His wings drooped limply, hanging so low the tips left furrows in the dry dust of Mordor. Occasionally some of the feathers would be caught in a crevice as they clambered over the sharp rocks, and when Frodo obliviously kept going, the wings held him back until the feathers pulled free and were left behind. Sam carefully picked these up; Gollum was already too close for comfort and it wouldn't do to leave him such a clear trail to follow. He noted with sadness that the feathers were invariably bent or broken, ruined by trial and torture, their iridescent sheen completely obscured by accumulated filth. At least the grime acted as camouflage- if the plumage shone with its usual blue-green glory, their presence in Mordor would have been more noticeable than a Dwarf in the Blessed Realm.
Sam watched his master's staggering steps and wished the wings could be a help instead of just another weight sapping his strength. But Weathertop robbed him of flight, the wound in his shoulder crippling him perhaps permanently. Still, before the Tower, the wings often hovered protectively around their owner, shielding him from the worst of the sun and heat, and providing a thin barrier to ward off the Eye's probing stare. Now they did not even do that, Frodo being too exhausted to summon the strength to keep them aloft. Sam's own wings ached in sympathy, and not for the first time he wished he could put them to good use. But they were small yet, not quite full-grown, and would not be able to carry his own weight, much less Frodo's as well.
Frodo stumbled, his wings stretching out for balance and nearly colliding with Sam as he rushed forward to help. "Just sit and rest a moment, me dear," he murmured when Frodo tried to struggle back to his feet. He carefully folded the trembling wings and held Frodo close.
"So tired . . . so hot . . . " Frodo whispered weakly.
That was something Sam could take care of. He carefully eased his pack and orc cloak off his drab brown wings, stretching them out for a moment before gently fanning Frodo. Frodo's lips curved into a small smile as he rested in Sam's embrace. "Thank you, Sam," he sighed.