A/N - Thank you to everyone who reviewed my previous one chapter fic, "A Promise in the Dark"…your reviews really helped me and gave me the courage to post this little fic that I wrote a long while back (when I first discovered the concept of fan fiction). This is another little gap filler - mostly cannon I think (though, I'm sure some of you more veteran LOTR fans could find some things to point out as not cannon [blush!] - but I did try to work within the parameters of the original story.) As I wrote this early into my discovery of fan fiction, I had no idea at the time how many stories there were out there dealing with this particular portion of the story - right after Morder and before Frodo and Sam's awakening. I probably would not have pursued it if I had known how many really GOOD fics there already are on this subject…but, since I have already written it(at least, I have written the beginning of it - it was originally going to be just one chapter…it's kind of grown a bit!) please do me the honor of reading it (and reviewing, please, please, please!J ). Hopefully I will have some fresh and original ideas in there that have not been explored to death. Thanks in advance to all who read! Special thanks to EMMA (the mother of EvilMerry!) for her encouraging words and for being my spot-on, wonderful, insightful, can't say enough good things about her beta for this story! Blessings!
Oh…and by the way…these darling hobbits are not mine (dang!) and I'm not Tolkien (as if you couldn't guess!) and I'm not making any money off of this story (unless someone is actually WILLING to pay me some money for this!) and all that other disclaimer stuff.
"Between There…And Back Again"
Chapter One - Rescue
Gandalf's heart was a mixture of emotions as he mounted the eagle. So much had happened in such a short time that it was hard for anyone to take in and process the enormity of it all – even a wizard. The battle was over, having been won by the side of the good and the right. The Ringbearer, he knew, had fulfilled his quest somehow and the ring had been destroyed. For those two things his heart was exceedingly grateful and glad. What troubled him now was the fate of the Ringbearer himself and of his companion...what had become of those two? One thing was for certain...if they were alive, they badly needed to be brought from that horrid place to which they had so doggedly trekked. Gandalf, with the help of the ever faithful eagle, Gwaihir, his brother Meneldor and a third eagle Landroval which would be used to carry supplies Gandalf thought they might need when he got there...blankets, bandages, medicines, water and a bit of food - intended to be the one to see them brought out.
As the eagles lifted off the ground, Gandalf thought back to the day of the council meeting in the House of Elrond. With his heart still a mixture of emotions, he remembered how he had felt when he heard above the din of raised, angry voices, the voice of the Ringbearer speak his fateful words, "I will take the ring to Mordor, though...I do not know the way." Gandalf had been both despairing, at knowing what the journey and task might mean for Frodo, whom he regarded as the best hobbit in the Shire, and proud of the courage of this little one all at the same time. Gandalf knew, even then, that it might be a journey that would lead to his death. He feared that, even now, with the ring destroyed that that might be true.
Far below, Gandalf surveyed the landscape and saw that though the shadow had lifted from the land, that Middle Earth had not escaped unmarred. It would take years to repair all of the damage done...if it could be repaired at all. He wondered further what he might find the land of Mordor to look like, that being after all, homeland of the destroyed Dark Lord. As he imagined what he might find he was filled with dread at knowing that both Frodo and Sam were there, stranded in that hateful land.
Coming out of his reverie, Gandalf discovered that there was no longer any need for him to try to imagine what he would find Mordor looking like, for they were now approaching it's boarders. Far beneath him, he could see the land...ruined and raped. Even from his distant view atop Gwaihir's back, Gandalf could easily tell that it was now, more than ever, a land that would be very inhospitable, very nearly uninhabitable to any gentle creature. He doubted very much if even orcs, with their foul and crude ways, could survive in it now - much less two small, gentle hobbits of the Shire. At the very least, there was no food or water available to them there and at the worst, Gandalf could now see, Mount Doom had erupted and was now spewing forth glowing, red hot lava. The resulting ash fell like corrupted snow.
Suddenly, far below, beneath the cloud of ash he was looking through, Gandalf spotted the precious cargo he had come for. "Left, Gwaihir...I see them." said Gandalf. "Yes, I know...I spotted them a way back." the bird replied. Again, he found himself not being able to identify just how he felt...hopeful, because at the very least, he had found them...yet, fear gripped his heart because the two small figures he saw below were not moving. Gwaihir did as Gandalf bid him and began to descend as he veered left. As the eagle came closer, Gandalf could see that the hobbits were laying together, side by side with Sam on the left and Frodo on the right, their hands clasped together between them.
Gandalf did not even wait for Gwaihir's feet to touch down as he landed, goose down soft upon the rocky ground. From his back he leapt as soon as he was near enough to the ground to escape injuring himself. A sob came into his throat as the full impact of the vision of Sam and Frodo came to him in his nearness to them. Scrambling over rocks, he ran to where they lay on the hard, unforgiving ground. He held his breath as he approached them, slower now, fearful of what he might find.
It was Sam he came nearest to first, and bending over him found that he was indeed still alive, though looking quite worn, exhausted, beaten and in need of food and water. A large gash was on his head, just beneath his sandy hairline, now stained and stiffened with the blood that had flowed there from the wound. Laying a hand on his chest, Gandalf found his heart to be beating strongly and regularly, his breathing relatively deep and even – given the circumstances. For all the dirt, grime, ash, blood, cuts, bruises and other markings, Sam's sleeping face had a look of deep peace about it.
Satisfied now that Sam was wounded but not mortally, Gandalf turned his attention to Frodo. As he stepped over Sam to get to Frodo's side, Gandalf saw with horror that Frodo's right hand, which lay now upon his chest, clinging to the orc garment he wore, was covered in blood. Whatever wound caused the bleeding seemed to still be seeping, turning the foul, dark garment he wore to a drab, indistinguishable color. As Gandalf lowered himself to his knees by Frodo's side, he saw all too clearly what wound it was that kept bleeding and bleeding - the third finger of Frodo's right hand was just, well - gone - in its place, a gaping wound. When he was finally able to remove his eyes from the shock that was now Frodo's right hand, Gandalf then took in the lean face of the hobbit that was so dear to him. The face Gandalf saw before him was lean, as it always had been, but much more so, making the cheekbones seem even more prominent. The thick, dark lashes of his closed eyes rested in a gentle crescent against his face. Dirt and ash, mixed with smears of blood covered most of his face, which was very pale and still. The full lips, slightly parted, had no color to them whatsoever, except for the slight bluish tinge around their edges. Frodo's hair, though covered in ash and singed on some of the edges looked very dark against the pale skin of his brow.
With hesitation, borne of the fear of what he might find, Gandalf closed his eyes and placed a trembling hand to the hobbits chest. Relief washed over him as, to his wonderful surprise, he found that a heart did still beat within the chest of Frodo Baggins. Gandalf sighed deeply, finally releasing the breath he had been holding. He was truly surprised to find a stir of life for Frodo had not appear to be still breathing as he had watched his small chest for its rising and falling. At length, Gandalf left his hand on Frodo's chest and waited to see what would be revealed. The heartbeat he felt was rapid and the breathing shallow. Still leaving his hand over Frodo's heart, Gandalf's other hand lifted to Frodo's face where with gentle fingers, he slowly pulled back the eyelid to find that the pupil of his eye was very large. Frodo was not just asleep; he was unconscious. Using both hands now, Gandalf felt of Frodo's face and found it to be very cold to the touch.
"He's slowly bleeding to death!" Gandalf said to himself. He knew he must move quickly or the hobbit would die.
Rising from his position on his knees, Gandalf ran back to where the eagles had landed. Quickly he took down from the Landroval's back the items he felt he would need.
Gandalf barely felt the earth beneath his feet as he ran back to where his two small patients lay, still side by side with hands clasped tightly together, just as Gandalf had left them. He began with Sam because he felt there were a few things that COULD be done quickly to comfort him before they took flight. Opening the water skin he had slung over his shoulder, he poured a small amount into the cup of his hand and let the water slowly run over Sam's dry, cracked lips. He did this several times and when he was satisfied that a sufficient amount of the water had gotten into Sam to keep him until they could reach the relative sanctuary of the fields he recapped the canteen and began to fix a bandage for Sam's poor wounded head. With his head bandaged now, Gandalf unrolled one of the woolen blankets he had brought and spread it upon the ground. Sam cried out softly as his hand was pulled from Frodo's frozen grasp when Gandalf lifted him and placed him on the middle of the blanket.
"No...Frodo…" he cried weakly as a poor sick child, his hand outstretched toward Frodo.
"Shh now, Samwise. It's all right. Gandalf is here and you both are going to be fine."
Gandalf told him gently.
But, having slipped away into the relief of sleep or unconsciousness (which it was, Gandalf could not say for sure), Sam did not hear his reply. Gandalf wrapped Sam tightly in the blanket, in preparation for the cold air he would soon experience high above the earth. It was not a very heavy burden that Gandalf lifted from the ground and his heart broke as he thought of the robust hobbit Sam had been when he left the Shire - the very picture of what a hobbit should be. The hobbit now in his arms was emaciated and thin.
"Don't worry, Samwise...we'll soon have you looking healthy and strong again." Gandalf said, though he knew Sam could not hear him.
Having reached the eagles landing once again, Gandalf placed Sam on between the 'shoulders' of Meneldor, with strict orders to hold him tight and not let him fall. Sam nestled his head a bit as he felt the warm soft feathers beneath his head. Quickly, Gandalf threw a length of rope over Sam and around to the breast of the great bird, securing him there. Satisfied that between the careful shoulder blades of the eagle and the securely fastened belt that Samwise would not be lost in the flight, Gandalf turned and head at a run back to the spot where Frodo still lay.
With urgency born of fear speeding his legs, Gandalf reached the hobbit in no time at all. Kneeling quickly at Frodo's side, he began to wrap the wounded hand tightly in a bandage in hopes of stemming the flow of the precious life-giving blood that was steadily seeping from the wound. Having completed the binding, Gandalf next spread the second blanket upon the ground and lifting Frodo onto the middle of it, wrapped him warmly in its folds. Once wrapped, Frodo, his body completely limp and lifeless, was lifted and held in Gandalf's strong arms. Gandalf looked briefly down at the hobbit in his arms and failed to stifle a sob as he realized what a slight burden he bore.
"He weighs no more than a hobbit child now." thought Gandalf sadly.
Out loud, Gandalf spoke now, stroking Frodo's brow as he did, "No matter, Frodo Baggins...we are going to get you well and healthy again...I vow it!"
In a just a few strides, run with the small hobbit in his arms, Gandalf reached the eagle landing once again. Gently, Gandalf lifted Frodo to the back of the Gwaihir and then quickly climbed aboard himself. Not wanting to waste any time with binding Frodo to the bird, Gandalf decided instead to simply hold him for the duration of the flight. Sliding gentle hands beneath Frodo's neck and knees, Gandalf pulled him easily into his lap and held him securely.
"Fly!" Gandalf commanded the birds and instantly they were airborne.
Gandalf looked down at the unconscious hobbit in his arms and noted that his head lolled pitifully back over the crook of his elbow. Shifting Frodo's body slightly, Gandalf pulled Frodo's head to his chest, near the shoulder, and held it there. In an effort to further slow the bleeding of the wounded hand, Gandalf lifted it in his own and placed it gently on his other shoulder, placing it now above the level of Frodo's heart. With Frodo's head so near his ear now, Gandalf could hear how alarmingly shallow, rapid and labored the hobbit's breathing had become.
"He's nearly panting, now!" Gandalf's mind screamed in alarm. "He's lost too much blood. He's going into shock."
In a loud voice, Gandalf urged the bird to fly faster and spoke gently into the delicately pointed ear of the small charge nestled in his lap, "Hold on, Frodo. Hold on. We'll be there soon. Aragorn will take good care of you. Just hold on a little bit longer. Please."
As though in deliberate defiance of Gandalf's request of him, Frodo immediately began to tremble uncontrollably. His entire body shook and shuddered and his teeth chattered as though he had suddenly fallen into a freezing winter. His breath came in great gasps now that were too shallow and rapid. With each breath, Frodo's back arched as if he were desperately trying to draw the breath down into his lungs, but just was not succeeding. Hearing and witnessing this, Gandalf watched in horror as Frodo's face went even whiter and the lips that had been tinged blue before became even bluer. While Gandalf was staring into the pale face he was suddenly confronted by two enormous eyes that were also shockingly, impossibly blue. Frodo's eyes were frantic and full of pain as he gazed up at Gandalf's face, which was as full of panic as it never had been before.
"What's happening to me?!? Please help me!" the frightened blue eyes pleaded with his rescuer.
As if he heard him audibly, Gandalf answered Frodo's plea in a voice that belied the terror he felt, "Easy, Frodo. You're safe now. Gandalf's here with you. You're going to be just fine. I'm so proud of you, my dear hobbit! Don't worry...shhh...don't worry," Gandalf crooned to him.
Gandalf's voice and words were so convincing that even he had believed them as he spoke them. He was not comforted long, however as Frodo's eyes suddenly batted closed and his breathing became even more labored, rapid and shallow. As horrible as that was for Gandalf to witness, it was nothing compared to the horror he knew at what happened next. With no warning, Frodo's body went completely still. There was no more trembling, there was no more great arching of the back as he attempted to draw breath, no more gasping...he was still and silent. The wounded hand that had been placed on Gandalf's shoulder now fell limply away from Frodo's body. His head fell back once again, the dark curls blowing softly in the wind. His face was as quite as cotton.
Gandalf's mind took in the sight of the hobbit in his arms and cried out, "NO!!"
With a voice like thunder now, Gandalf yelled like an army commander to the small, still bundle before him, shaking him gently as he spoke, "FRODO BAGGINS!! Don't you give up on me! Please, Frodo! Keep fighting!! Don't give up now! We're almost there...almost there..." Gandalf wept this last into Frodo's dark, ash covered hair.
Weather it was the loud ringing voice or the sheer power of his words that did the job, Gandalf would never know, but to his joy and amazement, Frodo suddenly started in his embrace and began breathing again. The breath that he drew was still ragged, quick, shallow and accompanied by a loud wheezing sound as he drew each breath in. Once again Frodo's teeth began to chatter and he arched his back pitifully with each breath in an effort to get some of it into his starving lungs. As pitiful as all this was, it was like music to Gandalf's ears and the sight of the hobbit struggling to live, was to him, the most beautiful sight he had ever seen.
Tenderly, Gandalf hugged Frodo to him, stroking his face and brow gently, and crooned softly to him now, as a father to his child, "That's it, my dear hobbit...keep fighting! You are so strong, Frodo...just keep on being strong. We're almost there! There's a soft bed with a lovely feather pillow waiting for you and plenty of good food and drink, for when you feel well enough. Yes, we are going to take good care of you and Samwise too. Samwise is going to be fine and so are you."
Just then, Gandalf looked over to the back of the eagle which bore Sam and was surprised to find Sam looking at the picture of him with Frodo nestled in his arms with tears both in his eyes and running down each cheek where they had been shed.
"Are we, Sir?" Sam asked weakly through his tears.
"Are we both truly going to be fine? Is Mr. Frodo still with us, Sir? He seems to be strugglin' so."
Gandalf smiled broadly at Sam and replied, "Why Samwise Gamgee, don't you know that a wizard only ever speaks the truth? Your Mr. Frodo is still with us and will remain with us if I have anything to say about it...and so will you. You must rest now, however."
Sam closed his teary eyes and nodded tiredly, "Yes, sir." He whispered. The deepest sleep he had ever known took him then, wiping everything away.
Stay Tuned for Chapter Two…coming soon to a Fanfiction.net site in YOUR hometown!
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****SPECIAL SNEAKY PREVIEW OF CHAPTER TWO (crowd goes wild!)****
From Chapter Two of "Between There…And Back Again" (coming soon!)
"He's lost a lot of blood, Aragorn." Gandalf's voice suddenly broke through his thoughts.
"Yes, I can tell. He seems to be slipping into shock." Aragorn answered him as he pulled back Frodo's eyelid to see the dilated pupil beneath. Letting go of the eyelid, which slide immediately shut, Aragorn gently caressed Frodo's brow. "You take care of Sam. I'll take Frodo."