Author's Notes: Sorry this has taken me so long. . .the Muse is willing, but the RL boss is not; my work schedule hasn't been conducive to writing lately, I'm afraid, delaying this a good deal. However, the final chapter of "Shadows in the Darkness" will be going up shortly, perhaps as early as tonight (Monday, May 6), as will another chapter of this new piece and two other others: the promised items, one also set on Caradhras, the other the memory described by Frodo in "Mithril." Plus I'll be posting Chapter 11 of Caradhras soon. . .so don't worry; there'll be plenty to read! :)

Still attempting to get FrodoHealers setup moved for the younger group: I'm trying, I promise! Yahoo help is being ZERO help in the matter; I'll have to figure something out. . . . The good news is that we have a member who has very graciously offered to set up a website for us, and once that's running all FrodoHealers stories will also be archived there, provided their authors permit it (don't worry, guys, we will first ask). :)

As always, thank you all so very much for reading and reviewing!



For permission to reproduce, please contact frodobaggins@frodo.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, such as (but not limited to) Bryonia, are my own work; please do not use my creations in your work. Please respect my original contributions.



COUNTERPANE

Chapter One: Raindrops on Glass

When I was sick, and lay a-bed,

I had two pillows at my head,

And all my toys beside me lay

To keep me happy all the day.

-Opening of Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Land of Counterpane," from _A Child's Garden of Verses_



It had been raining forever.

At least it seemed it had.

Sighing, Frodo lifted his fingers to the glass, sliding them lightly down the window-pane. He had been trying for two hours to lose himself in a book, but the effort had succeeded for perhaps half an hour at best: his head hurt, and his eyes ached, too tired to concentrate on the printed pages.

There was no good in anything else he could think of: most of his elders to whom he might go for conversation or stories were occupied, and those he might play with. . .well, those who weren't still ill were not yet in the mood for the kinds of things he liked; mostly they wanted things that seemed to him to take little imagination. The measles were going around, and practically every child in Brandy Hall (and a very few adults) who had not already had them had fallen ill. Frodo had not: somehow he had remained his usual self while his cousins fell ill, one after another, suffered through the fever and cough, then the rash, then the annoying convalescence, and as things were beginning to get back toward the normal jumble of life at Brandy Hall, most people barely seemed to recall that he existed at all. Everyone's attention was on the children who had been ill, their mothers fussing and coaxing them to eat well and get plenty of rest, avoiding any effort at pressing lessons or chores.

He wished Aunt Bryonia would return. Primula's second cousin once removed, she had promptly dubbed herself Aunt in his earliest visits to Brandy Hall, and when his parents had drowned, it was Bryonia who answered the question of who would look after their only child: having raised four of her own, she noted, not so very long before (her youngest now twenty-five and away working with an attorney all the way down in Michel Delving, in the Shire itself rather than in Buckland), she was more than aware of what taking care of a child would mean, and she and her husband were prepared to look after Primula's son. And look after him they had: for two years now, Frodo had endured the indignities of enforced bedtimes and lessons and the joys of mealtimes and family holidays under their guidance. Bryonia had nursed him through colds and coughs, even a bout of pneumonia only months after his parents' deaths; a warm, neat ladyhobbit of the organised persuasion, she reminded Frodo much of his mother, and for that alone he was willing to open his heart to her.

But she wasn't home.

They'd gone to visit her youngest son, delaying the long journey until it seemed that Frodo was likely safe, with most of the children in the Hall already well into recovery. After all, with a month into the epidemic and Frodo still showing no sign of spots or sniffles, everyone expected he had finally grown into a stronger constitution and smiled, patting him on the back. . .and giving their attention to the ill children, while Bryonia reassured him that the overly delayed visit was essential, that she would be back in a fortnight, and that his other relations would mind him while she and Uncle Miridoc were away.

They had. In a fashion. Mostly the routine of checking on him for the day seemed to consist of an aunt, uncle, or cousin poking a head into the dining-room to ensure that he was at most meals. "Frodo, dear, do you have enough breakfast?" "Yes, ma'am, thank you." "Good - that's good, dear - " And they were off again, summoned by the bell of a recuperating patient or a waiting list of their own duties. He was aware that someone should have been coming to tuck him in at bed-time, but that was such a busy time of day in Brandy Hall that it had happened only the first night. Since then, he had always been left to his own devices at bed-time. At first he had tried to stay up, but sleep overcame him quickly, and he fell asleep with a book still open beside him.

"Spoilt little brat, if you ask me, that's all he is. . .you know Auntie never does *anything* to him, no matter what he does. . . ."

"Well, of course she doesn't. She's afraid he'd do something silly like run off into the Blue, or something like that. . . . Or maybe wander into the Old Forest and get lost. . . ."

Frodo winced at the memory. Overhearing some of his cousins had been an enlightening, albeit painful, experience. It had been some three months ago, when he was getting over a bad cold and Bryonia had insisted on bundling him up before letting him outside again. His scarf and hat hiding his face rather thoroughly, he had stopped into the kitchen on his return, looking for a cup of hot tea or cider, perhaps something with milk instead. Two of his cousins were having tea, and scarcely paid attention to the fact that he was there. He doubted they had even recognised him.

Wishing won't bring her home any faster, he thought. With a sigh, he opened the book, trying to continue reading. . .but the words seemed to blur, and he closed it once more.

"FRODO! Afternoon tea. . .don't forget, dear; you'd best get downstairs. . . ."

As one of his aunts poked her head in, then disappeared again, Frodo sighed and set his book aside, rising. Time to go down for tea before someone came to drag him out of his favourite nook. He really wanted to stay there instead, preferably with a cool cloth over his eyes, but that was not one of the possibilities, and he knew it. Reluctantly he rose and prepared to go downstairs.

~To Be Continued~