Title: Cormallen
Author: Frodo Baggins of Bag End (FrodoAtBagEnd)
Characters: Aragorn, Gandalf, Sam, Merry, Pippin, Gimli, Legolas
Rating: PG.

Feedback: Welcomed. Constructive only, please. . .no flaming.

Summary: The thoughts of the Fellowship at the Feast of Cormallen...

Story Notes/Announcements: This story, originally written for a Marigold challenge, is a 2005 Middle-Earth Fanfiction Awards nominee. :) In other news, "Counterpane" will soon be updated; I expect to finish the story this month. "What May Come" will be updated in June. Other short fics will be posted as well. For the latest in fic updates, please feel free to stop by http/ permission to reproduce or archive this work in whole or in part, please contact febobe at yahoo dot com.

DISCLAIMER: The characters, places, and story of The Lord of the Rings are the property of J.R.R. Tolkien and consequently of the Tolkien Estate, with select rights by Tolkien Enterprises. This piece appears purely as fanfiction and is not intended to claim ownership of Tolkien's work in any way. Please e-mail me if you have concerns. Original characters are my own work; please do not use my creations in your work. Please respect my original contributions. Furthermore, please do NOT consider any treatments or remedies within this story safe or effective for use: these are included as fictitious hobbit care, not real human medical practice, and while some can indeed be traced to actual therapeutic practices, could be dangerous. Please consult your health care professional before treating yourself or others for any condition or symptom.

CORMALLEN

But when, after the Standing Silence, wine was brought there came in two esquires to serve the kings; or so they seemed to be: one was clad in the silver and sable of the Guards of Minas Tirith, and the other in white and green. But Sam wondered what such young boys were doing in an army of mighty men. Then suddenly as they drew near and he could see them plainly, he exclaimed:

'Why, look Mr. Frodo! Look here! Well, if it isn't Pippin. Mr. Peregrin Took I should say, and Mr. Merry! How they have grown! Bless me! But I can see there's more tales to tell than ours.'

Glass: Aragorn's Tale

Glass.

My foster-father had had a small glass figurine, masterfully crafted with the skill that only elves have, of his wife, the Lady Celebrian. It had been begun and completed in the final months before she sailed West, many centuries before my conception. As a child I was fascinated by it, and so it was a special treat for him to take it down from its high shelf in a locked cabinet, taken from a locked room on a locked corridor, rooms to which no one but Ada carried the keys, and hold it, turning it over in his hands while I stared in fascination, scarcely daring to breathe, one of my foster-brothers holding me in his lap.

I had never seen those corridors unlocked for longer than the moment necessary to do this, and our time was always brief. Never. Until my return to Imladris only - was it only a few months ago? - with Frodo.

And suddenly the wonders of those rooms were opened to me for the first time in my life, for my foster-father took the little one to them: they were open and aired for him, prepared with all that one might need to care for the sick. At once he seemed to breathe a little easier: we could at least tell that he yet lived, though it seemed unlikely that he would last long.

Wonders never cease.

But for all the chatter of the other three, music though that too is to my ears, I have not been able to take my eyes from him since I saw him run to me. My heart laughed, and sang with joy. But there is a chill, and an ache that o'erhangs my spirit, for now I know what it was I recognised in the little one.

He reminds me of the glass figurine I so loved as a child.

"This is a very fine likeness of her," Elrond would muse, tracing the features to point them out to me. "Not as she was in her lightest days, before the Shadow dimmed her spirit, but as she was after her wound. . ."

And he would hesitate, as if the words still hurt him.

"When it became too difficult for her to remain. When she. . .was already beginning to leave us."

I need not wait for his arrival to confirm what I see before me. And it breaks my heart. The Saviour of all Middle-earth, broken and shattered beyond repair.
Watching him as he smiles, embracing his cousins, letting them serve him, picking out the best treats for his plate, and yet. . .seeing him struggle as they continue to talk, scarcely able to feed himself. . .I realise the truth.

I cannot stop it.

Nor could I have prevented it.

But I will do all that I can for him. That much is possible, for what little it is. . . .

And with that, I turn to call over another of those helping to serve, whispering to them, never taking my eyes from Frodo.

I fear I have so little time left as it is. I want to memorise all that I can, so that my children will know the truth of their saviour, though they will never meet him, save by some mysterious plan of Eru unknown to us all someday.

So little time left.

Beards: Gandalf's Considerations

Old man's beard - that was its name. The herb which Aragorn dosed Frodo with in massive amounts of tincture, cleansing his wounds with it, administering it to him with a medicine-dropper such as one might use with an infant, trickling diluted medicine down the seared throat. I had to hold him, for he would struggle, choking and coughing faintly, too weak to expel the poisons from his lungs.

But even early on, still deathly ill in the grip of high fever and delirium that not even the healing sleep could assuage, he would nestle a little against my beard, as he had when I visited Bilbo during his childhood and he had been fascinated by so much facial hair, particularly on someone with no hair to speak of on his feet.

"Gandalf, such a great long beard you have! How do you eat soup? Don't crumbs get caught in it? Have you ever lost anything in there?"

"Frodo!" Bilbo laughed, but reddened, blushing. "I'm sorry, Gandalf. The lad's just excited - he's never - well - seen a beard before, you know. It's his first time visiting when I've had any company besides hobbits."

"Quite all right, Bilbo. Very good questions those are, in fact, young Frodo. . ."

Raising my eyebrows, I waggled them at the hobbit-lad in my lap for effect, laughing as he beamed. . . .

He had been so young still, then.

And that had haunted me ever since I took him down, cradled him. . .that it had been one of the children we had sacrificed.

There was no other way, Olorin.

No. But that way was darkness, and that way was death, and an innocent hobbit suffered for it.

And for that. . .

We must wait. There is much to be done, and I cannot yet speak of it. But already plans were being laid in the autumn for what would come, and now, with the spring, they will ripen and blossom, and we will pluck them, claiming them and placing the fruit in Frodo's lap.

It is my dream that he will be at peace. It is, I believe possible. But not here.
Frodo, forgive me. I had no choice.

Water: Sam's Spirit

There now, Master. . .look, an ice-cold water-pitcher, right there; there's all you could want to drink and more. . .plenty of it there. . . .

I can't stop watching him. Even now, I can't stop the urge to press him to drink, to coax him to take something to eat, even though I can tell by the tired set of his shoulders he don't feel like it. He ate all right enough earlier, when we had that bit of a meal after washing up and dressing, but I think today's done gone and tired him out, and what he wants is bed and soup with meat and vegetables cut up into tiny tender bits in it, not pieces on a plate. Mashed, soft stuff, too - like the applesauce he loves so much, something like that. Not that beggars can be choosers, mind you, but for all this fine feast, I'd rather have Mr. Frodo back in bed with some good hearty Shire vegetable soup or my Mam's chicken soup, applesauce, and some honey custard. A good hot posset, or at least wine mulled with spices and warmed 'stead of plain, like this - not that it don't seem grand and wonderful, mind you. But that'd do him more good than all this finery put together.

What he wants is home - but there's so much that at least now I can begin to give him again.

"Sam?"

I turn, and he's looking at me kind of shyly - Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin are arguing about something for a moment, real good-naturedly, and Master's leaned over to whisper shyly, looking all guilty.

"Please - I - I don't think I can manage the pitcher steadily enough - If I hold my cup, will - will you - please? I'm so thirsty - "

Bless him, but he wants more -

"Of course, sir." I take the pitcher carefully in my hands, steadying it to fill his cup. "There you are. Nice and cold, isn't it? Plenty more where that came from, when you want it."

Eagerly he brings the cup to his lips, beginning to sip thirstily, nodding.

And he smiles a little.

Water and light. And Master smiling. This could be the most beautiful day in the world. I don't reckon I thought I'd ever see any of those things again, and here they all are, together at once.

Herbs and Heartstrings: Merry's Story

Oh, Frodo.

Even as Sam exclaimed I saw you. . .quiet and shining-eyed, that much unsurprising as ever. . .but even after the few times they've allowed me to see you, my heart stops now, and my arms ache to drop every dish and hold you tightly. . .and yet I fear at the same time you would shatter.

A mark of how ill you've been - Sam already smells of green grass and sunshine again, yet when I gather you close you still carry the scent of herbs, of athelas and old man's beard, of coneflower and boneset and white willow bark, and I think of how some of the tinctures make you so sick at your stomach. . .and smile as I finally catch a hint of ginger. Thank goodness for ginger; it always has helped you there, and though I know Aragorn dared not give it when your fever was at its worst, for fear it inflame the heat further, it comforts me to know that you had ginger as you were coming closer to waking, as your fever broke, when you might become conscious enough to recognise the feeling of sickness. . . .

Sometimes, cousin, I wonder what all you have spared us. In the dark hours at first it began to grow upon my mind, and that was when I began to learn the names of herbs. . .but even then it preyed upon me.

Usnea - old man's beard - useful for wound-infections, and for pneumonia. It can be made into a tea or a tincture; use the tincture on the wounds or internally - or both. Give the tea by mouth.

If it hurt so when I stabbed him, what in Middle-earth could the pain have been like when he stabbed you?

I see now why you could not use your arm, why you could not move your left side, why you complained of the cold and the dark on the rare occasions when we could get you to speak. I only wish I could have reached further into your darkness then.
As I wish now.

Something tells me that again, there is a part of you I do not, cannot, know. . .and I am powerless to help ease your hurts.

Almond-Cakes, Apple Pudding, and Glazed Mushrooms: Pippin's Promise

I think this might be the first time Mer stopped scolding me for either trying to figure out when I could sneak a bite of something or taking myself too seriously - that's what he says I do now - honestly! It's hardly my fault if he doesn't understand the importance of my responsibilities. . . .

But I'd almost rather he were scolding me.

I've never seen Frodo look so pale and shaky before. He has a bit of pink back in his face, true, but not nearly enough, and he's so thin - so awfully thin. I can't help feeling guilty about every time I've complained about rations; suddenly I realise I've been feasting compared to what he and Sam have been through. I'm dying to hear everything; Frodo was awake earlier, but of course Gandalf wouldn't let me see him then.

But now that I have, I want to keep slipping all the best bits off the platters. . .not for me; for Frodo. . .I want to see him eat; to see that he's real, that he's all right, that he'll be fine once he gains back some weight and strength. Even last autumn he used to try and laugh it off, brush it all away, insist he was fine when he saw me looking at him with worry over how little he ate, how thin he'd grown.

And now. . .with him looking like almost a skeleton. . .there is none of it.
But I don't mind, somehow.

That isn't his job.

"Sit down, cousin!" I urge brightly as our embrace ends. "Let me fill up your plate with some of the finest glazed mushrooms you've ever seen, especially for you! And - " I lean closer, whispering loudly. "There's apple-pudding to come later, and blackcurrant and mint fool, and almond-cakes. . .you'll love what the cooks have been making!"

"Dear Pip!" Laughing, he allows me to take his plate and fill it, which I do proudly, pulled up to my full - new - height.

I'll get you all better, cousin Frodo. I will. . .just give me time.

The Axe-Stroke Falls: Gimli's Heart

Little ones.

Little ones no longer: Merry and Pippin grown tall, Sam and Frodo. . .

Well, all of them grown in ways you can't see, like jewels deep in the earth. But Frodo most of all, and yet. . .like a gemstone dulled, or a. . .a tree felled too early. Gandalf has been warning us for days of his condition, and now I regret growling and scoffing at him, shrugging away his dire explanations.

"His condition is grave, Gimli. If he lives, he will require love and understanding, a great deal of nurturing."

I blew through my mustache. "Stars, Gandalf, it's Frodo! He's never been one to require a fuss of coddling or he'd throw a tantrum. Nor is he now, I'm sure."

Gandalf shook his head. "It isn't like that. There are. . .hurts. . .that go very deep with him."

He's never been one to skirt the truth, but there's no way to strike the truth of this closer than to see it. And yet I would that I had listened more closely to him, and set myself less stubbornly. He may be right, it seems, by the look of it: surely I've never seen Frodo look half so white and weak and broken as he does now. Sam already begins to look - well, like Sam again.

But Frodo. . .

Gives me the shivers.

Reminds me of elves. . .and somehow I know that's a sad thing for him.

After all, he's a hobbit. And yet for all that, he seems no more one of his own kind now than - than an elf would among them.

What Legolas Heard

The most gifted, the skilled among our healers are the finest at hearing it, of course.

But we all do in some measure.

Every elf can hear the melody of another's fea, of any living being in Arda. From the beginning I have known the song of each member of the Fellowship. I used to sit at night and listen to them in the darkness, tracing each soft pattern in its turn.

And they have changed. This, too, I have traced, though more tensely. . .but it is almost like a symphony today. Aragorn's, warm and full and strong. More majestic than he realises, I think. Gimli's, dearer to me now than I would ever have thought, steady as steel and shimmering diamonds.

But the hobbits. . .they are an adventure beyond words to hear, such joy that I could listen to them all day and never tire of it. The sound of Merry's fea is like a flowing river, not loud, not rushing, but true and clear. Pippin's is like that of a babbling brook. . .yet it has changed in its course, steadied and calmed, still joyous and bright, but tempered by something new and beautiful. I see in them both many great things, many years of greatness ahead.

Sam's song has always been soft and a bit shy, but solid as earth, reminiscent of the scent of fresh rain on green grass and newly-tilled soil, of blossoming roses and elanor in bloom. I see something of this in his future as well, though what I could not speak with certainty. His, too, has grown: it has become even sturdier, less shy in the intervening months. Though I shudder to think how this came about, I am glad to see it, for nothing makes my heart laugh so much as this little gardener. . .so unassuming, so steady, this little servant who even now fusses tenderly over his master, caring more for "Mr. Frodo" than for himself.

It is Frodo's melody that troubles me.

And troubles me deeply.

Lyrical, deeply twined with sorrow, bittersweet as ever. . .mingled joy and pain as ever it has been. Yet the song begins to unravel: I can hear occasional faltering in the music, broken chords and jangled notes. . .the sounds of a fea and body suffering beyond hope of aid.

And something comes to my mind.

Three.

He will see three more birthdays in Middle-earth, at most.

No more than that.

But then. . .Middle-earth is not the only place one might be happy.

I resolve to take Frodo walking with me when we return to Minas Tirith. We will go to the Sea-shore. He has never seen it, and perhaps he might like to walk along the beach and pick up shells until he tires, then let himself be carried back to his chambers and made comfortable to sleep. To dream.

He told me he has often dreamt of the Sea.

I think perhaps he shall soon see it, unless my feeling is wrong.

the end