sword, relieved that with it, he had not been forced to threaten somebody whom he was rightly supposed to trust.

"Frodo?" he said quietly. Anxiously, Frodo looked up at Aragorn and as their eyes met, they both instantly knew that they were thinking the same over Boromir. His brief possession of the Ring was an event which definitely should have been blocked from happening. Lowering his gaze, Frodo re-hung the chain around his neck and tucked it into his shirt, preventing it from slipping off again. That must not happen again, he thought secretly…

***

The Fellowship carried on through the remainder of the tiresome day, struggling wearily up the tough slopes of Caradhras. The heavy, ankle-deep snow and powerful, blistering winds made it hard on everyone, but especially the four hobbits – in particular the Ring-bearer. For some reason he was finding the climb more difficult than anybody else was, but only Aragorn saw this…

Frodo was lagging further and further behind, but the Ranger would not move in front, for he wanted to keep an eye on him incase he fell. Aragorn also did not fail to notice that he was coughing constantly – a cough which was not pleasant to his ears, and each time it arose it was harsher, and lasted for longer than it had previously. It sounded as if Frodo was coming down with something nasty, which would not bring good tidings at all.

He lifted him up for the fifth time as the hobbit stumbled again, after failing to rise onto his own two feet without support and sitting defeated, soaked in the snow in frustration and despair with himself. It pained Aragorn to see him suffering as he was. He would willingly and easily carry him all the way across the mountain, but he knew Frodo would refuse… probably not out of normal hobbit-stubbornness of which Aragorn had grown used to by now, but merely out of humiliation. It was bad enough for Frodo that he kept falling as it was, never mind another member of the Company having to bear him, whilst Merry, Pippin and Sam were managing perfectly well by themselves.

Instead, the Ranger grasped his hand firmly and was almost now dragging him up the mountain. They walked only for a few more hours, with a couple of short rests, but for Frodo they travelled on… and on… and on. He was frozen stiff and so tired – all he wanted to do was lie down and sleep. His ears, nose and chapped lips were numb with cold, his feet were as heavy as lead, and if he had any feeling at all in his fingers and toes it was that they felt like icicles – yet he kept on going.

Darkness was creeping into Middle-Earth, yet Gandalf who was leading them as always still did not stop; even Aragorn and Legolas felt they needed rest. Aragorn was slightly annoyed, but he was silent about it nonetheless. He did not feel this was fair on the hobbits: apart from Gimli, they were half the size of everyone else and therefore must be twice as chilled and weary than they were.

After a long while, Frodo halted suddenly, clutching at his chest and bending into a position which looked as if he was about to heave and vomit. Aragorn was at once worried, and remained by his side as the Ring-bearer coughed horrendously, grimacing at the thick, gluey bile becoming trapped at the very back of his sore throat. 

"Sor… ry," Frodo rasped, painfully taking huge, sharp gulps of air before the cough attacked again, sinking in its jagged claws, wracking his lungs uncontrollably.

"It's fine, Frodo – do not worry," Aragorn reassured and he smiled to hide his concern. "Is it getting worse?"

Frodo nodded, pushing in his stomach underneath his ribcage to try and relieve some of the pressure on his pounding chest and eventually, with an intensified struggle, he managed to bring it under control. The attack subsided and he breathed more easily again, and so the two resumed their trudge, treading in the footprints of leading Wizard, Elf, man and hobbits. But as soon as Frodo had taken no more than ten steps, he sank to his knees shakily.

"Frodo – what is it?" questioned Aragorn urgently. "What is wrong?

"I'm sorry… I cannot go on… anymore… I just can't," he panted as he weakly clasped the Ranger's steadying arm. Every intake of oxygen was a painful strain for his lungs, and a dull ache had fired up inside his chest because of it. Aragorn nodded understandingly, seeing that Frodo's remaining energy was all but spent.

"I will carry you; I expect we shall be stopping for the night soon anyway. If I put you on my back, do you think you could hold on to my neck?" he asked, crouching down to Frodo's level.

"I will do my best," the hobbit replied, although he had the strength to do nothing at all, he was drained of it.

"Come on," encouraged Aragorn, "try to sit on top of my pack. It will be a lot more comfortable for you that way, and easier for me."

With effort, Frodo stood up and clambered onto Aragorn's back, settled on the perch of his gear. Aragorn placed his supportive hands underneath his small thighs and walked hastily to catch up with the others. Frodo's head lolled on Aragorn's shoulder but he still clung on tightly to the Ranger's neck, despite how un-active and sluggish he was.

On and on, Aragorn continued. On… and on… and on. Would they ever decide that now was the time to stop and sleep? Frodo lost count of the number of long strides that were taken, which he had been occupying himself with to try and remain at least half-awake. He wanted to apologise to Aragorn – tell him he was sorry for being such a weak, pathetic burden, that he hated wasting another's strength just to get him further up the mountain – but he could not summon the energy, even for that.

'Would Bilbo be proud of me now?' thought Frodo to himself. A tiny, nagging voice in the back of his mind answered simply for him. 'No…'

***