Trial and Sacrifice




Author's note: Okay everyone (takes a deep breath) here's the first chapter. I know you really enjoyed "Fragile Choices" and so I hope you enjoy the sequel as well. Again, I'm so grateful for your feedback that has encouraged me to continue this. Any constructive criticism will be greatly appreciated!

Disclaimer: Tolkien's characters aren't mine. I don't own some of Peter Jackson's dialogue that I included in this chapter either, but Tansy is my creation.

Rating: PG-13

Warning: Major angst!




Chapter One: Waiting for you

"I will take the ring to Mordor, though I do not know the way..."

Frodo grimaced at those words.

On a brisk, October day, he stood at the open window of his room inside the House of Elrond. Gazing at the wondrous beauty of Rivendell, Frodo drew in a deep breath, a frustrated one while he recalled the events of the council that had taken place an hour ago. The bickering about what was to be done with the ring. And no matter how much he talked himself into thinking someone else could take the ring to Mordor, he knew within his heart that this ring had now become his burden to carry.

He closed his eyes, squeezing them shut.

"I must get this ring away from the shire. I won't be long..."

He winced at the memory of a promise he could not keep to Tansy and at the slight pain of the healed wound on the left side of his shoulder. Frodo wished he could forget that dreadful night at Weathertop when a morgul blade, which the Black Riders carried with them, had stabbed him. He had been very grateful to Elrond for healing him. Still, every now and then, the wound would tingle slightly, and the memory of that night relentlessly haunted him.

Tansy, if only I can be in your arms again.

Smell the sweet strawberries on your skin.

You're holding me and everything is like it was...

"Mr. Frodo?"

Frodo's eyes fluttered open, as if he suddenly awoke from a pleasant dream. He turned and faced his gardener who was behind him.

"Sam? How long have you been standing there?"

"Not long, only a few minutes." Sam let out a dejected sigh and then he added, "I know you hoped to get back to the Shire. So did I. I was thinking about Tansy...and Rosie."

Slowly, Frodo shook his head. "Sam, I told her I would come back soon. Now that I'm not, she will hate me."

"Oh, Mr. Frodo, I don't think she'll hate you."

Frightened, Frodo went on to say, "What if she does? I would not blame her. We were married and now I'm gone."

"But you had no choice. The ring, Mr. Frodo--,"

"I know!" Frodo snapped, then after realizing he vented his frustrations toward Sam, he composed himself, speaking softly. "I'm sorry, Sam. You must understand, I don't know what will happen to us. And if something does happen, what about Tansy? Who will take care of her?"

Frodo turned away from Sam and gazed out the window again.

"Who will take care of her?"

It seemed to Rosie, from the brisk chill of the November air, that an early winter would once again assault the Shire with its icy fury. She was also concerned about Tansy who had become a recluse at Bag End, which ignited more gossip of her being queer. Rosie stopped at the door of the Baggins' hole and as her finger reached out to ring the bell, she hesitated. The door was slightly ajar.

Alarmed and cautious, Rosie opened the door and entered the parlor that was pleasantly warmed by the fire beneath the mantle. She walked toward the fireplace, but no sign of Tansy. And then...muffled footsteps halted behind her. Rosie spun on the heels of her furry feet.

"Tansy?"

Rosie's eyes were wide with much concern at the sight of her friend who appeared very anemic. Rather stout before, now Tansy had lost a considerable amount of weight. She took slow, languid steps toward the chair in front of the fireplace. An emerald-green crocheted shawl, which she had made, was wrapped around her shoulders. Her auburn hair, usually pinned up, fell lifelessly against the chalk-white skin of her face.

"Tansy, the door was open..." Rosie's voice faltered when she noticed her friend seemed oblivious of her presence or anything around her as she sat down in the chair and stared at the fire.

Rosie seated herself in the chair beside Tansy.

"Tansy, did you hear anything I've said?"

Tansy nodded, and then she shot a pensive, almost bitter gaze at the golden-haired lass.

"I know the folk gossip about me. And I hear their questions about Frodo...where did he go?"

"From what I heard, he went off to find Bilbo. Is that true?"

Reluctant to answer, Tansy nodded again. "Yes," she said, uncomfortable with lying to Rosie but having no choice.

"He'll come back."

"That's what Gandalf said," Tansy remarked flatly. "And so did Frodo. He told me, I won't be long."

"It's only November, Tansy." Rosie reached for Tansy's hand. She took it into her own, squeezing it gently. "Please, don't give up on him now. And don't give up on yourself or the child you're carrying. You never go out. You don't eat much. You must eat to keep up your strength."

"I'm all right," said Tansy through clenched teeth, jerking her hand out of Rosie's grip. Her eyes fleeted back to the flames.

Rosie examined the way Tansy's left hand gripped the armrest of the chair.

Fire-light danced upon her face and disclosed a thin layer of sweat that glossed her cheeks.

"Tansy, something's wrong."

Tansy could no longer hide the pain from Rosie. Her hand clutched onto her stomach and a resounding wail blared from her lips, piercing the atmosphere around them.

Rosie leapt from the chair and rushed over to Tansy who suddenly collapsed in her arms.

"How is she?" asked Lily, hanging her cloak onto the peg and joined her daughter inside the Baggins' parlor.

"Not that well I'm afraid," Rosie uttered gravely. She breathed and stood by the mantle, looking down at the fire.

"Was the doctor here?"

Rosie nodded.

Lily crossed over to Rosie and faced her. "What did he say?"

"She's been under a lot of stress from Frodo leaving and all. She hasn't been eating much either. The doctor said she has to remain in bed until the baby is born or else she'll lose it."

"Oh gracious, no. I can not believe this is happening." She shook her head. "First Bilbo leaves and then Frodo. If indeed he left to find out what happened to his uncle, I can understand but leaving Tansy here this long?" She caught herself in the middle of rambling, stopped to breathe and continued. "Is it all right to see her?"

"Yes, we can see her."

Tansy lay in bed. Too weak to do anything, she could only manage to turn her head a little to the right where she saw Frodo in his nightshirt and sitting at the desk. Her eyes narrowed, wondering what he was writing.

"What are you doing?" she whispered in her usual raspy voice.

"Oh, just keeping a journal of our wedding day," said Frodo while he focused on writing. "And not just that day. There's so much to write about. But for now, I've written enough."

Frodo dunked the quill back into the ink jar. "I'm not feeling well," Tansy said to him.

His head whirled toward her and his expression was quite fretful.

"You're not?"

He kept his eyes on Tansy while closing the mahogany book, and then he left the desk.

"What is it?" asked Frodo.

Tansy watched him and to her eyes he seemed to glide toward her, as if for that moment time seemed to be coming to a slow halt.

Muffled footsteps stopped at the door. By then, Frodo had faded—just another mirage of her imagination.

She turned her head to see Lily enter the room alongside Rosie.

"Tansy?" said Lily softly as she sat down in a chair beside the bed. "You gave us such a fright, dear. You know what the doctor said don't you?"

Very slowly, Tansy nodded.

"Well then, it's of the utmost importance that you listen to him."

Rosie inched closer to the bed. "Tansy, did you tell your parents about all this?

Tansy wet her parched lips. "They know I'm pregnant, but...they don't know about Frodo leaving the Shire. They can't know. They would never forgive him for doing such a thing."

Lily spotted the shawl that lay across the oak wood chest at the bottom of the bed.

"That shawl, it's very beautiful. You made it?"

Tansy nodded, forcing a weak smile on her lips.

"When you're better, you should make more. I would love one of those to keep me warm on cold days. It can get quite drafty, especially when I'm away from the fireplace."

Again, Tansy only smiled.

"How is the pain?" Lily inquired.

"It's gone now. It seems me resting in bed has done some good."

"And in bed you'll stay. Rosie will take care of you so you won't be alone here anymore. I best be on my way now." She stood from the chair. "And remember, everything will be all right if you do what the doctor instructed."

Rosie bid farewell by giving her mother a hardy hug and when Lily left, Rosie stayed beside Tansy.

Overwhelmed with dread and uncertainty, Tansy grabbed the barmaid's hand.

"Rosie," she mumbled. "I'm going mad."

"Going mad? Whatever do you mean?"

"I see Frodo. I know he isn't here, but I see him so clearly. Now do you understand? That's why I fear I'm going mad."

Rosie hoisted her legs onto the side of the bed and snuggled next to Tansy.

"You won't go mad," she said with an assurance that she hoped had comforted her friend. "He'll come back. I know he will." When Rosie recalled the happy times she talked to Sam, danced with him, realizing that she had loved him, she added, "And I know Sam will come back, too."

Once again, winter mercilessly battered the Shire with an onslaught of frigid winds and snow. Each day, from December into February of the year 3019, Tansy waited for Frodo. Still there was no sign of his return. She lay in bed, watching the wind-driven snow pelt against the window.

He'll come back.

You fool, how long will you wait?

He's not coming back.

He's dead, Tansy. Wouldn't he be here by now if he were still alive?

You're going to lose the baby. Something's wrong. Don't you know?

Tansy cursed the badgering voices until they decided to grant her a moment of reprieve. She carefully turned onto her side, snuggling under many blankets to keep warm. Grinding her teeth from the throbbing pain that gnawed its way from left to the right side of her abdomen; Tansy sank her face into the pillow. Her cries were muffled and only groans could be heard amidst the howling winds outside the window.

After what seemed like a long, treacherous winter, March brought its comforting warmth to the land known as Ithilien. Although at night, March had deceived Frodo and Sam who huddled under their Elven cloaks to keep warm. Frodo slept restlessly and jolted awake by the mutterings of Gollum sitting on a rock beside a stream. He lifted his head a little, peeking at the pitiful creature whom at one time had a home, had a name—Smeagol—hobbit-like in nature and unscathed then.

He continued to watch Smeagol. Suddenly Frodo shivered, not only from the cold, but also from what he saw to be a mirrored image of himself, rather, what he feared he would become.

Frodo peered over his shoulder at Sam sleeping beside him. He was careful not to disturb him. Any sudden sound and he knew Sam would be up, alert and ready to protect him from danger. Of course he wasn't against Sam doing any of those things, he just wanted him to sleep peacefully. One thing bothered him, what had happened earlier. Sam calling Smeagol names. Stinker he said to him. Frodo tried to ignore the conversation he had with Sam and the shame he felt when he argued with his best friend.

Stinker...

"Because," said Sam, "that's what he is Mr. Frodo. There's naught left in him but lies and deceit. It's the ring he wants. It's all he cares about."

Defending Smeagol and himself, Frodo answered, "You have no idea what it did to him. What it's still doing to him. I want to help him, Sam."

"Why?"

"Because I believe he can come back."

"You can not save him, Mr. Frodo."

Anger burned across Frodo's face and his blue eyes became icy, almost cryptic. "What do you know about it? Nothing!" Realizing he screamed at his friend, something unusual for him, Frodo lowered his voice.

"I'm sorry, Sam. I don't know why I said that."

Alarmed and very concerned, Sam replied, "I do. It's the ring. You can't take your eyes off of it. I've seen you. You're not eating. You barely sleep. It's taking a hold of you, Mr. Frodo. You have to fight it..."

Returning to the present, Frodo opened his hand and on his palm lay the ring.

He stared, mesmerized as his finger slowly circled the gold metal.

My own...my precious.

At that moment, nothing else mattered. Everything had become still when the ring called him.

His eyes fluttered shut.

Calling...

Several dots of sweat materialized beneath his curly bangs.

By then, Smeagol's mutterings had faded. The only sounds Frodo heard was his own uneven breathing and his racing heart that pummeled madly against his chest.

"You have to fight it!"

"I can't," Frodo screamed to himself. "It's taken me--,"

"I love you, Frodo. Don't you forget..."

The sweet, gentle voice jarred him back to where he lay beside Sam. He trembled. His eyes were wide and glossy. Sweat now morphed from dots to salty trails peeking from beneath his bangs.

"Tansy!" cried Frodo, not loud enough to disturb Sam, but Smeagol heard.

Smeagol's bulging eyes stared at whom he now called Master.

Frodo gazed back at him. He knew Smeagol had been aware of what he was going through. And as they drew closer to Mordor, Frodo found himself teetering on the edge of insanity.

Possessed by the madness of the ring.

Torn between his love for it and for Tansy.

Frodo turned away from Smeagol. He huddled into a fetal position, trembling and silently he cried.

Rosie dipped one of the plates into a bucket of water. When she saw that it was thoroughly clean, she took a cloth and as she dried the plate, a shrilling cry roared through her ears. Startled, the plate slipped out of her hands, crashed onto the floor and shattered into fragmented chunks of porcelain.

Rosie dashed out of the kitchen and sped down the hall. In a panic, she stormed into Tansy's room.

Mrs. Baggins' quivering hand reached out for her as Rosie rushed to her bedside. She grasped Tansy's hand, so pale and hot to the touch. Her hair was a tangled mess and damp from sweat she bathed in. And her facial features were twisted from the agonizing pain.

Tansy's almond shaped eyes widened with delirium as she tightened her grip on Rosie's hand. She bit down on the bottom of her crusty lip that bled in between the cracks.

"Tansy," said a terrified Rosie. "I need to get the doctor."

Tansy mustered the strength to lift her head slightly from the pillow.

"Frodo," she struggled. "Where—is—he? You must—tell him."

Rosie shook her head. Tears seeped from the corners of her eyes.

"He's not here, Tansy."

Tansy hollered again.

Helpless and fearing she would lose her best friend, Rosie held Tansy's face against her chest.

"I'll get the doctor," she cried. "Hang on, please, Tansy...hang on now."

TBC

A/N: Struggled with this because it's the first chapter of the sequel. I'm like, OMG, I don't want to disappoint you guys. So please let me know what you think?