UNCLEAR PATH

Disclaimer -  I do not own any of the characters I write about .   I write about those created by J.J.R. Tolkien and marvel at such a storytellers ability to enthrall us all.   There are occasional quotes from the movie in this story, just to keep the continuity going strong and to add just at the appropriate time.

Outline -   This is the fourth story in a series that will slowly work its

way from the Shire to Mordor and Mount Doom.   In this AU version it is

assumed that the fellowship will remain together – most of the time anyway.  

As you can probably assume – in the story A THOUSAND EYES which

precedes this one I have kept in the part about Gandalf falling into the shadow.

The fellowship is currently on their way to Lorien but it is a long way off

and many things will happen to prevent them even reaching that safe haven.

I have had this idea in my head since beginning writing this series and had to

get it down before I forget it.   As usual, there are some very good stories from

other authors that tackle the feelings of Frodo and the others after the Mines

of Moria.  I hope that I do not infringe on anybody else's works or ideas with this story.   

I do want to follow the path of what Frodo would have thought and the guilt that I would have thought natural on his path.    There will a few different emotions displayed, from utter grief to down right anger.   There is also a twist quite early in the story that hopefully will change everything about the journey ahead.

It is assumed very early on in this story that Frodo was injured as a result of the

spear from the Cave Troll.   He just hasn't voiced it too much yet – his companions have noted something wrong but put it down mainly to Gandalf departure.

I think the funniest line I have heard in a very long time was when Frodo is turned

over after the spearing in the movie FOTR and says "I'm not hurt"  - laughed and

laughed and said "Yeah Right !!!"   Have to do something about that I told myself.

At the beginning I have made my first attempt at first person point of view for Frodo.   Some of the same things will be noted later by the rest of the fellowship as I continue the story normally.

There may be some things that Frodo thinks are being said by other members of

the fellowship but they are only in his own mind as he tortures himself.  Hopefully I will be able to make it clear enough as I go.

I hope you enjoy this story and continue to read.

the journey continues……………………..

I feel as though time itself has been suspended.

The rocks underneath my feet are harsh and sharp on my feet, but I do not acknowledge them as I stumble out into the daylight.

The light is strong at first and hurts my eyes as I look up at the sky.

Boromir released me from his grip and wanted to reach out to me with a steadying hand…….. I allow myself no contact and pull sharply away.

I begin to walk………  I must separate myself and my treacherous deeds from the

others before my hand is again allowed to twist fate.

I do not look to see where anybody else pauses, but I know that they grieve for

Gandalf.    I dare not see the sorrow that they show on their faces or in their hearts.

If I was to use one word to describe my body at present it would be "numb" for

I cannot yet feel the grief or mourning that is expected.

A few tears appear on my face but they do nothing.

The wind blows strong as I stand and look out over the horizon.

It is like a cruel slap to my face but nothing less that I deserve so I do not try

and shield myself behind my hands or cloak.

I hear the voices in my head, the words ricocheting off the rock face and echoing

in my ears "let the Ring-bearer decide".

The echo is almost deafening as it is played over and over in my mind a thousand

times.    "We will go through the mines".   The memory of my decision hangs in

my mouth like a bad aftertaste. 

Had I been so naïve when I left Rivendell that I had thought such an occurrence

was not possible or inevitable.  Was I so blinded by the power of the ring itself that I did not contemplate the danger in which I was placing the members of the Fellowship.

 I had listened to Lord Elrond's warnings of what lay ahead on our journey.

I had read through manuscript after manuscript in the Great Library.  I tried to

prepare myself as much as time would allow but now it seemed that I could have

studied for longest time and still not have been ready to face this.

I cannot see my companions but their accusations and stares of disappointment

burn at my core.   If one or all of them were to raise their weapons to strike me,

then I pray that I do not stop them.  

If it was possible to forfeit my life in order to prevent one of them falling as Gandalf did, then I do it gladly and without regret.  

How could I ask them to follow me to the Black Gate of Mordor when it was clear

that I could not follow a less dangerous road?

As I look at the sky now, even the clouds show a somber mood as they draw darker and closer together.  The wind whistles as though a cry of pain from Gandalf himself.

"Fly you fools!" they were the words he had uttered before falling into the chasm.

I feel an emptiness begin to emerge within my soul and I know not how to stop

the void from getting deeper and deeper.

What hope was there now that I should succeed in the task that was asked of me?

When we were Moria, it had been Gandalf's staff that guided us through some of

the darkest tunnels of evil.   As I stand out here now I fear that the darkness still

hunts me.

It is all too consuming as the Dark Lord's fingers of malice intertwine to form the

thin chain that hangs around my neck.  With each step I take the links begin

to tighten and choke me.

I hear someone behind calling my name…………… should I turn around and face

my punishment?

The Fellowship of the Ring were now feeling the first real sense of hopelessness and despair since departing from Rivendell.

"Come Boromir, Legolas, Gimli………….we need to go before a band of orcs is

on us from behind," Aragorn instructed.  

Since leaving the Elvin city, Aragorn had not found it necessary to be so harsh about their need to keep moving.  Before Moria, even when they were being pursued or hunted, the members of the fellowship seemed to know without question the urgency of their quest.

Now, with Gandalf gone and the fellowship looking towards somebody else to once again lead them out of this pit of hell-fire.    Aragorn took on this role out of respect for the wizard and because he had sworn an oath to protect the ring-bearer.

All had been affected by the sudden departure of Gandalf.    When they had first

entered Moria, all had come to trust the crystal atop his staff had led them through some of the deepest and darkest tunnels in the mines.

There was no mistaking in the belief that it had also been Gandalf's calm in the face of peril and his resourcefulness and guidance that had also aided them within those same walls.

But now that guidance and sense of calm was gone.   Replaced with grief in all and a foreboding in some of what lay ahead.

The area in which they gathered at present was a large rocky outcrop as part of the

mountainous pass that would lead further a field.   The rocks were lightly dusted with snow in places and the wind that blew into their faces had was cold and brittle.

Gimli was standing on his own, looking back at the exit that had just escaped from. His thoughts were of past memories that he had of Moria that were now but non existent.   He had boasted upon entering of the welcome that his companions would receive at the hospitality of his cousin Balin.

That hospitality was supposed to bring warmth to them from roaring fires and food to fill their bellies and then some rest from the weariness that was present in all. Instead, once Gandalf's staff had illuminated the room, the hopes of any sort of comfort or warmth were quickly replaced with the horror that lay before them in the scattered remains of his once proud people.

Legolas was standing out to one side of the outcrop, keeping a careful and alert

vigil for the orcs that would no doubt come.    The elf was showing a mask of

stone on the outside, one that didn't falter as others did with the death of someone

they considered a true friend.

On the inside though, Legolas did indeed feel a sense of sadness about Gandalf

that he couldn't have put into the words of any song.   He silently promised that

the wizard's self-sacrifice would not be in vain and that he would be there when

there were others needed him.

Boromir was standing guard on the other side of the outcrop.   The hobbits would

have been surprised to see the man seeming to mourn the wizard's death.  He wore a sword of steel and held a shield that signified strength for the honour of Gondor.  They had been of little use as they watched the Balrog and wizard battle against one another with whips of flame and swords of magic and shields of sorcery.

Samwise was sitting on his own not too far away from where Aragorn stood.

The stout hobbit's face reddened from his crying at the thought of their fallen

leader.    Sam had not experienced the death of many he knew in the Shire before

now.    Death was for old hobbits or wee babes that were born too early not for

those as powerful and great as Gandalf.   

Merry was sitting on the ground also, a short distance away from Sam, holding

Pippin who was sobbing uncontrollably.     Pippin also had yet to experience

the pain of death of somebody they knew and come to love. 

Merry was determined that he and his younger cousin would do it together, as they did everything else.   The two hobbits clung to each other, afraid to let go in case they too were caught up in this nightmare apart from each other.

"Come on Sam," Aragorn said gently as he helped the hobbit to his feet, making sure that he was able to continue unassisted.   Sam regained enough of his own composure to help Legolas with Merry and Pippin.     Once standing, Merry still made sure that he held onto Pippin as he knew he would need to do for a period of time.

Aragorn looked around puzzled for a moment instantly realizing that one of them was missing.   He too had been thinking back about their journey through Moria and what he could have done to prevent Gandalf's fall.   

"Where is Frodo?" he asked.

"Oh gosh, Mr Frodo Sir, I was too caught up in my own crying…………." Sam started to say, but stop mid-sentence as he saw that his master was nowhere to be seen.

Sam's grief was such that for a brief period of time, he had done what Gandalf had asked him not to;   loose sight of his master Mr Frodo.  

Legolas and Gimli were now looking anxiously about for any sign of the ring-bearer.  Boromir walked in the opposite direction to do the same.

"Frodo?" Aragorn said aloud as he began to search, knowing that the ring-bearer would be experiencing the most pain.   He took a few hurried steps in front of him, hoping that in his grief, the hobbit had not done the unthinkable and walked too far away from the rest of the group.

"Frodo!" Aragorn repeated, both in relief and alarm as he spotted the dark-haired hobbit, a little further apart than he would have liked.   What he was alarmed at was the place were the ring-bearer had chosen for his solitude.     If Frodo heard his name being called, he didn't give any indication and stood with his back turned, his long cloak flapping around his ankles in the strong wind.

The other fellowship members had hurried up behind Aragorn as he alerted to him

finding the ring-bearer, Sam in front of them all.   But they were prevented from

going any closer than beside him by the Ranger holding out his arms and stopping

them from approaching any closer.

"But I have to get to him," Sam started to say to Aragorn, noting the body language in his master. 

"Nay Sam, I want to reach him too, but see where he is standing," Aragorn pointed out.

The fellowship all held their breath as they began to realize just what the Ranger was trying to tell them.   The immediate area where Frodo was standing was littered with small shelves of sharp rocks and ledges. 

 The biggest concern was that these ledges seemed to trail out to a much larger ledge over the side of the mountain.   They couldn't see how far down the slope fell, but it was enough for them to think that any fall by the ring-bearer would see him meet his own death should he falter.  The surface of the rocks was covered in the very thin layer of snow, making them slippery and even more perilous where Frodo stood.

Aragorn estimated that Frodo stood about a foot and a half from the edge, letting the wind blow freely against his body and seemingly unaffected by the chill of the air.  Frodo's head was turned towards the horizon in the distance as his curls danced about his face and the collar of his shirt.  

"We have to bring him back from that edge Strider," Merry now said, truly fearful

that his cousin did not comprehend the danger he was in.

"We cannot afford to startle him too much Merry," Aragorn warned.  "If he becomes frightened suddenly or tries to flee in too much haste, he might stumble on those rocks or loose his footing, injuring himself or much worse.  The wind is also against us at the moment" he added, noting the sting against his own face.

"Frodo," Aragorn said in a quiet, gentle voice.   He took one step towards the hobbit, aware that everyone behind him held their breath for fear of the ring-bearer's reaction.

Frodo heard his name but did not turn around straight away.    With his body turned side-on, he took a few seconds to slowly turn his head to where the voice was coming from.

Sam found himself crying again for fear of his master's safety.   Legolas had a gentle, but restraining hand on his shoulder in case he should try and foolishly rush towards Frodo suddenly.    Boromir was now playing a similar role behind Merry and Pippin.

Frodo's face was pale, and showed signs of a few shed tears with silvery tracks down his cheeks.    His hand still clasped tightly onto the handle of his sword Sting, unaware that he had not released his grip since being physically carried out by Boromir.  The fingers were wrapped so tightly with tension that the knuckles of his small hand appeared white.

Aragorn felt as though his own heart was being pierced as he looked into the deep, sorrowful blue eyes of the ring-bearer.   Frodo's eyes had always seemed like a window to his soul to the Ranger, letting others know of how he felt or if he was in pain even before any words had been spoken.

Looking at the intense sense of loss and misery on Frodo's face, one could be mistaken for thinking that the windows had been shattered along with the hobbit's soul. 

Frodo now looked down at his feet and seemed to note his closeness to the edge of the cliff-face.     He stared intently at it for a few seconds, images of Gandalf falling assaulting him with memories of the wizard's face as he looked back at them inside the mine.

The ring-bearer now leaned forward slightly from here he stood, not altering the position of his feet, but trying to peer over the edge to see downwards.    A strangled cry could be heard coming from Sam as he almost fainted as he watched Frodo with horror.

Aragorn forced himself to remain calm and not to attempt to rush forward towards Frodo as they all wanted so desperately to do.     He took a few deep breaths and tried to begin inching his way closer and closer to the hobbit without making him feel threatened.   There were beads of sweat forming on the back of his neck, despite the cold wind at the mere thought of Frodo falling.

Up until this point, Frodo amidst the emptiness that he felt at loosing Gandalf, he had forgotten about the physical injuries that he had suffered back in the mines.   He didn't know how serious they were, but it hurt to breathe at times and he had bitten down on his lip to prevent from screaming when Boromir had pulled him back from trying to run to help Gandalf.

Back in the mines, his adrenaline had kept the pain to a tolerable level and made his muscles move despite their protests and throbbing.    Now that he stood on this rocky outcrop, being battered by the cold wind, all of the adrenaline reserves were depleted.

Frodo began to feel the sting of the bitterly cold wind on his face as the others did.

He looked towards his hand and noted the tension running down his arm at the grip with which he gripped the sword.

Frodo tried to focus on his breathing to allow the pain to ease slightly but the thoughts that plagued his mind seemed to take any control he had away from his body.   His feet began to notice the rough edged rocks underneath.   The muscles in his arms and legs were now growing stiff from the cold.   He could feel his cloak around his shoulders, but the fabric seemed to do little to warm him.

Frodo forced himself to try and deal with the pain, but as he did so, his equilibrium became disrupted and he tried to use his feet to steady himself.   Taking a small step backwards resulted in him suddenly feeling very light-headed and dizzy.

Frodo felt the muscles in his hand let got of the sword and he vaguely heard a metal clatter as it fell to the ground beside him.    He tried to lift his hands to his head to stop the pain, but again the images of Gandalf's face was before him, taunting him, reminding him of what he had done.

Aragorn had managed to move a few more inches towards the ring-bearer.  He had seen the sword in his hand fall from his grasp, but didn't immediately realize that it was due Frodo feeling pain.  

Frodo was scarcely aware of where he was now and looked towards the approaching Ranger with confusion as the corners of his consciousness began to turn gray.  He could see Aragorn but could not find the words to mouth that he needed help. Instead he used his eyes to employ a pleading expression.

Legolas was keeping a close eye on the hobbit's facial features as well as everyone else, but took a fraction of a second before Aragorn to note what was about to happen to Frodo.

"Aragorn he is fading," the elf said in alarm, hoping that there was some way of bridging the gap to the hobbit before he collapsed entirely.

Aragorn heard the elf's word and looked to see Frodo's sad blue eyes begin to roll

up in his head.  The hobbit's knees started to buckle and the ring-bearer was only aware that he was spiraling away from his own thoughts.

Frodo did not feel himself begin to collapse backwards and nor did he note a pair of hands reaching out to grasp a hold of him and then gently lowering him to the ground.

Aragorn inwardly sighed in relief as he caught Frodo and prevented him from hitting the stoned ground underneath him.   For the briefest moment, the Ranger laid his head against the ring-bearer's shoulder and gave a silent prayer in thanks that mercy had been allowed to prevail at a time when there seemed to be very little.

Legolas was still trying to hold Sam back from racing to his master as they watched Aragorn carefully lift Frodo's prone form and walk back towards them.

Aragorn knelt before Sam and the others before asking Pippin to remove the Ranger's cloak and lay it out on to ground before laying Frodo back down.   The bigger members of the fellowship allowed the three smaller hobbits to be as close as they dared to Frodo.

"What's wrong with him Mr Strider?" Sam asked as he fought to control his emotions and offer whatever assistance he could for his master.

"He looks so pale," Merry commented as he looked upon the ashen face of his cousin.  Pippin ran his hand along Frodo's cheek in response to Merry's words, hoping the warmth of his hand would be enough to rouse Frodo.

"Sam, I feel that your master's exhaustion is complete.   The loss of Gandalf has caused him great suffering. We need to keep him warm and travel away from here for a short time and find more permanent shelter so Frodo can rest and regain his strength," Aragorn explained, placing a reassuring hand on the hobbit's  shoulder.

"Boromir and Legolas, would you guide Sam and the other hobbits as I carry the

ring-bearer.  We need to be away from here with haste and cannot afford the time to wait for Frodo to awaken," Aragorn said, still sensing the ever close presence of the orcs.   

Boromir and Legolas nodded in agreement and knew that the Ranger would need to turn his full attention to the well-being of the ring-bearer for the foreseeable future. If there was someway they could help in lessening Frodo's pain and loss then they were gladly willing to do what was asked of them.

***************************************************

For the next three hours, a weary group of travelers weaved down a small pathway in the mountains trying to seek shelter and safety from the orcs.

Boromir had insisted on himself and Gimli carrying the packs of the hobbits.   He could see by their slumped shoulders and the dragging of their feet as they walked that they carried pain of their own for Gandalf and fear about Frodo.

Legolas was in front followed by Aragorn who found no difficulty in bearing Frodo's small weight.  He had taken extra measures to ensure that the unconscious hobbit was wrapped in enough warm blankets and cloaks should Frodo begin to show signs of shock.   The cloak shrouded the hobbit's face for most of the journey, but there would be times when a muffled moan would escape his lips.

Sam had attempted to walk right beside Aragorn as they continued down the mountain. He was too anxious about the state of his master's health and could not be convinced that Frodo's unconscious state gave him any relief.  

Merry and Pippin tried in vain to keep up with Boromir, their eyes constantly darting around them in search of things that would hunt them that they could not see.

Gimli continued at the rear of the group holding his axe in an imposing position and ready to defend his companions at a moment's notice.

Legolas's keen eyesight soon spotted a well hidden series of caves bordered by a

forest of trees as they came to the bottom of the mountain.   After much assessment, he urged the others to enter one of the larger, more central caves.

From the cave itself, it was possible to gain a vantage point to most of the surrounding rocky slopes and beginning of the wooded forest.   The cave was larger enough to accommodate all of the fellowship comfortably.   There were smaller ones that would adequately allow for storage of extra firewood and water skins.

It had become clearer as they descended the mountains that all needed rest and nourishment before they could hope to continue to safer havens.   The cave would allow for a fire to be made so that hot food could be prepared and water boiled.   All had various abrasions and scratches that should be attended to when safety allowed.

Because of his unconscious state, Aragorn had yet to learn of any of the injuries that Frodo had sustained in the mines of Moria.     The hobbit had emitted soft winces and moans as he lay in the Ranger's arms, but there were no visible signs to indicate anything more than torment within his own mind over Gandalf's death.

Upon entering the cave, Sam immediately concerned himself with the welfare of his master Frodo.    He pulled out two blankets from their packs as Gimli and Boromir set them down and spread them out to cushion the harsh floor enough as a crude mattress.

Legolas and Boromir dug a small pit to house the fire.   Merry and Pippin had not

needed to wander very far towards the trees before they found ample firewood.  They supplied Legolas with enough to begin the fire and then went about collecting extra and placing it in a smaller cave beside this one for a later time.

Gimli had started to gather some food stuffs from their reserves, knowing that it might yet be too dangerous to go hunting further a field for fresher game.   He would wait until he was on watch tonight under the cover of darkness.

Aragorn laid Frodo down on the bed that Sam had prepared, unwrapping the cloak from around him a little so that he could begin assessing his condition.    The hobbit was still incredibly pale and his skin was slightly cold to the touch despite the warmth the blankets and Aragorn's own body had offered on the way down.

"When the water is heated enough I will try and make a relaxing tea for him to drink," Aragorn said to Sam.   "For now it is best that he rest and free from thoughts of the horrors that he had witnessed this day."

"Keep him warm Sam," Aragorn said as he left Frodo's side and went to talk briefly to Legolas and the others of matters that were utmost in their minds.   He spoke to them of the ring-bearer and they all held a little concern as to what damage might have been caused.

Legolas, Boromir and Gimli then talked seriously to Aragorn about the security measures that would need to be adopted between them for the safety of the fellowship and the hobbits.    Aragorn advised that they may be forced to remain in the caves longer, depending on Frodo when he awoke.

Sam had prepared a sparse but edible meal out of the ingredients that Gimli had found. Merry and Pippin never strayed too far from Frodo's side, anxious to see their cousin awake.

The fellowship grew even more concerned about Frodo when he had not yet awoken to join them for a meal.   Sam had gotten up several times, interrupting his own meal, thinking he had heard his master, only to be disappointment each time.

With a hot meal in their bellies and the smoke and warmth from the fire relaxing

their taunt muscles even further, the hobbits soon joined Frodo and fell asleep.

The weather outside was growing colder and threatening as the clouds began to get darker with rain and Aragorn was thankful that they at least had shelter.

Most of the fellowship had fallen asleep as rain began to fall outside the cave.

Aragorn had taken first watch as others slept.  The rain began to tumble down heavier outside and the hobbits remained cocooned in their blankets, Gimli now took his place, allowing the Ranger to rest himself.   

Aragorn had paused to check on Frodo, peeling back a blanket and relieved to find a little warmth returning to the hobbit's cheeks.   He did not stir at the Ranger's touch. Aragorn now moved a few meters away from the four hobbits and pulled his cloak around himself as sleep beckoned.

It was not until about an hour later that Aragorn was awaken by Sam's startled cries.  He immediately got to his feet, ready to reach for his sword, thinking that their secret accommodations had been found out by the orcs.

"He's gone Mr Strider!" Sam said, unable to hide the raw fear in his voice.  His hands were prodding the pile of blankets that lay beside him that had covered Frodo only hours before.

The other members of the fellowship were also awoken and began looking around the room for any sign of the missing ring-bearer.

"How could he just walk out without any of us hearing him awake?" Merry asked,

thinking that somebody should have at least heard Frodo if he had left the safety of the cave.

"What if he is lost out there?" Pippin said as he tried not to think about Frodo being alone in a strange place.

"You don't think something came and took him while we slept do you Aragorn?"

Boromir asked, putting a planting dreadful seed in their minds as to what might have befallen Frodo.

Aragorn wasn't about to waste time on asking questions and raced towards the front of the cave, cursing himself.   The rain was still falling outside.   Legolas had an arrow already drawn and held in place with two fingers with his bow, ready to defend.

Gimli had told the Ranger that he had not seen Frodo or known that he was moving about.   There had been no indication that Frodo had even been awake let alone have the strength to wander away.

When the fellowship peered out into the wooded trees, the sight before them all made them stop had hold their breath.    Legolas and Boromir held back slightly, still ever vigilant in case there was danger but they could see that it was no orc that currently caused Frodo distress.

Aragorn and Sam walked out slightly in to the rain, sheltered slightly by the canopy of the trees.   Sam heart felt like it was breaking in two as he watched the sullen figure a short distance away.  

Merry and Pippin wept tears of their own as they gazed upon Frodo, Gimli standing beside them.

Like before, Sam had wanted to rush up to his master and console him, but something about the way the hobbit stood made it almost impossible to move his feet and he remained transfixed on a most heart-wrenching scene.

Frodo was standing about fifteen meters from the others on top of a rocky ledge that was raised above the ground and led further into the forest.   It wasn't particularly high off the ground and Frodo was in no danger of falling as he had been higher in the mountain.

But it was the sight of the ring-bearer and his body language that spoke volumes and revealed just how much pain and suffering he was putting himself through.   The rain continued to fall and Frodo's clothes hung over his body in saturated folds, weighing down the fabric so it stretched towards the ground.

Frodo didn't seem to note the wet clothes on his gaunt frame.   He had no cloak around his shoulders, and looked to be shivering and trembling from the cold.  His shoulders were slumped forward, giving his whole body the appearance of scarcely being able to hold himself upright.

Frodo's head was bowed forward, his hair falling over his forehead in sodden tendrils, still dripping around his pale face.   Tears ran freely down his face and mixed with the falling rain as both hobbit and the sky above cried for their loss.

Frodo was unaware that his grief was being watched.   He cared about nothing at the moment, not even the offer of friendship.

The pain in his chest and back seemed to be unending but he had offered himself no pity for it and allowed the torment to continue assaulting him.  His thoughts were dark and of flashes of Gandalf's face before he fell into the shadow.

It had taken all of his strength to rise from the blankets in the cave and make the arduous walk this short distance without making any noise to the others.   Now as he stood in the cold rain, he wished the water to flow down his entire body and wash himself free of the torment and pain.

The group could now hear his crying as the tears turned into shudders and then heart-felt sobs.  His chest ached from the pain the sobbing caused but Frodo could do nothing to stop either.

With his energy totally spent and the weight of more than his clothes on his shoulders, by the time Aragorn and Sam forced their legs to move towards the ring-bearer and offer what comfort they could, Frodo had begun to sink to his knees from fatigue.

Frodo felt hands reaching for him and wrapping themselves around his shivering and trembling body but was scarcely aware of anybody around him.  He forced himself to look up and upon seeing Aragorn's concerned face in front of him, crumpled entirely, burying his face into the folds of the Ranger's cloaks and letting the emotions take hold of him completely.

Sam could not hold back his own crying for his master and stumbled along beside the Ranger, holding onto Frodo as Aragorn now carried the distraught and distressed hobbit back to the cave.

"Legolas, a hot drink if you please, hurry.   There is a pouch of dried leaves in my pack.  Place two pinches into the water and allow them to infuse for a few seconds," Aragorn now instructed.

"Merry and Pippin, as many towels as you can spare please and try warming them by the fire a little before bringing them to me," he now asked of Frodo's two cousins.

Boromir and Gimli stood at the entrance to the caved, determined to offer security to the others as they helped Frodo.  They did not think that they would be able to console the hobbit as well as the Ranger or his other friends but would offer assistance where they could.

Frodo looked up at Aragorn with blue eyes that spoke of anguish and torment.  He

wanted to ask so many questions but could not find his voice or the words to do so.

Legolas tested the temperature of the liquid in the cup before handing it to Aragorn.   The contents were aromatic but unfamiliar to the other surrounding hobbits. 

"Drink this please Frodo," Aragorn said in a soft, gentle voice.   "It will help you

forget for a time," he added, seeing the confused stare regarding the cup.

Frodo was tempted to pull his face away screaming inwardly to himself that he didn't deserve to forget.   But the first drop reached his lips and then he found himself doing exactly what he didn't want to.

Aragorn waited patiently, hoping that the herbs would soon have taken effect.   Frodo was still sitting up, leaning against the Ranger as he felt his eyes growing heavy and then beginning to drift close. 

"Tell me it's not true Aragorn," Frodo asked in a voice barely audible, his eyes

searching for the answer he knew would never come.

At first he willed his mind to fight the pull of sleep but with his body protesting with every shallow breath he inhaled, the battle was soon lost and his head drooped towards his knees.   The muscles in his body seemed to loose all feeling and sensation and the hand being held by Sam went limp.

"We need to get him changed out of these wet clothes and dry again Sam," Aragorn said, Sam nodding his agreement, his own voice caught in his throat at watching his master's pain and suffering.

 "Sleep in peace little one" Aragorn whispered as he gently lay Frodo down onto

the blankets.

TO BE CONTINUED…………………………………

Okay, this hopefully doesn't sound too bad for a beginning – didn't really have the punch that I was hoping for with the scene in the rain.   Oh well.   Hope you like it anyway.

Yes I know it was a no no to have Frodo standing in the pouring rain, shivering,

but I had to do it.    I didn't really explain how he got out of the cave without being seen or waking Sam but I couldn't think of how to do it.  Gimli turned his head for a moment and didn't see him I guess.  Gimli has been sacked and given a swift kick for his troubles by Legolas and Sam.

The next chapter will have a whole different out look for Frodo and how he feels

as well as some danger and then some more physical hurt.  Keep reading.

They won't be safe in the caves for very long.  

Aragorn will learn about all of Frodo's hurts from the spear when they get him

into dry clothes.

Please let me know what you think.

JULES