AN: This one-shot is set in between the chapters "Many meetings" and "The Council of Elrond" in "The Fellowship of the Ring".
This is actually a birthday gift in a very "Hobbity" way, as today is my birthday. So I hope you'll enjoy this little very Frodo-centric one-shot.
Also, in a more human manner, I'd like to give this as a small birthday gift to FairyTaleLover6. I don't know when your birthday exactly is (you said it was coming up) but I wanted you to know how much I appreciate your constant input and feedback on my other LotR story.
Disclaimer: I do not own "The Lord of the Rings" or any parts of it (although I wouldn't mind to own Frodo). It all comes from the brilliant mind of J.R.R. Tolkien and belongs to his heirs.
Warnings: none. Just some brooding, is all. ;-)
Important author's note: This story was beta-read by the absolutely brilliant fairytalelover6! I'm forever in her dept for all the work she put into my humble musings. I can't think of a way to express my gratitude.
When Night Falls
Weariness slowly made itself known to Frodo as he plodded back to his room, blind to the wonders hidden in every detail of the Last Homely House. Along to his left trudged Sam, his friend's eyes sinking as he escorted his master to his room. My dear Sam, Frodo thought and smiled tiredly. Always looking after me as though I were a wee lad that constantly requires safekeeping by his guardian. Those past weeks have exhausted him so much. He slowed his steps a bit and glanced at Sam sideways. His gardener looked a bit pale and in great need of sleep.
"I can find my own way back to my room, Sam," Frodo spoke softly and couldn't suppress a grin when he was met by the startled gaze of his companion. "There is no need for you to come with me."
"Begging your pardon, Mr. Frodo, I've no doubt that you're perfectly able to find your way back, but that staff of Master Gandalf has me a bit worried, if you know what I mean. I promised him to take right good care of you and that's what I'm doing," said Sam before he failed to stifle a huge yawn.
"Oh, Sam," Frodo said with a laugh. He laid his right arm around the younger Hobbit's shoulders. "I know what you did while I was unconscious and so does Gandalf. Trust me. He knows how exhausted you must be and wouldn't want you to overexert yourself." Frodo stopped and, grabbing Sam by his shoulders, he turned his friend toward him and hugged him tightly. "Go and get some rest, my dear Sam. The days ahead will prove to be exhausting, I fear." He let go of the younger one and smiled at him. "Go to your room and dream about the wonders of this house. In the morning I should like to explore a bit more, if you're willing to join me." Sam nodded at that and blinked his eyes several times so he could see more clearly.
"Good night then, Mr. Frodo. I'll see you in the morning," said Sam. He yawned and blushed a bit as he did so. It was not proper to do so in front of one's master.
Frodo watched as Sam headed the other direction, down the long corridor that lead towards several doors at the other end. The light of candles that illumined the hallway flickered on the fine elegant carvings of the wood. When Sam had eventually disappeared through one of the doors, Frodo turned and walked the short way to his own room.
Without making a noise, he closed the door firmly behind him and stared in wonder at the room where he had spent the better part of the last few days. Before, he had never had a chance to marvel at all the little details that had so artistically been spread throughout the room. For a moment it seemed to Frodo as though it might take him a little less than a lifetime to fully appreciate the beauty that surrounded him.
A long sigh escaped his throat as he sat down on the soft mattress of the bed, which was big enough to easily accommodate all four of the Hobbits. After spending such a long time constantly facing the threat of something even worse than death itself, the quiet and peace were both welcome and strange. His mind was still trying to make sense of everything Gandalf had told him the other night and it began to dawn on him more clearly how lucky he truly had been.
As he began to unbutton the soft green shirt the Elves had provided, his hand ever so lightly grazed the Ring. It dangled on its chain around his neck as unsuspiciously as any other ordinary pendant. Far from ordinary it was, however, and Frodo took it in his hand. He eyed the golden band as if he expected that something unusual would occur because it was now the furthest from its Master's grasp as it had ever been – here in Imladris. Nothing happened though and Frodo felt a wave of relief surge through him.
Even though they talked at length after Frodo had first woken in this Elven home, he had kept a piece of information from Gandalf, mostly because he felt a bit silly to admit it. The fear that came along, however, was very real, even though he wasn't entirely sure whether he was truly in any real danger.
Still dressed in the green Elven garments, Frodo laid back on the bed to stare up at the carved wood of the ceiling, trying to get lost in its smooth pattern. For a time, it seemed to work and took his thoughts somewhere safe and far more peaceful. But it was not long until – as if through a haze – the ghostly face in the Shadow Realm formed in his mind and, for the first time, Frodo could see the anguish in the Witch King's foggy features. The first amongst the Wraiths he was, a position that provided power and chains that bound it. Was that former Man's soul forever lost to the evil and eternal darkness that was Sauron, or had some part of the former king's conscience remained, a part that would prove to be more torturous to bear than anything the Dark Lord himself could ever do to him, for it reminded this shadow of a man of what he used to be and could never be again?
"What I could have become," Frodo murmured into the dimly lit room and he sat up on the bed. The tiredness the feast, talk, and laughter, the merrymaking and listening to songs and Bilbo's beloved voice, had brought upon him vanished into thin air, leaving Frodo lost in his own mind. The idea of what might have become of him had taken hold of his heart. With surprising swiftness, Frodo leaped from the bed and approached the looking glass where a Hobbit had stared at him earlier that same day, a Hobbit he had hardly recognized. While his face and stature were still blessed with youth and looked much the same as they did before – quite a bit thinner though – his eyes had begun to change.
This he had noticed once before – a long time ago, on a very dark day that lay thirty-nine years in the past. On that day many things had happened, all of which changed his life forever. His parents' death he still considered the worst thing that had ever happened to him – no knife in the dark would ever change that, he was sure. But when his tears had finally run dry that night and left his heart empty and his throat hoarse, he had set out in the middle of his darkest night to search Brandy Hall for some water.
The long and winding corridors of Brandy Hall were dark and only few candles fought against the darkness that flooded them. As he went through the corridors, heading for the kitchen, he passed by a looking glass and his feet stopped stumbling as he came to a halt in front of it. The familiar blue of his eyes was surrounded by puffy red lids, which bore only little evidence of the hollow emptiness and endless sorrow that had taken hold of his heart. As he looked himself in the eyes, little Frodo had noticed something strange, something that frightened him quite a bit. Those eyes were no longer the same he had looked out of for the previous twelve years. Back then he could not name it because he only learned the word that best described it a few years later. Those child's eyes had lost some of their innocence; they had seen death, shown unbearable pain to anyone who cared to look closely enough, and the high spirits that had once belonged to their owner were gone forever. A part of himself had died that day – along with his parents.
"It's happening again," Frodo whispered at his reflection in the looking glass. In an instant, the last reminders of merrymaking and joy fled him and left him with many things to ponder, things he had rather not lived to see coming to pass. New worries mingled with barely older ones and, for a moment or two, he wished to flee Rivendell, leave the Ring there and just wander home to the Shire- unseen by the prying eyes of both friend and foe. After tomorrow, the Ring would no longer be his responsibility anyway, although he had the unwanted notion that it might not be so.
Frodo tore his gaze from the looking glass and turned away, no longer willing to look at himself. Had he been at home in the Shire, he might have taken a midnight stroll through Hobbiton's quiet and (at this hour) empty roads and lush meadows in an attempt to find some peace of mind. Alas, he was not at home but confined to his room, where he was sure he could not flee without anyone noticing. Too precious was the evil treasure to leave it in the hands of a simple Hobbit, Frodo mused, and Lord Elrond – likely advised by Gandalf – had certainly set up some sort of guard to keep both bearer and burden safe.
Fresh air, however, was what his heart yearned for and so he stepped out onto the balcony adjoining his room. The night was crisp and quiet and, as Frodo closed his eyes to cherish the sudden feeling of peace surging through him, he thought that he could make out the distant sound of Elven songs, ringing out through the valley. But soon all sound faded and his peace was replaced by an image of his beloved uncle that still troubled him greatly. Bilbo had changed so much since the last time he had seen him eighteen years ago. He had begun to show his true age and it scared Frodo tremendously. To him Bilbo always seemed beyond the confinements of age, an ever youthful example of his race that might live on forever. One hundred and twenty-nine years he had seen come and go, a lifetime that had helped him accumulate his wisdom and kindness. But those few hours ago it had seemed like both his wisdom and kindness had been replaced by the hungry face of insolent greed – the kind of greed that turns your closest kinsman into your worst enemy. The Ring had brought that upon the old Hobbit, Frodo was sure of it, and he couldn't help but feel reminded of the sorry creature that Bilbo had taken the cursed thing from in the first place.
Was that what was to become of him, if the Ring would remain in his hands and thus in his custody?
Suddenly Frodo felt the great need to tear the chain from his neck and toss the golden band into the peaceful landscape beneath him. No one would ever be able to find it again and so all harm that might come from this small thing would be hindered before it ever happened.
"But has not Bilbo found it in the unlikeliest place?" he questioned himself aloud. He knew in the very same moment that his wish was not a course of action that could be or even should be taken.
He was suddenly filled with dread of what might become of him under the influence of the Ring. There was no doubt in his mind that the Ring had already gained some form of control over him, because he remembered well his reluctance to show it to Bilbo. Was he already claiming it as his own? Or was the Ring maybe claiming him and invading his very soul to make Frodo obey its master's every command?
He had felt the Shadow it cast while the shard of the Nazgûl blade had still been imbedded in his shoulder. He had felt the cold and eternal darkness that would have been his life had not Lord Elrond found and removed it. It was something Frodo wouldn't want to see his worst foe endure and to bestow this burden onto anybody else seemed an act of cruelty beyond comparison.
Calmness replaced his fear as a decision began to form in his mind. Should it be fate's will to leave the Ring in his hands, he would do whatever they'd ask him to do at the council Elrond had summoned for the following day. Although he knew that there'd be others more worthy and able to do what needed to be done, he would not falter should the need of his further involvement in the matter arise. And even though he wanted nothing more than to return home and live an ordinary Hobbit's life, he knew that it might not be his destiny – for ordinary was not one of the things many of his fellow Hobbits considered him to be.
Feeling somewhat calmer, Frodo went back inside and continued to undress. A fresh nightshirt had been placed on the bed for him to wear. As his tiredness returned, he hastily changed and crawled underneath the welcome warmth of the bed covers. His eyes closed on their own accord and soon he knew no more.