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.
SHADOWS IN THE DARKNESS
Chapter One: An Awakening
The words sounded as if they came from someone else's lips, Frodo mused as he closed the door, looking around his room in quiet wonder. Even after two weeks it still seemed so. . .well, different. But wonderfully different. The room was easily thrice the size of his bedroom in Brandy Hall, with its own fireplace and bookcases, and a wonderfully soft featherbed piled with pillows and down quilts. Best of all was the central point of the room: a large window-seat looking out of a round window, a variety of cushions tucked into the nook as if just waiting for someone to curl up there and read, or write, or simply watch the ducks in the pond below. This room had a view of not only the nearby duck-pond, but several trees where small families of birds seemed to nest, and squirrels skittered about the tree- trunks, chattering madly. . .and far, far in the distance, the horizon of the mountains Bilbo had once travelled.
It was the most interesting view he'd ever seen.
Yawning, Frodo began undressing, hanging up his clothes carefully after getting into a long night-shirt of plain green linen, part of the wardrobe Bilbo had had made for him during the summer, in excited preparation for his coming to live at Bag End. As if that weren't enough, he'd greeted Frodo's arrival some days before their birthday with several new books, specially ordered, delivered during a recent visit of Gandalf's it would seem. At first all had seemed like a dream - and even now it seemed hardly less difficult to believe: Bilbo spoiled him like his own son, taking him everywhere, yet leaving him enough peaceful time alone for any tweenager's satisfaction. Frodo had never been overly social, and was delighted to find that his hope of Bilbo continuing to offer him a bit of time to read or wander alone was proving well-founded indeed. They were a pair of bachelors, and lived as such, much to Frodo's taste, though at times Frodo had to admit to himself that he missed Angeline, the aunt who had had most hand in helping raise him after his parents' deaths, the one who had nursed him through chest colds and sprained ankles, measles and influenza, loneliness and scoldings, tormenting memories of losing his mother and father at the same time. They had never been as a mother and son might be, but it was the closest thing he had known for the past nine years. . .and, despite his excitement and the delight of his much more suitable life in Bag End, he did worry that he would miss her more as time passed. But this was a fleeting and transient worry, for the most part, and after a day of tramping about Hobbiton, followed by an evening of comfortable conversation and chess-games by the fire, Frodo thought of nothing but his pillow as he lay down. He was very tired, and his head ached; sleep sounded welcome indeed tonight.
He awoke abruptly, feeling as if he'd been hit in the stomach. Suddenly he felt horribly nauseated, and promptly attempted to sit up. . .but the room spun, and he crumpled back onto the bed as the waves of nausea gave over to retching.
Suddenly he heard footsteps. . .the door. . .and felt warm hands upon his brow, holding his head. "There you go, lad. . .just let it all come up, now, if you need. . .ssssshh. . . ." Bilbo. Merciful Shire, Bilbo was there, supporting his head and offering a basin, quickly folding the soiled covers away, bringing water to his lips to help him rinse his mouth, finally easing him back onto the pillows gently before laying a cool compress over his forehead.
"There now, my boy. . .easy. . . ." He laid a gentle hand against Frodo's face, frowning anxiously. "Seems you've a touch of stomach flu, that's all. . .easy now. . .just try and relax."
Frodo whimpered, closing his eyes as he felt sick once more. He felt Bilbo patting his shoulder, then rising. . .footsteps. . .the slosh of water. . .and then Bilbo's hands, carefully unfastening his night-shirt and sliding behind him, helping him sit up before sliding the gown over his head, leaving him naked. It was only then that Frodo realised how very ill he felt: a cold sweat seemed to cover him, and he felt faint and sick, hot and cold at the same time. A cloth touched his chest, and he began at once to feel better: the dampness was just cool enough to feel pleasant, and the motion was soothing. . . .
"We'll just get you cleaned up and into something good and dry . . . and some fresh covers. . .there now."
Bilbo's voice was so comforting. . .so reassuring. . . . Sighing softly, Frodo relaxed a bit, only wincing as Bilbo's hands moved over his aching belly. Almost before he knew it, Bilbo had him bathed, dried, and dressed in a fresh nightshirt, buttoning it up carefully before wrapping a quilt around him, lifting him gently and easing him into the window-seat to rest against the pile of cushions there. The elder hobbit's attention turned to changing the bedding, Frodo turned to look up at the stars, sparkling through his new window like a thousand tiny diamonds. It reminded him of Primula's favourite necklace, the one she only wore on special occasions. . .his birthday one of them. *"They're like stars on a little chain!" *
*Primula laughed, bending to swing her young son up into her arms, holding him high in the air before pulling him back into a warm embrace, kissing his forehead. "Yes, they are, aren't they? But not half as lovely as my favourite treasure in the world. . . . Come on, now. . .time for supper, and we can't keep your guests waiting!" *
Closing his eyes, Frodo shivered as he tried to restrain the tears burning behind his eyelashes. Suddenly he felt a little warmer. . .some relief from the chills that seemed to come with what he could tell was a fever. Bilbo's voice soothed him, comforting at his ear as the elder hobbit eased him into welcoming arms, lifting him from the window-seat once more and carrying him back to bed. "There now, Frodo-lad. . .all better. Fresh sheets, plenty of blankets, a basin right by your pillow in case you feel sick again. . .does that sound a bit better?"
He opened his eyes, nodding a little as Bilbo laid him down, beginning to tuck him in warmly, easing a hot-water bottle beneath the covers and onto his aching stomach. By the Shire, that felt better. . .the heat seemed to ease the pain, soothing him into some measure of comfort, easing any lingering chills.
"I think we'd best keep you in bed, send for the doctor. . .all right?" Frodo bit his lip. The last doctor he'd seen was the one at Brandy Hall, who treated everything by leeches or straight-out bloodletting, and both prospects made him feel more ill just at the thought. "I'll be all right - no need for a doctor, honestly, Bilbo - I just need to rest is all." Bilbo shook his head firmly, tucking the counterpane gently over Frodo's chest. "I'm not taking any chances, Frodo. Not with you."
Frodo sighed, but offered no further protest: he couldn't very well argue with Bilbo given the number of times he'd been ill in the previous years, coupled with the Brandybucks' skepticism regarding Bilbo's ability to bring up a tweenager, particularly such an impossible young hobbit-lad as Frodo was considered. Yielding, he curled up on his side, snuggling the hot- water bottle close. He closed his eyes, Bilbo stroking his curly hair with a gentle touch.
"There now, my boy. Sssshh. Try and sleep if you can. . .I'll be right here."
Nodding, Frodo tried to rest, and sleep returned quickly through a haze of chill and sweat.
~To Be Continued~