West of the Moon

A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive

 

 

Moving On
Frodo is taken ill whilst in Minas Tirith, after the destruction of the ring.
Author: Elwen
Rating: G
Category: AU-Angst/Drama

 

CHAPTER 1

 

Frodo closed his book and set a piece of ribbon as marker, before letting it fall to his lap, with a sigh.  He had been reading this history of the Stewards for several days and finding it quite interesting, but the writing style was difficult and he couldn't seem to find the required energy to pick his way through the scrawling letters this morning.

He thought of getting up and going for a walk in the fresh air but it was the chill wind outside that had driven him to his seat in the window.  He seemed to feel the cold more nowadays.  Leaning further into the soft cushion behind him he let his gaze drop to the courtyard far below.  The view made him feel a little dizzy, which was odd because heights didn't bother him as much as they had, before he left the Shire.

Pippin and Gandalf were strolling together, obviously deep in conversation.  The wizards face was hidden to Frodo, from this angle, by the wide brim of the Istaris' hat but Pippin was clearly visible, his head bobbing arms waving  expansively to emphasise some point in his narrative.   The younger hobbits' own journey of the past year had brought him a new measure of maturity but his bright spirit was indomitable and Frodo found himself smiling as the two below threw back their heads, in unison, laughing at some humorous comment one or the other had made.  He watched them follow Merry and Sam, out through the archway and down the road to the city gates, or rather, what was left of the city gates. 

Frodo closed his eyes, basking in the heat of the sun through the glass, and rubbed the back of his neck absently.  He must have slept with his head at an odd angle last night, for he could feel soreness in the muscles there.  The beds and pillows were too big here and he missed his little room at Bag End.  Gimli was supervising the repair of some section of city wall and Legolas had stopped by only briefly to see off the little party below.  It was good to know no-one would be looking over his shoulder, for the next few days at least.  Frodo had found it impossible to sift through the emotions and events of the past months when he was always under someone's watchful eye.

A light, confident, tap at the door brought his attention back to the room.  He sighed.  Each time he thought he had gained some time to himself someone turned up.  "Come in."  Swinging around in his seat he let his feet dangle over the edge, almost to the floor, once more wishing for some hobbit sized furniture.

Frodo was pleasantly surprised to see Legolas step lightly into the sun drenched chamber.  He had grown to appreciate the elf's company more over the past few weeks.  The Prince had not been as overly protective as the rest of the companions.  His first question was never about the hobbits health and Frodo did not feel that he was constantly under scrutiny.  Like many elves, he did not seem much interested in the affairs of mortals, although during their long journey from Rivendell to Amon Hen he had become a little more forthcoming.  (It was difficult to do otherwise with a hobbit as curious as Pippin around.)  Since their reunion, in Ithilien, Frodo had come to enjoy his quiet company and the pair had taken to meeting in one or other of the small gardens in the city and strolling together.   They did not talk much, simply enjoying the sharing of trees and fountains; the elf demanded nothing of him and allowing Frodo to set the pace of their relationship.  The hobbits recent experiences had left him bruised in mind and soul and Legolas seemed happy to tolerate his long silences and mood swings.  

"Good morning, Frodo.  I thought I would find you here." 

Frodo smiled ruefully, guessing that Sam had managed to get a message to him before he left.  "Good morning, Legolas.  It was too cold to sit in the garden and I wanted to finish my book."  He nodded at the large, blue bound, tome on the seat at his side.

"I see you are still ruled by your pride, then?"  The elf smiled, his eyes sparkling and dimples appearing briefly in his cheeks.  It had become a joke between them.  On more than one occasion he had helped Frodo with the deciphering of a particularly difficult passage in the ancient volume and had even once suggested that he try a different version from the towers' huge library.  The stubborn Frodo had looked up, in mock horror, and declared that its translation had become a matter of pride; that he would not let the text defeat him.  It was, nowadays, a rare flash of humour from the little hobbit and Legolas used every opportunity to play on it.  Frodo's laughter was bright and honest. 

"I will finish this book, if it is the last thing I do." 

Legolas' dimples returned.  "But not this morning, Frodo.  The sun is shining.  You should be out in the fresh air." 

Glancing over his shoulder to the window Frodo could see banners on the tall spires of the city snapping in the breeze.   "The wind is too cold today.  I think I'll stay indoors." 

"If you put on a warm cloak you will not feel it as much," the Prince of Mirkwood persisted.  A little furrow was forming between his eyebrows as he studied his friend.  Frodo looked paler than usual and his eyes were dull.  Legolas knew that he often suffered from nightmares and wondered if he had slept but knew better than to ask, sensing that Frodo was tired of people constantly enquiring after his health.

Frodo sighed inwardly.  It was obvious that the Prince was not going to take, "No" for an answer so he resolved to put a good face on it and hopped down from his seat.  "Very well.  I could do with a break.  The writing is particularly di......."  He grasped the edge of the window seat as a slight ripple of dizziness caught him.  Legolas slipped, concernedly to his side. 

"Frodo?" 

The hobbit blinked and the vertigo faded, as quickly as it had come.  "I'm alright," he replied, letting go of the seat and tugging at his waistcoat.  "I just stood up too quickly.  I'll get my coat."  He could feel the elf's eyes on his back as he crossed to the bed and retrieved his jacket.  Slipping his arms in, he began to fasten the buttons, careful to keep his back to Legolas.  With only three fingers on his right hand, buttons were still a challenge but at least these were bigger than the ones on his shirt.  After several moments of fumbling he managed to fasten them and turned, jamming his right hand into his pocket.  "Shall we go?"  Legolas returned his smile and started to follow him to the door, then stayed him with a hand on Frodo's shoulder. 

"You have forgotten your cloak." 

He had not worn his cloak for days.  The elven clasp was beautifully made but his clumsy right hand just could not get it to work.  The first time he had tried to wear it since Ithilien, Sam had fastened it for him and he had avoided it ever since;  trying to recover some measure of independence, the last thing he needed was for people to be hovering around, helping him dress.  (He could see Sam's fingers twitching every time he watched his master trying to fasten the small horn buttons on his shirt.)  He tried to shrug off Legolas' grip and was thankful that he had his back to the elf as he winced at sore neck muscles.  A Prince of elves is not easily shrugged off, however.  Picking up the cloak from where Sam had left it, draped over the back of a chair, Legolas drew it around the hobbits shoulders, wordlessly bending down to fastening the clasp.  So he had guessed, thought Frodo.  At least he had spared him the indignity of asking if he needed help.  The elf made to leave the room and Frodo followed, a little sheepishly.

 

CHAPTER 2

A great number of the houses in Minas Tirith were still empty and boarded up; their occupants moved to safer havens.  Some families had started to return but there were still many empty and untended gardens and Legolas seemed to have a knack for discovering them all and finding a way in.  Today he lead them down an unfamiliar street, paused at a blue door, pushed it open with a dramatic flourish and bowed low to his companion.  Frodo laughed and bowed in return as he entered, finding himself in a high walled garden, and immediately felt the breeze drop.  Legolas closed the gate behind them and the sounds of the city outside became a distant whisper.  Frodo stood still, enchanted.

As with many gardens in the city, at its centre stood a fountain, its basin formed into a large flat sea shell.  No water splashed in it now.  Roses and many other types of shrub, some of which Frodo had never seen before, clung to the stone walls and in borders before them bright flowers were set, now sadly choking in weeds.  Around the fountain a pavement had been laid, its granite slabs forming an intricate geometrical pattern of pink and yellow.  Birds were calling in the shrubs and a solitary butterfly flitted amongst the flowers.  He breathed in deeply.   Minas Tirith smelled of cold stone and smoke and the other, less savoury smells of a city, but here the odours were overridden by the musk of damp loam and the delicate scent of late blooming hyacinth.  It brought back memories of the little garden at Bag End and Frodo closed his eyes, trying to remember the borders by the gate. He staggered as another wave of dizziness hit him from nowhere and would have fallen if Legolas had not caught his shoulders.  The little hobbits eyes flew open in alarm and he squinted at the sudden brightness of the sunlight.  Wordlessly, his companion drew him to sit on a low bench by the silent fountain and hunkered down until their faces were level.

"Are you unwell, Frodo?"  There was that little furrow between his eyebrows again. 

Frodo blinked as the brightness and the dizziness faded.  "It's nothing.  I'm just a little tired.  I didn't sleep well last night." 

Legolas continued to study him intently and the little hobbit dropped his gaze to stare at his hands, where he had folded them on his lap, left on top of right so that his missing finger was hidden.  "Are you sure, little one?  You look a little pale today.  Perhaps I should call a healer."  His voice was soft and full of concern but Frodo was tired of being coddled. 

"I am perfectly alright, Legolas," he blurted out, with more vehemence than he had intended.  He glanced up hurriedly, worried that he had caused offence, but Legolas was only looking at him, quizzically.    For a moment Frodo thought he was going to insist, then the elf simply stood and offered a steadying hand as Frodo climbed down off the bench.  It was often difficult to judge what elves were thinking.  They always seemed a little distant when around mortals and Frodo had been too preoccupied to make the effort to get acquainted with Legolas during their journey from Rivendell.  Elves had hundreds of years to build friendships and the hobbit assumed it must be difficult for them to form a relationship quickly with a mortal.  The hobbits eye was distracted for a moment by the butterfly.  Is that how we seem to them, he wondered; a butterfly, here today and gone tomorrow.

Their walk back to Frodo's room was spoiled by a strained silence and the hobbit was relieved when Legolas said his farewells at the door, having first stooped to unfasten the wretched clasp at Frodo's neck.

Once behind the closed door Frodo flung the cloak over the back of a chair and went to lie down on the bed.  His neck was feeling more tender than before and the headache was getting worse.  Curling up and setting his back to the light from the window he closed his eyes against the mid day brightness and fell asleep.

When Frodo awoke next he noted, with some annoyance that his headache was no better.  "That's what happens when you sleep the day away, lazy bones," he berated himself.  When he rolled over to look at the window he could see that the sun was sinking in a pale turquoise sky, set with dark lilac clouds.  Had he been that tired?  The hobbit considered getting up and finding something to eat but, with the headache, his stomach didn't really feel up to food.  He decided that a glass of water would suffice and sat up. 

Frodo held his head and squeezed his eyes shut, moaning as the headache grew in intensity.  Determined not to give in, however, he stood up and took a step towards the table to pour a drink.  Suddenly the room began to spin and he saw the floor coming towards him.  He heard someone cry out, (was it his own voice?) as his head hit the wooden boards, hard.  Then the world went black.

 

CHAPTER 3

Someone was moving quietly about the room, or at least trying to.  The soft footfalls echoed in Frodo's ears, forming a counterpoint to the loud drumming in his head.  He was lying on his back, in a bed, draped warmly in soft blankets and linen sheets.  Unwilling yet, to announce to whoever it was that he was awake, Frodo tried to piece together in his mind the events that had lead him there but after a few moments he gave up the effort to connect garden and present and decided to open his eyes. 

The chamber was dark, except for the flicker of firelight on the walls and the soft yellow glow of a candle at his bedside. 

"Frodo?"  Frodo turned to the light voice, wincing as the drumming in his head found a new volume. 

Legolas was standing at the bedside, along with a man he had not seen before.  The Princes' face wore a worried expression. 

"How did I get to bed?" 

"I returned to invite you to join me for supper and found you lying on the floor." 

The stranger came closer, "How do you feel now, Master Frodo?" 

"I've just got a bit of a headache.  I'll probably be alright after a good nights' sleep," lied Frodo, trying not to frown at the incessant drumming in his head.  But the other was not so easily convinced. 

"I am called Darien and I am a healer.  Can you tell me if you hurt anywhere else?"

Frodo sighed and started to sit up.  He regretted it immediately as a sharp pain in his neck made him yelp and the headache suddenly became unbearable.  The pain was so intense that his stomach too, rebelled and the ailing hobbit just managed to roll onto his side before throwing up violently.  For a moment he felt someone's hand supporting his head then the blackness descended again.

"He is waking up" Frodo recognised Legolas' quiet voice at his ear.  "Come, little one, drink this."  A gentle hand slipped beneath his pillow and raised his head; just enough to allow him to swallow, but the movement was enough to make the hobbit whimper as the pain in his head and neck intensified once more. 

"Shhhhhhhh, Frodo.  I am sorry, but you must drink this.  It will ease the pain." 

A few drops of liquid were trickled between his lips and Frodo swallowed reflexively.  It tasted very bitter but he swallowed again when a little more was dribbled into his mouth.  He just wanted them to leave him alone, and if swallowing the bitter liquid would achieve that he was willing to co-operate.  Frodo longed for the comforting presence of Sam or Gandalf.  His shoulders were lowered and a something warm and damp was draped across his brow.   There was a smell of mint.  The world drifted away again. 

"Frodo?"  The voice was becoming insistent.  The hobbit was aware that he had been hearing the soft repetition of his name for some time.  He tried to focus through the pain in his head and neck but it was difficult to ignore the throbbing.  The voice continued calling his name and it was accompanied by a gentle squeezing of his right hand. 

"Sam?"  Frodo forced open leaden eyelids and found himself looking into Legolas' bright green eyes.  They held a look that reminded the hobbit of those days after leaving Moria and Frodo wondered what had happened to upset him so.

"Sam is not here, Frodo.  He has gone away for a few days.  Do you not remember the trip?"  Frodo nodded and closed his eyes as the throbbing in his head reached a new crescendo.

 

CHAPTER 4

Merry and Pippin had been fascinated by the large ships tied up on the river and had finally managed to persuade Aragorn to let them join him on a short journey.  One of the ships was making a cargo run to a town at the mouth of the Anduin and Aragorn would be aboard.  He was trying to sort out a particularly knotty diplomatic problem with the local mayor and Gandalf had agreed to lend his support to the fledgling king.  It was anticipated that the voyage would keep them away from the city for about ten days.  Gimli had declined to join the party; saying that there was good stonework to take care of and Legolas had firmly refused all attempts by the hobbits to include him.  Frodo suspected he knew the reason but was too polite to mention it if the Prince of Mirkwood was not inclined to.  Several times, over the past weeks, the hobbit had surprised a distant look in the elf's' eyes when he heard or saw a gull wheeling overhead. 

They had all assumed that Frodo would be joining them and he had allowed them their illusions for as long as possible.  Ever since he had awoken in Ithilien he had not been alone.  The ringbearer knew that his friends were just showing their care for him but he was beginning to feel stifled. He knew that as soon as he declared his intention not to go Sam would also pull out and, despite his previous mistrust of boats, his friend seemed to be looking forward to the little excursion.  It was probably the company, rather than the ship, Frodo mused, as Sam had never been fond of water.  It was only that morning, as the others were bringing out their travelling packs, that Frodo had informed them of his decision not to travel with them.  He had then spent the best part of an hour persuading Sam that he should still go.

Legolas smiled encouragingly as he saw his friends eyes finally drift into focus on him.  "You must drink something, Frodo"

The very thought of it set the hobbits' stomach roiling.  "No, thank you" he managed to whisper, around a tongue that felt too big for his mouth. 

"I am sorry, little one, but I have to insist.  You are feverish and you will make yourself worse if you do not drink.  Would you not like some cool water?"  To tempt him, the elf dipped his long fingers in a cup and touched them to Frodo's lips.  The cool moisture felt good on his cracked lips but the thought of having to sit up to drink it was more than he could bear.  The Prince would not be denied, however, and he slipped an arm beneath Frodo's pillow, lifting his friends head again, just a little.

Frodo screamed, as white hot spears of pain shot into his head and down his back.  He wanted to retreat to the blackness again but his mind would not co-operate and he could only clench his eyelids shut in a vain attempt to block out the pain.  Legolas held the pillow still, as he waited for the hobbit to calm. 

"Shhhhhhh, little one.  It will pass." 

Frodo wished he would stop calling him that.  It reminded him of poor Boromir.  When his screams had subsided into deep sobs the elf trickled a little water between his lips.  Frodo swallowed. 

"This will help the pain.  Drink it all." 

More of the bitter concoction that he had been given earlier was poured into his mouth and he was too weak to protest.  Finally, he was lowered into a prone position.  The, now cool, cloth on his forehead was removed and someone gently wiped his face, dabbing at the tears that were rolling back into his hair.  There was the sound of splashing water and a warm damp cloth was draped across his brow once more. 

Frodo lay still, trying to will the pain away, as his memory returned to the events of the morning and the beloved faces of his friends.  The Ringbearer had awoken with a mild headache that day and after an hour of trying to reason with his stubborn friend he was getting a little irritable. 

"For goodness sake, Sam.  I'm not made of glass.  I don't need you following me around, waiting for me to shatter," he had snapped, repenting immediately when he saw the tears well in his friends' eyes.  "I'm sorry.  You didn't deserve that."  He reached out, hesitantly, to touch Sams shoulder.  "It's just that I've never been very fond of boats; you know that.  And, although I do appreciate the concern everyone has shown me, I've been leaning on you all for too long.  It's time I stood on my own two feet again."  Sam still didn't look convinced but he didn't pull away from the touch.  "Please forgive me.  I really didn't mean to hurt you, but I don't want you to give up something you've been looking forward to for days just because you think I need looking after.  Anyway, I could use the time to catch up on my reading."  He tried a tentative smile and was relieved to see that Sams threatened tears did not spill over.  The gardener looked earnestly into Frodo's face. 

"Of course you can look after yourself, Mr Frodo.  I'm sorry if I've been a bit over protective and I do understand about the boat."  The others had moved away a little, checking their gear and trying not to look in their direction. 

"Thank you."  Frodo squeezed Sams' shoulder.  "Legolas and Gimli are still here and I promise that if I feel as though I'm going to shatter I will call them."  Frodo let his smile broaden, folding his arms and leaning against a low wall.  His body felt weary today and the cool breeze was worrying its way through his coat.  "Go and join the others.  They're waiting and you'll miss the tide.  I promise I'll be alright."  Sam had finally acquiesced and Frodo had said his goodbyes to them all before retreating to the warmth of his room. 

Whatever he had been given to drink was beginning to take effect and the pounding in his head receded a little but it made him drowsy too.  He was dimly aware of voices and tried to put names to them, but they kept fading in and out of his hearing.

 "He . . . likely . . . worse before . . . better"  Darien

"Why . . . now? . . . weeks . . . stung by . . . vile creature"  Legolas.

"Orc draughts . . . strangely . . . postponed . . . reaction."  Darien

"Can . . . help him?"  Legolas.

"Must . . . spider . . . medicines . . . sting . . . this potent."  Darien

 

CHAPTER 5

Slowly realising that Legolas' voice held more concern in it than Frodo had ever heard before, he opened his eyes again.  Firelight still flickered on the high ceiling.  He turned his head, gingerly, to the sound of Legolas' voice.  The elf was sitting in a high backed chair at his bedside, the red glow of the fire glinting in the spun gold of his hair.  One, long fingered hand rested lightly on Frodo's right one.  Normally, the Ringbearer would have withdrawn from the touch, still wanting to hide the gap of the missing finger, but every muscle in his body was aching, and he was unwilling to bring himself any further pain by moving unnecessarily.  The prince of Mirkwood smiled, and Frodo was once more struck by how young he looked.  But looks were deceiving where elves were concerned and he knew that Legolas had lived among the trees of Mirkwood for hundreds of years.  Darien came to stand at the elf's' shoulder. 

"How do you feel now, Master Frodo?"  Frodo swallowed, his mouth still dry and haunted by the bitter taste of medicine. 

"A little better," he whispered.  "What happened?  Why do I feel so ill?"  The little hobbit felt wretched.  He had wanted to be alone and he had got his wish.  There was no Sam or Bilbo to comfort him and he felt very frightened and more alone than he had since he stood at the edge of the Cracks of Doom.

Darien lifted the cloth from Frodo's forehead to wring it out in a bowl of mint scented water and Legolas used the opportunity to smooth back the little hobbits' hair.  His touch was light and seemed to ease the pain a little.  Frodo closed his eyes, letting Legolas' soft touch and gentle voice soothe him. 

"When you told us of your journey through Mordor you mentioned being stung by a large spider.  Do you remember?" 

The little hobbit shuddered.  "Yes.  It was horrible.  I must have been unconscious for hours, before I woke up in that awful tower."  He was beginning to feel rather hot and chilled at the same time and his stomach was unsettled.  The warm cloth was replaced on his forehead. 

"The orcs gave you something to counteract the poison but Darien believes that it may only have postponed the effects.  How does your neck feel?" 

"Very sore and stiff" replied Frodo.  Suddenly, he was drenched in perspiration and, at the same time, cold and he knew he had lost the battle with his stomach.  He tried to roll over "I'm sorry." 

Fortunately, both Legolas and Darien had noticed his increasing discomfort and a bowl swiftly appeared.  The healer slipped on to the bed behind his retching patient and held his head, supporting him with an arm around his chest, while Legolas helped the hobbit rinse his mouth, and eased him back into the pillows when he had finished.  Then the two of them stripped off Frodo's soaked night shirt and settled him back, warmly, under blankets and a soft, down quilt.   The little hobbit curled up on his side, still shivering, with his eyes firmly shut and his breathing coming in deep sobs.  Tears squeezed out from beneath lashes, dark against the grey tinged skin. 

The Prince of Mirkwood closed his eyes and laid a hand on his friends' damp and tumbled brown curls.  He had not Elronds' skill at healing but he had learned a little and under his touch Frodo began to calm, the sobs becoming fewer and a measure of colour returning to his cheeks.  By the time Darien had returned with a clean bowl and a steaming cup, the little hobbit was resting more peacefully.  Legolas had become a reassuring presence and Frodo no longer felt so alone.

He began to realise that he had done Legolas a disservice in ever considering him distant and aloof.  When he thought back to their journey from Rivendell the ringbearer realised how much he had taken for granted the elf's small kindnesses.  He had always been there with a helping hand when the path was too steep or a stream too wide for small hobbit strides.  Frodo remembered being relieved of his night watch early on many occasions by the Prince, letting him take an extra few hours sleep.  And now, when he could easily have turned over his care to the healers, it was Legolas who held his hand and soothed his mind.  These thoughts gave him little comfort, however, suddenly realising that any distance between himself and the elf was not of Legolas' making but his own.  Here was just one more thing that he had got wrong in a long catalogue of failures over the past year. 

"Master Frodo?  I need to get this down you.  It will settle your stomach and you must take some liquids or you will feel worse."  

Legolas' hand stopped its stroking of his hair and Frodo wished that the comfort of that touch would stay, just a little longer, stealing himself for the pain as he was rolled on to his back and felt a hand slip beneath his pillow  to raise his head once more.  A comfortable, familiar vapour filled his nostrils and the rim of a cup touched his lips.  Frodo swallowed some of the warm liquid.  It brought back tweenage memories of Bag End and Bilbo's comfortable presence; the ginger and chamomile tea beginning to settle his stomach and ease his headache. 

When he had drunk enough to satisfy the healer, the hobbit was lowered gently back on to his side in a soft nest of pillows and quilts, with a cloth wrapped hot water bottle on his stomach.  Legolas resumed his seat at the bedside and gently stroked his friends left hand as Frodo drifted back into a fitful sleep. 

 

CHAPTER 6

Frodo came awake quickly, aware that he had been having a nightmare, but unable to recall any of it.  His throat was sore, his head still ached, although not as badly as before and he felt too hot.  Daylight was trying to enter the room through tightly drawn blinds. 

Legolas was sitting in the window seat, reading the volume that Frodo had been struggling with for days.  He did not seem to be having any problem translating it, his green eyes roving swiftly down the page, even in the much reduced light.  The elf was relaxed, leaning, with a cushion behind his shoulders, against the casement.   One leg was raised, with his foot on the seat, helping to support the book, while the other foot rested lightly on the floor. 

Not a hair on his head was out of place and Frodo sighed.  He could not imagine any situation that the elf could not cope with.  Perhaps things would have gone differently if it had been he who had been given the task of taking the ring to Mordor.  The hobbit was sure that he would have succeeded, where he had not.  The Prince seemed to sense Frodos' gaze and closed the book, rising with a feline grace and stepping silently across the room to his bedside.

"Would you like something to drink, little one?" 

"Yes please.  Could I have some water?" 

Legolas smiled and filled a cup with crystal clear water from a jug on the bedside table.  Frodo clenched his teeth at the pain as his head was lifted but he managed to drain the cup, the cool water soothing his throat.  The elf then brought a smaller cup to the hobbits' mouth.  Frodo recognised the bitter medicine of the previous evening and swallowed it, unresisting, knowing that it would soon ease his headache.  Once finished, Legolas lowered his head again and tenderly smoothed a few stray curls back off Frodo's damp forehead.  The little hobbit felt unworthy of the concern that the small action implied.   

"Can I do anything else for you?" asked the elf. 

"No thank you, Legolas.  You shouldn't be wasting your time here.  I'm sure you have more important things to do than look after a sick hobbit.  I'm afraid I'm being an awful burden to you"

The Prince of Mirkwood sat down on the edge of Frodos' bed, the little furrow between his brows appearing again.  "A friend is never a burden, Frodo."  He took up the hobbits' hand, where it rested on the coverlet.  "What were you thinking, just then?  You looked so wistful."

Perhaps it was the drugs he had just taken or perhaps it was that he was too weary to dissemble, but Frodo threw open his heart to the compassionate face before him. 

"Oh Legolas, I feel such a fraud.  Everyone keeps heaping praise on me for destroying the ring but if it had not been for Smeagol, all would have been lost.  The ring had taken hold of me completely and I could not have given it up.  I failed.  It should have been someone strong, like you, who took up the quest.  I was a fool to even imagine that I would succeed."  He could feel scalding tears roll down his face onto the pillow.  "I have made so many mistakes."

Legolas looked at the hobbits' mutilated right hand, where it lay across his chest.  "Frodo, if I had taken up the task of ringbearer I doubt I would have fared any better that you.  In fact, I would probably not have held out as long as you did, against the power of the ring." 

Frodo looked up at him through tear misted eyes.  "But you are so much stronger and wiser than me." 

Legolas smiled and returned his friends gaze.  "You give me far more credit than I deserve, little one.  I have made many mistakes in my life, too.  Do not forget, I have had many more years in which to make them.  Yet we are, all of us, formed by the things that happen to us, for good or bad." 

The hobbit sniffed and tried to blink away his tears.  "I can't imagine you ever making a mistake."  He was surprised to see a look of pain cross the elf's face.  The prince of Mirkwood lowered his eyes. 

"Who do you think was responsible for guarding Gollum when he was held in Mirkwood?  Did you think it was merely by chance that I was sent to Elrond to advise of the creatures escape?  My father considered it a fitting punishment that it would be I who told Aragorn that I had failed in the charge he had entrusted to my family."

The hobbit stared at his friends lowered face for some moments as he tried to imagine what had been going through the princes' mind as he made the long journey to Rivendell knowing.  Each step of the way he would have been painfully aware that he had angered his father and disappointed his friend.  And that all this would have to be confessed in public, before an elf lord as mighty as Elrond.  His humiliation must have been horrible. 

"I'm sorry, Legolas.  I didn't know."  The prince squeezed the ringbearers' fingers in acknowledgement and lifted a face that was set resolute.  He looked deep into Frodo's eyes. 

"And yet, if I had not been at the council I would not have joined the quest.  If I had not joined the quest I would not have been able to influence many other events and all may have been lost.  My failure formed what I was to become and what I was to do.  And so it is with you."  Frodo felt his heart stumble.  "You failed and yet the ring was destroyed.  You have survived and your failure has affected who you are now and who you will be in the future. I have watched you struggle in these past weeks.  Do not live, forever, in that moment of failure, Frodo.  Embrace the lessons it teaches and move on."

The hobbit felt as though a tight band, constricting his heart, had suddenly snapped.  He smiled weakly.  "Legolas.  You have been more of a friend than I realised and I have not loved you as you deserved.  Will you forgive me?"  The elf's dimples appeared again as he smiled broadly. 

"There is nothing to forgive, my friend."  He stood up.  "Now, you should rest, and recover, or Sam will not forgive either of us!" 

Frodo smiled.  "That would never do.  We must not let him know that his precious glass shattered after all."  He closed his eyes and settled himself to slip back into healing sleep.  Legolas pulled a chair to the bedside and sat down to watch over him, once more enfolding the broken right hand in his cool, perfect fingers. 

The Prince was glad that he had taken the time, yesterday afternoon, to ride to the harbour and talk to Sam before the gardener had boarded his ship.  He did not doubt that Frodo was on the way to recovery, in body and spirit, although the scars of the quest would always be a part of him.  Whether that recovery would be complete, wiser folk than Legolas could not tell.

THE END

 

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