Author's Note: Set as somewhat AU during the approach and ascent of Caradhras, this story is written in alternating viewpoint, shifting between Aragorn and Frodo; it should be fairly easy to tell which is which. This, the final chapter, is Frodo's point of view.

While I'm sure you all know this, as a disclaimer I must nonetheless add that all medical treatment information is developed purely for fictitious use and should not be attempted in actual real life practice. Please consult your health care professional for medical advice.

At this point, I may focus on "Counterpane" for a little before posting my next during-Quest fic, which I will most likely beta on FrodoHealers as well as the guessing-game participants on fanfiction.net. As always, thank you all so very much for your wonderful patience, encouragement, e-mails, and reviews!

For permission to reproduce, please contact frodoatbagend@yahoo.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. This is a non-slash fiction: no slash or sexual connotations are implied or intended. While Tolkien's characters are Tolkien's, my original creations reflect my work as well, and I ask that my original characters and unique points be respected, not reused. Thanks!



CARADHRAS

Chapter Sixteen: Premonitions

My mother used to say that certain people were more prone to them than others, and that I was one of those people. But even in my dreams and fancies, never have I had such unsettling sensations of things to come as I have now. Something chills me through, and I feel so alone, even when surrounded by company.

Merry tries to reassure me that it is nothing. . .a lingering effect of the fever. But I can see the fear in his eyes: we are both of Brandybuck blood, and none of that proud lineage of Buckland would doubt such things, not truly. We dare not speak of it to Pippin or Sam: it would unsettle them. Best to keep it to ourselves, though Aragorn and Legolas know, and of course Gandalf.

They believe me. Legolas especially. . .he has a way of noticing things, almost like another sense for him, keener even than sound or sight. Gandalf because he has known me so long, I think. Aragorn. . .I don't know. He just. . .understands. And he thinks it no trick of my illness that I believe we are being followed, though he assures me that the area has been searched as closely as can be by our company. The knowledge is a little comfort, though not enough to put me at true ease.

We are packing. There is no more time to delay: my sickness has cost us dearly, and I feel worse for being unable to help now. Yet Aragorn insists I must have complete rest. . .so I am left in someone's arms while the others take apart the campsite and conceal evidence of our tracks as best as they can. For a time this morning, it was Boromir, who was charged with helping Merry press the matter of breakfast with me; later, Legolas took his place, sturdy arms giving way to soft music. Gandalf came to take me at lunch, settling me against the folds of his robe and telling me stories as he did when I was a tweenager getting over influenza. Aragorn, directing operations, came back and forth throughout, seeing to medicines and checking my temperature, breathing, and pulse.

If it were not for Gandalf, I do not think I could bear it. I am so tired. We must move on now, and there is nothing for it. Aragorn says that we may be able to reach a place where I can recover some strength in safety. . .an elvenhome, where Arwen grew up. The thought is cheering, though in truth I sometimes feel the company of strangers does me less good than I would have from my own bed and the company of other hobbits.

But one is possible. The other is not.

Admittedly, anything with some measure of safety sounds appealing just now.

The others are finished, and we must depart shortly. Aragorn bends over me, pressing me to sip something from a flask. I recognise the bitter taste. . .it is a sedative, some herbal mixture to help me remain still while one of them carries me, to shield me as much as possible from the pain of being moved. . .though better, I still ache, my shoulder especially. It is quick, though, and I find myself feeling the effects almost at once.

It is Gandalf who carries me now, pressing Aragorn to lead, giving me a bit more time in his comfortable arms, where his flowing robes seem to help keep away the cold winds. Suddenly a flash of panic quickens my breathing, and he rubs my back, trying to reassure me. . .but there is nothing for it, for he does not understand.

For half a moment - no more, but just long enough - too long, for my feeling - I felt something dark, overpowering, like the stench of sulphur and the heat of flames - and the absence of Gandalf's steadying presence. Tightening my hold, I bury my head against his shoulder, allowing him to continue rubbing lightly.

Only a trick of the medicine, perhaps. The medicine, combined with lingering effects of the fever.

But that thought does little to still the tension in my stomach. . .already feeling myself drowsing off, I recall the recognition of that feeling.

The smell of lake-water, and a hair-ribbon floating where none should be, a pipe floating close by.

~The End~