"Known By Another"
A/N: This is a one-shot I thought of while reading LotR and watching Chronicles of Narnia. Also inspired by Tenth Avenue North's song "By Your Side". Featuring Frodo and Aslan, as they are my favorite characters from their respective franchises.
Why are you striving these days
Why are you trying to earn grace
Why are you crying
Let me lift up your face
Just don't turn away
'Cause I'll be by your side wherever you fall
In the dead of night whenever you call
And please don't fight these hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you
-"By Your Side", Tenth Avenue North
The trip over the Sea to Tol Eressea had been quiet enough, and certainly peaceful, but Frodo could not easily recall most of it—he had been ill much of the time, struggling with the anniversary of October the sixth and his stabbing on Weathertop three years ago. At times he almost couldn't believe it had been only three years, since he sometimes seemed to live an entire lifetime between the anniversaries. He had weakened considerably from last year as well, his body lagging in strength and endurance and his spirit dwindling to naught. He had known for several months that he was going to leave Middle-earth by either ship or grave—there could be no other way, with his body failing like it was. He had chosen to sail and perhaps find healing because a hopeless life, however short it might be, frightened him more than actual death. After his illness had passed, he had discovered later that Elrond had feared the worst for nearly a whole day as Frodo lay in delirium and fever, afraid that the small hobbit would be claimed by the Shadow. It had been Bilbo, dear, sweet Uncle Bilbo who had kept his nephew's wayward spirit from wandering too far from the path of Life and reminded him that he "still had a lot of living to do".
Here in the Undying Lands, Frodo found it was very unlike Middle-earth. There was little resemblance to the rugged terrain he knew and had seen on his Adventures—not to mention the several elves that had come to greet him and Uncle Bilbo, honored to meet the Ringbearers. The air itself smelled sweet and lively, almost humming with the power that had created the land.
It was not often that Frodo felt melancholy fall on him anymore—in this place of perfect Beauty, how could it?—but today, for some inexplicable reason, he felt simply miserable and frustrated all at once. He had been assured by Elrond and Galadriel and even dear Gandalf that these days would come and go, that the Shadow would still hound him at times. He would never be entirely free from the memories or their influence—not even the Elves in all their power could fully drive his pain away.
Today, he felt angry. Not at the Elves, not at all, but simply at Fate. It had been Fate that had pushed him on the path of the Quest, Fate that had placed the One Ring in his hands, and it had been Fate that had sent him through Darkness so that his soul was forever torn and blackened. It had been the Ring that had scoured his whole being and left him but a shell of his former self, unable to live life to its fullest.
The memories were strong today. He felt sick again, ill to the stomach. His shoulder was chill again and, in contrast, the scar of the spider's bite on the base of his neck burned red and raw.
"Uncle," he said softly, and Bilbo looked up from his writings, pausing, "I'm going to go for a walk."
The elderly hobbit, knowing his companion's restlessness, looked at him in understanding, and nodded. "All right, Frodo-my-lad. Do be back before tea—you know how things get!"
Frodo definitely knew—things grew somehow quite chaotic, what with their several visitors around that time and the food that was given them. He didn't think he would be able to stomach food, though, not with his stomach so upset. He nodded to show he'd heard and then left, never seeing his uncle's concerned brown eyes looking after him.
He usually left the small, comfortable house on these days, unwilling to unleash any of his bitterness or memories into those he loved. The island of Tol Eressea was rather small, but most of it was forest or open plain of waving emerald grass that he sometimes lost himself for hours in. It was among the tall waving grass and the wind whispering through the trees that he usually felt the Shadows ease.
He found soon enough, however, that today's journey would not help.
Even in the deepest part of the forest he could not settle his mind nor quiet the raging in his soul, and could not quell the Darkness that threatened to overtake him.
"Come back! Come back!" came a high, cold calling that existed now only in memory, "to Mordor we will take you!" He seemed to see them there—the Nazgul, standing on the other side of the Ford of Bruinen, swords drawn and skeletal hands beckoning him back.
"No," he muttered between clenched teeth; his hands unconsciously reached up to shield his sight from the memory, but it did not dissipate—instead, the robed figures seemed to advance, stepping into the shallow water on the borders of Imladris. His eyes, clouded with teroor, flew open. "NO!" Overcome, he ran without seeing, away from the memory, out of the forest. He ended his flight, trembling and exhausted, by the Sea's edge, and realized what had happened. The Nazgul vanished from his sight, and their Shadow passed, and he stood once again in sunlight and the beauty of the island.
But Frodo fell to his knees in the fine sand of the beach, and unable to push back his despair he wept bitterly like he never had while in the Shire. Will I not find healing for my wounds? He thought to himself. Is there no one who can help? He wished now that he had died on the slopes of Mount Doom after the Ring's destruction, for then he would have been free, truly free, not wasting away, little by little.
"Why do you weep, Shireling?" came a Voice suddenly behind him, and startled, Frodo leapt to his feet and turned; but any thoughts about fleeing promptly vanished when he saw the Owner of the Voice.
It was a type of Great Cat, the likes of which he had never seen before. Quite large, it seemed to tower over him, taller than any Man or even Elf. Its head and chest was covered in a thick mane of tawny-gold hair, which then lessened into a gleaming coat of honey-yellow. Its whiskered face was Wise and Gentle, but Frodo , upon meeting its deep green eyes, dropped to his knees again. His very soul shuddered, but not with terror, and he could feel himself trembling with awe and fear. Daring to look, he saw the Cat gazing down upon him with Love in its eyes. He could not speak.
"Why do you weep, My Child?" it asked again, and its Voice was deep and beautiful, and terrible all at once, unlike any Voice Frodo had ever heard before. He thought that this Cat was wild but at the same time Good.
"I weep because I am hurt, sir," he finally said softly, and the simplicity of the answer surprised him.
The Cat, however, did not laugh. "An Honest answer, child," it spoke, "is very rarely complicated."
"Please, sir," Frodo said after a long moment of silence, "why do you inquire? How did you come to be here?"
The Cat smiled. "I was, and always will be, here, Frodo of the Shire," it replied. "Just as I was, and am, in Middle-earth, and all worlds that I created. I inquire because all My Children are My responsibility."
"How can I be a child of you?" Frodo asked hesitantly, afraid of insulting this Creature. 'I have never met you before." But the Cat merely looked at him, steadily and patiently, and Frodo suddenly began to doubt what he had just said. "Have I?"
"It is your choice whether you believe you have met Me," it replied. "I am always here with my Children, but it is up to them to accept that I am."
"If you say you have always been here," Frodo said slowly, thinking this over, "then why wait to show yourself now? Sir."
"You called me. I have come." Frodo only stared at him, confused. The Cat smiled at him once more. "I have been waiting for you to call, and now, in your Pain, you called out for Peace, for Healing, Frodo of the Shire."
"But I called for no one!" Frodo exclaimed, but then his voice softened to the barest of whispers. "I just want the pain to end."
The Cat bent its great head, and Frodo, still partly afraid, looked down, half-sure it would end him—but then he felt a thrill of warm air rush over him, and suddenly he felt his spirit soar in its golden feel. It was a feeling beyond comprehension—full and Loving, satisfying, and power. 'Absolute euphoria,' he described it later, 'when I felt my soul rejoice in That which I never knew I'd missed.' The Shadow on him seemed to lessen, and he looked up into the Cat's eyes again.
"I am not worthy to be before You," he whispered.
"All My Children are worthy to stand before Me," the Cat replied. "So many of My Children turn away from Me, ashamed of the things they have done. They never realize that they have nothing to be ashamed for in My presence, if they only ask." The Cat straightened again. "I am come, Frodo, my Child," He said gently. "Will you allow My Healing?"
And Frodo realized that this Majestic Being was offering him a choice—if turned down, he would leave without argument, but was now offering Frodo the very thing he wanted if accepted. He thought is over: this Cat was familiar to him, just not in this form. The realization sent his soul shuddering again. Even on his Quest he had not been alone—He had been there all along, watching over him.
"Please," he said, "what is Your name?"
The Cat smiled. "I am known by several names, My son—so many they are innumerable. But you may know Me as Aslan."
"Aslan." The name was foreign, but beautiful in itself. Suddenly he felt his frustrations and griefs well up, beyond his control, and his tears fell again. "Please," he whispered, "will You help me?"
"My son," came the Voice softly, "I will always help you." And looking up again, Frodo was amazed to see that Aslan, too, was weeping, large tears falling from those Deep eyes, and the hobbit realized that Aslan was feeling his pain as if it were His own. The tears dripped onto his upturned face, mixing with his own, but they were now tears of Healing instead of Pain, and Frodo felt all his pent-up emotions melt away in the feel of them. "You need only ask." Still kneeling, Frodo closed his eyes, focusing on the sturdy Presence beside him, and on that Wild yet Loving Voice, allowing it to fill him up. He was not so alarmed then when suddenly he felt one of Aslan's great paws reach and rest on his shoulder—the hobbit was so small that it covered his entire shoulder, on the old Morgul-knife wound and all the way up to the spider's bite on the back of his neck. They both burned at His touch, but then He pressed down gently. Frodo stiffened for an instant, a cry building in his throat as he seemed to see the Nazgul bearing down at him again; they were replaced by Shelob, who struck out at him in the darkness of her lair; and finally he saw Sauron's Eye, glaring at him from Mordor, and the Ring glinting in the fell light of Mount Doom—
But again Aslan breathed upon him, and the Shadows clinging to the old wounds dispersed from Frodo Baggins fully; for the first time in his life, he felt truly Free. Opening his eyes again, he met Aslan's gaze again, saw His Wise eyes shining with Love and Pride. "You did well, My son," He said. "Even in the Darkest hour you held firm. Go now, My Child, and life the Life that has been set for you. Your faith has made you well."
And Frodo looked up at Him, and smiled. "Thank You," he said softly. He felt no fear in the Presence of Aslan now, and indeed he climbed to his feet and, hesitantly, he grasped the soft mane gently and buried his face in His mane. He felt the whiskery face bend again and a felt a kiss of blessing placed in his hair, and finally he stepped back. Aslan turned towards the Sea.
"Do you live there?" Frodo asked softly. "Farther out?"
But Aslan smiled. "Higher Up and Farther In, Child," He answered. "It is My Father, the Emperor-beyond-the-sea, who lives in the Uttermost West. But you will come to understand when your time comes. Goodbye is not Forever." And when Frodo looked back over, He was gone.
No. Not gone, and Frodo smiled to himself. He thought he could see the gold of Aslan's mane in the sunset.