The boat left the dock as the bow rocked gently in time with the blue waves of the inlet that would deposit the vessel into the vast ocean, but below decks some of the passengers were not enjoying the smooth cast off as Gandalf and Lord Elrond were occupied with trying to comfort the youngest of the Ringbearers.
The Wizard and the Lord of Imaldris knew that the Hobbit had been ill recently and hoped that as soon as Frodo crossed the ship's threshold he would have begun his healing. This was not the case as it was with Bilbo.
Bilbo had gone below decks to settle himself quickly because he wanted to be on back on top when it was time to cast off. Upon opening his door, he had found his chest had already been brought to his room. There was a little bed in the corner with the softest and silkiest looking comforter spread across the feather mattress with a matching pillow. A rocking chair just his size as well as a wash basin with fresh water in a silver ewer neatly placed upon mallon leaves. Bilbo smiled fondly at the thought his nephew would be accompanying him to their new home, but something eluded to him as why. His memory was coming back to him slowly, and he shook his head telling himself he would remember soon enough. Before he was able to finish the inspection of his room, a bustle of commotion was going on outside of his opened door, coming down the hallway fast. As soon as he stepped out of door frame to investigate, Bilbo immediately stepped back in for not wanting to be trampled upon by the big people.
"I will meet you in his room, Gandalf," Lord Elrond said. "I must retrieve some medicines and I will only be a moment. Keep him warm," he completed his sentence as he saw the back of the Wizard's robe and nothing else. He then entered his room and perhaps it was on purpose, but it had been across from Bilbo's.
Bilbo's inquisitive nature took over and wonder who it was that Gandalf needed to keep warm, and why all the fuss. He waited patiently for the Lord of Imaldris to exit his quarters. It was not long when Bilbo heard soft rustling of material entering the hallway and a soft hush of a door closing.
"Lord Elrond?" he asked placing himself in front of the big person so that he would be noticed. "Who is sick?" he inquired.
Lord Elrond, half-elven, smiled slightly down at the figure in front of him. He then knelt to Bilbo's level. He wanted to be honest with the Hobbit, but he did not know how much of Bilbo's memory returned to him as of yet. He thought honesty was the best and quietly replied, "Frodo has taken ill after he boarded the ship. I need to give him some medication to quell his symptoms until we reach our destination," he concluded keeping his statement simple as he could without troubling the older Hobbit.
"He has been ill lately. Do you think that this is the same thing?" Bilbo queried.
With the vial of medicine cupped in his hand, Elrond nodded. Then he asked a question of Bilbo, "What do you know of his illness?"
The eldest Ringbearer's eyes dropped to the floor as if remembering a certain event, then those old eyes peered back into the healers and spoke, "He has suffered so because of the Ring. He would not tell me when I asked why he was so pale. I remember how his cousins and Sam were so protective of him when they had visited me on their return trip home. That seems so long ago. Was it??
"Yes, my friend, that was a year ago. Your kin had stopped in Rivendell before they returned home. Tell me, Bilbo, can you recall what happened to your nephew so long ago?"
"Not everything. He was attacked by something and I know you healed him. Oh, this memory, why is it so difficult for me especially when it comes to him? Now, Lord Elrond, you need to be honest with me. What is going on with Frodo?" he demanded as any parent would worried about their child.
Lord Elrond sighed deeply, rose to his height and took the Hobbit by the hand as he led him to Frodo's room. "Come, Bilbo, Frodo will be glad to see you. Perhaps your presence will help settle him on his journey."
Frodo lay limp in Gandalf's arms as he wrapped the Ringbearer in two blankets. His weakened frame shook with violent chills, his skin pale beneath dark curls. "Hang on my dear lad. The shores of Valinor are awaiting your arrival where they can heal you from all hurts," Gandalf whispered.
A small voice arose from beneath the blankets and the White Wizard had to lift the little bundle of Hobbit closer to his ears to hear him. "What was that?"
"Ar…Aragorn. He said to…" he continued in a whisper, "hang on when I was stabbed," Frodo finished as it took every bit of strength he had left just to talk. "Why hang on anymore?"
Gandalf, the great White Wizard, was taken aback by Frodo's question. It was a feeling of dread that overcame him. That's what Saroman had said that day after the attack against Helm's Deep. "What did you promise the Hobbit to get him to take the Ring? You know what his fate will be. You know that he will die. How do you feel, Gandalf, to lead someone you love astray to get him to do this task?" Gandalf had closed his eyes, hoping beyond hope that Frodo's fate was not sealed. He knew the remaining Fellowship had heard what Saroman said, but they did not comment on it. It was Aragorn who asked him later if he had heard any news of Frodo and Sam. It was Aragorn to tell him to look to his heart and not his powers to believe that they were still alive, somewhere out in the wilderness, all alone.
All alone. That was how he left the two hobbits when they first set out on their journey. All alone, that was how Frodo felt when he was stabbed at Weathertop. When he probed Frodo's memories after the attack, these questions and others hung in the Hobbit's mind of why Gandalf never met them on their journey. His protector. Where was Aragorn? And why was he taking so long to return to camp? All alone, as he faced five of the Ringwraith's on Weathertop by himself in their world. All alone, adrift between the living and the dead. Gandalf had no answer to Frodo's question. But he still had hope as he still had hope that the Ringbearer would complete his task of casting the Ring into the fire on Mt. Doom.
As Gandalf was about to answer, another familiar voice rose above his, cutting off his thoughts.
"Frodo, my lad," Bilbo sighed as he approached the cover laden Hobbit laying a frail hand upon his nephew's sweat soaked forehead.
Frodo laid his cheek into his uncle's touch, a comforted feeling he always cherished whenever he was ill. Bilbo had the most gentle of touches that seemed to sooth away all his fears. Between parched lips he acknowledged his uncle's presence, "Bilbo."
"Yes, my boy, I am here. Tell your Uncle Bilbo what's wrong. You cannot get well if I do not know what is wrong," Bilbo coaxed.
Frodo thought for a moment before he answered then he said sadly, "Nothing really, Uncle. Just a bit run down," he fibbed, not wanting to repeat the whole story of how he was injured and will never be the same again.
Gandalf noticed that Frodo had grown very quiet, his eyes were opened, but the great blue orbs were staring at nothing. As the Wizard was about to shift his bundle, a soft cry came from within the blanket and the boat tossed to the side a bit making him lose his grip.
Frodo's cry was louder this time as his body had hit solid wooden flooring and the boat rocked to the other side. This time the Lord of Imaldris had to hang on to something or he would have been in the floor in a heap on top of the Hobbit.
Gandalf regained his balance, but it was Bilbo who reached Frodo first, raising the lad's upper body off the floor, then he crouched beneath his nephew to give him support, laying his head on his own chest. "Are you hurt, Frodo?" Gandalf asked after Bilbo settled him.
Frodo nodded. He was breathing hard between clenched teeth, a sure sign that he was indeed in pain. The Ringbearer found purchase when he snaked out his right arm from under the blankets, clutching Bilbo's shirt sleeve. The pain intensifying, Frodo cried out and the boat tilted again to the opposite side. Frodo turned absolutely green and Lord Elrond came in quick with a basin under his chin.
The next few minutes seemed like hours as Frodo vomited his days worth of nourishment, and that was not much as his appetite was below normal for a Hobbit. After all was done, Frodo laid his head back on his Uncle for the needed support and ashamed at himself whispered, "I am sorry for messing up your clothes, Uncle."
"Fiddlesticks, that is what washing is for, lad. And a new change of clothes. You rest here because I am not going to leave you."
It wasn't even a moment when another cry came from Frodo and this time everyone who was standing was now on the floor.
"Gandalf, Lord Elrond, are you all right?" Bilbo asked as his hold upon Frodo tightened.
Elrond was the first to get to his knees, then to his feet. He brushed the length of his flowing mantle, then answered "I will go find out what is happening. Gandalf, please give this Frodo. It should help with his symptoms," Elrond continued handing off the vial to the Wizard and exited the room with haste.
Gandalf now had his footing. He reached down and gathered Frodo into his arms, placing the limp figure on the feathered mattress. Bilbo was soon to follow, climbing up onto the bed to sit vigil over his distressed nephew.
"Do you mind giving this to him, Bilbo?" the White Wizard asked of Bilbo, handing the now uncorked vial to the white haired Hobbit, anticipating that Bilbo would be better suited to give the medicine than he at this moment.
Bilbo accepted the proffered vial, then held it to Frodo's parted lips. He took the chance and said at the same time he lifted the vial, "Take this, lad. It will help."
Frodo did not have a chance to object at the foul smelling tonic before it was tipped into his mouth. He swallowed but not without grimacing to show his guardian that it was not appreciated. Coughing a bit at the overpowering after taste, he did not wait long before a cup of cool water was pressed to his lips. He parted them, drinking in the much needed liquid.
"That's it, Frodo, take it easy and let the medicine work," Bilbo crooned into the lad's pointed ear, brushing aside stray dark curls while caressing hot flushed cheeks.
Frodo remembered being in this same position not so long ago, but it was not Bilbo's lap he was cradled in, but his beloved Sam's. "Oh, Sam," he whispered mostly to himself as tears formed then rolled down his cheeks.
The ship rolled again, but this time a little more violently than before. There were not windows in Frodo's quarters and Gandalf wondered what kind of storm they had sailed into.
Elrond's knuckles had turned white while he hung onto the wooden railing as he ascended the stairs then out onto the rolling deck. He quickly found who he was looking for. "Cirdan!" Lord Elrond yelled out over the wind, "where did this weather come from?" asking the Elf in charge of their magnificent vessel.
"My Lord," Cirdan addressed, "you need to go back below decks where it is safe."
Elrond shook his head, "I am fine." The Lord of Imladris looked up at the darkened sky, the wind blowing his long braids about his face. He then looked beyond the railing to view the large swells that were rocking the ship. "How far to the curtain?"
Cirdan shook his head. "My Lord, we are here. Something is preventing the ship from entering and continuing on to Valinor. It was a beautiful morning before we left. Not a cloud in the sky. I just do not understand the change of weather. We have never had a bad voyage to Valinor before. It was always a joyous occasion to go home."
Elrond listened as best as he could through the increasing howling wind when he asked, "Never in as many trips to Valinor the weather has been bad?"
"No, my Lord," Cirdan paused, "except this voyage."
"What is different about this voyage?" Elrond asked.
"Our passengers, my Lord. The Ringbearers."