West of the Moon
A Tolkien Fanfiction Archive
In Rivendell, Frodo worries about his ability to make the journey ahead.
Story notes: This story is largely book version but some film version has sneaked in because I like the film too. If you're a die hard book version person I'm sorry but that's just the way I write 'em. I should also say that I am not medically trained nor do I have any personal experience to draw on so any info in here is research based only and "Should not be tried at home, folks."
"Oh, Sam. Please stop fussing. I'm alright." The younger hobbit had been tucking a rug around Frodo's ankles and he pulled back, as though stung. It was plain that his master was feeling a bit cranky. The two days since he had awakened, had been more than a little busy and Sam was well aware that Frodo's body and mind were rebelling. Frodo knew, and so did Sam, that the Ringbearer was not alright and Frodo felt guilty when he saw the reaction his harsh words had produced. Brown eyes looked down at him, filled with reproach, and he capitulated.
"I'm sorry. Ignore me. I'm a bit crotchety this evening." He tried a smile and, as he had hoped they would, the brown eyes brightened.
"It's alright, Mr Frodo. That Lord Elrond should have known better; setting up a banquet on your first night out of bed, and then that long meeting today. You sit back and rest a bit and I'll see about getting you a bite to eat."
Closing his eyes, Frodo allowed himself to sink back into the cushions piled behind him in the chair; his heals resting comfortably on the padded footstool.
Sam's soft footpads crossed the wooden floor and Frodo heard the click of the door closing behind him. Sometimes people in Hobbiton called Sam ungainly and clumsy, because he was only a gardener. Nothing could be further from the truth. His nimble fingers could string up a row of beans without bruising a single stem and just as easily turn to bake a cake as light as air. He could step through a flower bed without leaving a mark and cross a room with hardly a sound. His presence was comfortable and unobtrusive and that was what his master needed now. Frodo gave in to the drowsy feel of the firelight on his eyelids and tried to let his mind still, feeling that he had just succeeded when he heard a light tap and the door open again. Sam could surely not be returning that quickly? And Sam would not knock, knowing that he was resting.
There was no sound of footsteps but he caught the faint rustle of heavy fabric and knew that it could not be Sam. Opening weary eyes, Frodo found the Lord of Imladris standing before him. Elrond was still wearing the formal robes he had worn at the Council but he had discarded the mithril filet and his heavy brocade over mantle was unfastened. Frodo flinched under the healer's scrutiny and tried to sit up straighter, forcing a bright smile.
"My Lord Elrond. What brings you here?" His voice sounded brittle and high, even in Frodo's ears. The elf's raised eyebrow was all he needed to let him know that the healer was not fooled so he sank back again, in resignation. Lord Elrond's face softened and he knelt at his patient's side, touching fingers to a wrist and placing a cool hand on Frodo's forehead.
"My apologies, Master Frodo. You were not really well enough to attend the Council today, but others had been waiting long for answers and I thought you would be able to weather the storm." His lips twitched in a fleeting smile. "I did not expect you to place yourself at the centre of that storm again." He withdrew his hands, apparently content with what he found and gathered his robe to rise.
Frodo sighed. "I, too, had not expected to place myself at the centre again, as you put it. I was looking forward to returning to my beloved Shire and living out the rest of my days in blissful uneventfulness. I find I've had quite enough stormy weather of late."
The Master of Rivendell stood, gracefully avoiding tripping over his voluminous mantle in the way of one well used to such formal encumbrances. "Have you eaten yet?" It was spoken as a question but Frodo suspected that the answer was already known.
"Sam has gone to fetch something although, truthfully, I don't feel very hungry." Elrond frowned. It was an expression that, Frodo thought, sat too well on his face.
"Master Samwise will find all arranged when he reaches the kitchens. Know that I shall be advised of the contents of your tray when it leaves this room and I expect to receive a very short list, young sir."
Unable to withstand the intense stare, Frodo dropped his eyes to his hands, where they rested in his lap but he glanced up in surprise when he heard laughter in Elrond's voice.
"You will have to build up your strength if you are to go marching half way across Middle Earth. I will lose my reputation as a healer if you keel over in a faint before you reach the boarders of Imladris."
In spite of the seriousness of the task before Frodo, the image of himself falling down in a dead faint like the heroin in some dreadful ballad, made him laugh. Apparently, Master Elrond did have a sense of humour. Perhaps the frown was not as permanent as Frodo had imagined. Elves were difficult to understand and Elrond, more so than most.
It was then that Sam returned with a large covered tray and the Lord of Imladris hurried to provide a table by the chair upon which to set it. Frodo groaned, inwardly, as he saw the amount of food laid out. Elrond turned to Sam, his face stern once more.
"You are charged, Samwise, with ensuring that your master eats a large proportion of the food on that tray. And be warned that I will know if any of it ends up in your belly instead." Sam quailed, visibly. Frodo doubted whether Elrond would indeed know, but Sam was awed enough by this elf lord to be convinced and Frodo sighed as he realised there would now be no help from that quarter with the emptying of the tray. He did have to choke back a giggle, however, when the mighty elf lord glanced back at him and winked.
"See that he stays out of any draughts, Master Gamgee. I do not want to have to nurse him through a chill. Good day, Master Ringbearer." With that he spun lightly on his heal and swept from the room, the heavy copper brown mantle billowing out behind him.
Sam let out his breath with a loud, "Phew" as he dropped onto the edge of the footstool. "I hope I don't never have to cross him. I thought I was going to shrivel up to nothing when he fixed me with them eyes."
Frodo laughed in sympathy, "I know what you mean, Sam. I shrank a bit myself."
Sam cocked his head on one side for a moment, considering, "He's like a spring day, isn't he; rain, thunder and sunshine all rolled up together." They both laughed.
Frodo sat up with a start, awakened by the pounding of his own heartbeat and terrified that it would burst through the confining bars of his ribs at any moment. The sheets tangled around him were soaked with perspiration and he was trembling, uncontrollably. In rising panic he could not recognise his surroundings. Moonlight filtered through broad windows to reveal a large high room, dressed with sinuously carved furniture and thick rugs. This was definitely not Bag End. Rivendell. Frodo clutched gratefully at the knowledge that dropped into his confused mind. He had been ill and this was his room in the elven refuge of Imladris.
Throwing back sodden covers, he sat on the edge of the bed, unable to escape the feeling of being pursued by something too dreadful to bring to memory. He felt faint and yet the urge to move was irresistible and he rose on shaking legs, to scan the room again. There was nothing untoward. The door was firmly closed, as Sam had left it. The only movement in the quiet chamber was the gentle billow of brocade curtains in the breeze from the partially opened windows. Desperate to feel cool air on his over heated body and finding his breath coming in short gasps, he pulled the drapes further back. Beyond the window was a balcony and beyond that, the empty darkness of a long drop to the valley floor below. The roar of the river Bruinnen below was almost drowned out by the rush of blood pulsing in his ears.
Frodo stood by the open window and tried to pull the cool night air into his heaving lungs, fearful of the vast expanses in the darkness beyond the glass and feeling incredibly small, even for a hobbit. His knees could hardly hold him up and he had to lean against the carved stone of the casement behind him for support, but still he wanted to walk, to run; to just move. Mind and body careening completely beyond his control now, he cried out in terror as the door to his room was pushed suddenly open and a tall, dark figure entered.
"Master Baggins, are you unwell?" The voice was strong and clear, tinged with concern. "Frodo, I sense something is wrong. Can I help?" The stranger stepped into the moonlight and the hobbit staggered with relief as he recognised the Lord of Imladris. He would have fallen, but with a swiftness not born of mortal strength, the elf closed the distance between them and caught the hobbit, gently lowering him to lie on his back on one of the thick rugs.
Kneeling down at his side and leaning forward so that his face was directly above Frodo's, the healer took the Ringbearer's head between long slim hands. "Look into my face, Frodo. I need you to listen to my voice and do exactly as I say." Held captive by Elrond's deep grey eyes, he had little option, although listening was more difficult above the throb of his pulse and the wheezing gasp of his breathing. The gentle and musical voice continued, seeming to bypass his ears and enter directly into his mind.
"You are safe, here, Frodo. You are in no danger." Elrond lifted the hobbits hands and placed one on Frodo's chest and the other on his stomach. "I want you to concentrate on your breathing, Frodo. When you breathe, use your stomach, rather than your chest muscles, to draw the air in and out. Feel the movement with your hands. Do you understand?"
"That's good, Master Hobbit. I need you to draw breath in to a count of seven and out to a count of eleven. Are you ready?" Frodo nodded, unable to spare the breath to speak again. "Take your breath in now. Two........three..........good, four....remember to use the tummy muscles....six........seven. Now breathe out. Two......three......four.........very good.........six........seven......keep going.....nine........ten.........eleven. Now, in again........"
For a while the only sound in the room was the soft encouragement of the healer and Frodo's breathing. As the minutes wore on, the hobbit's heartbeat slowed, the faintness and the knots in his stomach, fading as his confusion subsided. When Elrond finally drew his hands away from the Ringbearer's head his patient's eyes were clear and focused once more. Slipping a hand beneath Frodo's back and another under his knees, the elf lifted him easily in his arms and set him carefully in a large padded chair by the glowing embers of the fire, tucking a light rug around his patients legs and wrapping another around his shoulders.
"Rest here while I fetch a sleeping draught." Frodo was too exhausted to argue, although he was not sure he wanted to go back to sleep, in case he was awakened like this again. Bed had now become a place of dread.
Whether as a consequence of the over activity of the previous day or a reaction to the medication Elrond had dosed him with, Frodo could not tell, but his body felt as though it were made of lead the next morning. It took all his energy, even with Sam's help, to walk to the chair by the fire, where he remained. Unfortunately, his mind was not as leaden as his body and he found himself going over and over the events of the previous day's Council meeting. Mainly trying to work out why he had been stupid enough to volunteer to make the journey to destroy the ring. The warm, polished, circle of golden metal rested smoothly against the hobbit's breast bone, quiescent for the moment. It had no reason to strive, for a while at least, for it was being taken in the general direction that it wanted to go. There would be plenty of time for it to subvert the quest to its own ends as the Fellowship travelled. Frodo had no illusions there for he had already felt its power. Even within that valley, protected by veils of mighty elven magic, it could work its evil. Every moment of the Council had been etched on his memory.
A large proportion of the meeting had been spent telling the history of the ring but then had come the discussion of what should be done with it. It had been then that the ring had made its presence felt most strongly. Frodo watched it reach out and work its vile enchantment on each of them, cringing as each face turned towards him, drawn to the innocuous looking circle of seductively glowing metal he held before him.
They had all wanted it, of course. Elf, dwarf and man began fighting over what was to be done with the ring and who was to do it. Some were even still arguing that it could be used to defeat Sauron by turning his own magic against him. They had not felt the subtle way it twisted every simple thought and emotion to its own ends. It had twisted Frodo's own fear until he had agreed to the inclusion of Pippin and Merry in his journey from the Shire. Older and supposedly wiser than they, Frodo felt that he could surely have disentangled himself from their scheming, but he had given in because he was afraid. Perhaps the ring had sensed his fear and decided to supply the hobbit's needs to ensure that he would set out from the relative safety of the Shire. Frodo had wanted the support of their company and had not considered for too long the danger that he was putting them in. It was some comfort that the ring was obviously not aware of its imminent discovery by the nine. It was not "all knowing" and in that there was some hope of success in the course the Council eventually decided upon.
Frodo was drawn back to the present by a light rap at the door. Sam padded quietly across the room to admit Elrond. The elf was dressed in simple grey but he may as well have worn his formal robes of yesterday. There was still an air about him that spoke of veiled power. The Ringbearer sighed, noticing the small bottle in his hand. More medicine. Frodo watched as Sam moved to the bedside table to pour a glass of water, bringing it to Elrond, who unstopped the bottle and poured a little of its contents into the glass, swirling it slowly until the water turned green. Sam offered his master the glass and Frodo decided that he was heartily fed up of being pushed prodded and manipulated.
"No. Thank you, Sam. I am well enough." He felt a little guilty, knowing that it was Elrond to whom he should really be speaking but Frodo could not bring himself to lock eyes with such a mighty lord. Sam looked from Frodo to Elrond and back again, understandably unhappy about being caught in the middle and Frodo's conscience twinged again.
"Master Baggins?" There was an edge to the healer's voice that Frodo would rather had not been there. Not anger exactly. Disapproval perhaps? The hobbit continued to stare, stubbornly, straight ahead. The long grey velvet robe filling his vision. Elrond would not be ignored, however and he hunkered down before the Ringbearer so that their faces were level. Frodo knew it was irrational to be angry that everyone was so tall here that they had to keep doing that, but he became angrier, never the less. The features of the Lord of Imladris were set in the expression of one who will brook no nonsense and the hobbit attempted to explain himself more fully.
"Lord Elrond. Am I to have no control over my life? I am bequeathed a ring, which turns out to be the most evil creation in Middle Earth, without being consulted on the matter." As soon as the words left his lips, Frodo realised how dreadful that sounded. He did not blame Bilbo for that. Poor Bilbo had known nothing of the dangers involved. Frodo's anger would not let go, however, and he continued "I am forced to leave my home, putting three of my dearest friends in grave danger, and chased across half of Middle Earth by creatures intent on murder, or worse." A knot tightened in his stomach and Frodo could feel the colour rising in his face.
"I have been stabbed and poisoned, then manipulated into putting myself and my friend into even more danger by carting this vile thing across the rest of Middle Earth. Now I am being drugged to the point of being unable to walk across my own........" He suddenly ran out of breath and words. The room seemed to be expanding away from him and everything beyond his body was slowing, while his own heartbeat increased. A hand touched his shoulder and Elrond's voice floated into his mind.
"Breath out and then in, slowly." The hobbit struggled to draw breathe. "Breath out, Frodo." Frodo complied, as Elrond started to count. Sam's voice came from a great distance. "What's the matter with him?"
"I think he's waking up, sir." Sam's voice. He seemed concerned and Frodo's befuddled mind could not work out why. He opened his eyes and found himself staring at the ceiling. How had he got there? The last thing he remembered was sitting in the chair, staring into the fire. Memory flooded back as Elrond bent over him.
"Well, now, Master Baggins. Are you feeling a little better?" Frodo felt himself blushing. Once his body had been pulled back under his control, Elrond had given him double the original dose of medicine and left Sam to put his master to bed. He had fallen into a deep sleep within minutes.
"What time is it? How long have I been asleep?" It was Lord Elrond who answered. "It is four o'clock in the afternoon and you have slept for five hours." Frodo drew himself into a sitting position, leaning against the headboard. "I'm sorry. I don't know what happened. I feel so foolish" he apologised. He was expecting to be chastised and told that it was high time that he pulled himself together and stopped blaming everyone else for his problems. He did not expect to find the look of compassion and acceptance that filled the elf lord's eyes.
"You have had a very trying time, Frodo and your reaction earlier was one of the reasons I have been trying to keep you quiet today." He perched on the edge of the bed. "As you so correctly pointed out, you have been chased, stabbed and poisoned." His lips curved in one of his spare smiles, as he folded his arms and raised his brows. "I cannot say that I totally agree with your analysis of the rest of the events. I have dealt with the stabbing and the poison but only time will help you come to terms with the rest."
"But, what's wrong with Mr Frodo? Why couldn't he breathe?" Sam's voice piped up from Frodo's other side. Elrond half turned, folding one leg beneath him on to the bed and resting his hands on the knee.
"There is a part of all our minds that is trained to deal, instinctively, with a threat to our well being. Its job is to prepare us to run or fight the oncoming danger. When there is physical danger this is a good thing. Sam, how did you feel as you stood waiting for the Nazgul to attack at Weathertop?"
Sam's brow furrowed and he swallowed in a dry throat. "I felt scared."
Elrond smiled, "But how did your body feel?" Sam thought back and shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
"I couldn't stop shaking and I felt like my stomach had tied itself in a huge knot. I could feel my heart pounding like a big drum and everything seemed to slow down and go very still around me." Elrond nodded. "Did you tell your body to behave in this way?"
"No, sir. It did it all on its own."
The healer smiled. "It was your mind's way of getting your body ready to fight or run away. It told your heart to beat faster so that all your muscles would have a good supply of blood for action and the world seemed to slow because you were very alert to everything around you." He turned to face Frodo. "And when you were struggling earlier, how did your body feel?"
"Exactly as Sam described, and then I couldn't seem to catch my breath. But why did it happen then? There was nothing threatening me."
"Your body and mind have both been pushed to their limits over the past few weeks. The physical stresses are being slowly healed and you will be recovered enough to travel, when the time comes to leave here. Your mind, however, hardly had a chance to recover from the fear it felt on the journey here, before it was being subjected to the fear of travelling on, with more danger to come. It is reacting to this new danger in the most instinctive way it knows."
"But, last night I wasn't even thinking about it." Sam shot him a confused look and Frodo realised that Elrond had not told him of his master's episode of midnight terrors.
"You are so tense that your mind is not relaxed, even in sleep, and so your body keeps producing the chemicals that cause the fight or flight behaviour within you. Sometimes the levels increase to the point that you react as though there is a real, physical danger, when there is none." Frodo's became alarmed. His love of reading, instead of activity, had meant that he was not as fit as some of his friends but he had always prided himself on having a very strong and active mind. Now it seemed that even that was not his to control, anymore. Elrond noted his worried countenance. "At the moment you are powerless but, with my help, you can regain some control so that you can avoid the build up for most of the time and cope with the attacks if they do come."
Relief flooded Frodo's face. "I'm not going mad, then? And there is a cure?"
Elrond's soft laugh chased away the remaining doubts. "Master Baggins, you are one of the sanest people I have ever met. I would almost have been more worried if you had not shown any signs of distress, after all you have been through. And, yes, if you are willing to learn, I can teach you how to calm your mind and body, so that you can bring them back under your control."
"Is there anything I can do to help?" asked a timid Sam. It all sounded rather complicated to him but he did not like to think that there would be nothing that he could do to help his friend.
"Indeed there is, Sam. You will be the one to travel with Frodo when he leaves the safety of Imladris. I shall teach you as well, so that you can help him when I am not there."
"I've always looked after Mr Frodo, and I don't aim to stop now," Sam vowed, earnestly.
"Bless you, Sam. I wouldn't want you to stop. And, thank you," laughed Frodo.
Frodo was trying, very hard, to take deep slow breaths, without making it too obvious to the others in the room. The volume of the voices was getting higher and higher, as tempers grew hotter. As usual, it had been Legolas, the elf, and Gimli, the dwarf, who had set the whole thing off. They had been pouring over maps in the library. The Ringbearer had not even heard Legolas' first comment, for it had been muttered under his breath and he had been at the opposite end of the large map table. Gimli had been standing nearer, however, and it was painfully obvious that he had heard it very clearly. Frodo suspected that half of Rivendell clapped hands over their ears at the volume of the dwarf's response,
"Typical elf. Eyes so fixed on the heavens that you're no earthly good." Aragorn leapt between them as he saw Legolas' nostrils flare.
"Prince Legolas!" The elf made to push him aside but the ranger caught his upper arms, a desperate plea written clear on his face. "Remember your royal upbringing."
It would have worked too, if Gimli had not chosen to express his disgust at Legolas' teachers. Boromir had grabbed the dwarf from behind and hauled him out of the way, as Legolas almost broke free of Aragorn's grip. Even that would have been recoverable if Boromir had not decided to add his comments on the upbringing and habits of both elves and dwarves. Now, even Strider had to shout to make his pleas for calm heard over the other three and Sam and Frodo withdrew to a corner by the long windows.
By then, Frodo was fighting his own battle, as his stomach grew tighter and threatened to reject his breakfast. A knot of panic began to work its way up to his chest from his belly and the angry voices faded away, only to be replaced by the thud of his own heartbeat. Tears of fear, pain and frustration began to flow steadily down his face, as he lost the fight to control his gasping breaths. Sam was standing in front of him, trying to make himself understood, but the words entering Frodo's ears were a stream of gibberish that his confused mind could make no sense of. With each hitching breath the tingling in his fingers grew worse and he began to fear that he would faint or throw up. This made matters worse, for the last thing he wanted to do was show any weakness before these strangers.
Suddenly, three loud bangs drummed temporary counter beat to his heart and Frodo felt the wooden floor beneath his bare feet vibrate.
"ENOUGH." Well used to making himself heard across the din of a battle field, Elrond's voice carried over all, and the room was brought to a startled silence. He turned to Gandalf, who let his staff touch the floor one last time. "Mithrandir, would you kindly have a word with your companions, while I take these gentlehobbits for a walk." He had carefully placed himself between Frodo and the others, so that the diminutive hobbit was hidden by the elf's flowing robe, and now he turned; dropping a hand on Frodo's shoulder and guiding him before him, through the open glass doors and into the garden beyond. Sam took Frodo's elbow to help support his shaking master. Once out of sight of the windows, Elrond swept Frodo into his arms and strode quickly across the lawns to the sanctuary of his study; Sam running at his side to keep up.
Depositing Frodo in a large, padded chair by his desk, Elrond hunkered down before him to assess the damage. "Sam, would you pass me my tunic from the chair by the fire?"
Sam ran to fetch it and Elrond wrapped it closely around the trembling Frodo. "I tried to get him to breath proper, Master Elrond, but he doesn't seem to hear me." Making his decision, Elrond lifted Frodo into his arms and sat in the chair, the hobbit cradled on his lap.
"It's alright, Sam. You did well to try but these things take time." Elrond's voice was soft once more. Realising that matters had got beyond self help the healer laid hands upon his patient, resting one lightly on Frodo's back and the other on his brow. Then he closed his eyes and began to push calm and comfort into the trembling body. Sam sighed in relief as his masters breaths grew deeper and longer. Frodo's eyelids fluttered shut and the shaking subsided, as Elrond began to use his hand to rub soothing circles on the hobbit's back, continuing to pour peace and, finally, sleep into the tiny frame. Within minutes, Frodo was resting against the elf lord's chest, lost in healing dreams.
Sam had just left with the half empty tea tray. Frodo had not really done it much justice. At least the food trays were no longer accompanied by a dose of medicine. Elrond had, however, left strict instructions regarding the amount of food he was to eat and the Ringbearer tried to imagine Elrond's expression of disgust as he surveyed the amount of food left on the tray. Probably, much like the expression he had worn in the Council meeting, on the day after Frodo's awakening in Rivendell. The hobbit found himself going through the events of that meeting in an ever repeating loop.
They had all been arguing about the ring and Elrond had sat back, watching the proceedings with a look of utter disgust. Frodo suspected that the Lord of Imladris knew this would be their reaction. Each race did not trust the other to destroy the one ring; fearing that one or other would use it to gain the upper hand in their inter species squabbling. Elrond sat with his head resting on his hand; one elegant, be-ringed, finger laid along his lips. Was he affected by Isildur's Bain? Frodo could not tell. He could not believe that the elf was not, in some way, but he did not show it then, nor had he since. Even Gandalf had joined the conflict, although mainly to keep the protagonists in the verbal warring apart. He had hinted to Frodo, before the hobbit left the Shire, that even a wizard could be tempted by the ring. The Ringbearer wondered what it had whispered to him. Perhaps it offered to help him heal all of hurts of Middle Earth. Who could know the thoughts of a wizard? Frodo, certainly, did not think himself worthy to fathom them, but could the ring?
Memories of the argument at the Council brought back echoes of the one in the library. Gandalf had resisted all attempts to wheedle out of him what he had said to the rest of them, after Elrond had spirited Frodo away; but whatever it was, it had worked. There was a truce between elf and dwarf. It had been a little forced and uneasy at first, but the boundaries were set. Both were honourable and Frodo did not doubt that each would keep whatever promise it was that Gandalf had exacted from them. From the way that Gandalf and Elrond kept throwing the two men, elf and dwarf together with Frodo and Sam the hobbit suspected that some or all of them were being considered for selection to travel with him.
The relative peace of the truce had helped Frodo enormously and his attacks were becoming less frequent. Elrond worked with him every day. There were lessons in breath control and meditation, and he had taught Sam how to sooth his master with massages in various, sweet smelling, oils. The healer had also insisted on Frodo ending each day with a long hot bath, laced once again with oils and a small table in the corner of the room now held a variety of delicate glass bottles. Frodo listed some of the contents in his head; Lavender, Marjoram (even now its perfume drifted in the room from a little bowl suspended over a candle on the mantle piece), Sandalwood and Rose otto. There had been lessons in how to confront, overcome and work with his fear. He had learned that, sometimes, to simply accept that he was afraid of a situation was the first step to working through it. It was whilst Elrond was showing Sam how to massage his master's back that Frodo had finally brought himself to think about his reasons for volunteering to bear the ring to Mordor.
"Roll the towel, like this, Sam and then bend it into a curve." Elrond lifted Frodo's head, turning it from the side, until his forehead and cheeks rested on the pad of the towel, leaving his face clear of the floor. They had padded the floor beneath him with blankets and towels, on top of one of the thick floor rugs and, although his shirt had been removed, Frodo felt warm enough, as he lay near the fire. "Are you comfortable, Master Frodo?"
"Quite, thank you, Lord Elrond. Although I do feel a little silly, lying on the floor like this." Elrond chuckled, a sound Frodo would never have expected to hear a few weeks before. He had learned that much of the elf lord's sternness was only skin deep and as they worked together he had discovered a gentler, more sensitive side to the healer.
"To get the correct pressure for massage I have to kneel at your side. The mattress on your bed is too soft for this. We would end up in a most undignified tangle." Frodo could not imagine Elrond being undignified in any situation but he kept the thought to himself. Even minus his long over mantle and with the sleeves of his silk shirt rolled up to the elbows he exuded elegance, a fact of which he seemed totally unaware. "Would you bring the lavender oil, please, Samwise? I will show you how to do the most basic of back massages first. If you master these techniques I will instruct you further." Unable to see what was happening, Frodo listened to their conversation, as his body and mind succumbed to their ministrations.
"Pour a small amount of the oil into your palms and warm it by rubbing your palms together. If you feel his skin becoming too dry add a little more." Frodo flinched as he felt the elf's large hands come to rest either side of his spine at the small of his back. Elrond's voice breathed soft in his ear. "Relax, Frodo. I am not going to hurt you." Frodo didn't want to tell him that pain was not the problem. He had not felt such an intimate touch since he had been a lot younger and he was not at all sure how his body was going to react.
"We will start with a simple stroking motion, Sam. Place your hands either side of the back bone and slowly and firmly stroke up the back, across the shoulders, fan your hands over the tops of the arms, then bring them down the sides and return to the small of the back." His hands followed his words. It felt quite pleasant. "You try it, Sam." Smaller hands came to rest on Frodo's back and tentatively followed the same path. "Very good, but use a little more pressure. He's not made of glass. Try again."
Elrond went on, demonstrating and then coaching the hobbit through kneading and pressure massage, until Frodo felt as though every bone and sinew in his back and neck had melted away. Elrond finished by stroking flat hands down his patients back several times, and then he draped a towel over him and sat back. "Lie still for a little while, Frodo. Are you warm enough?"
There was another soft chuckle. "I will take that as a, "Yes"."
As he lay there, body and mind relaxed, Frodo found himself thinking about the journey ahead and his reasons for making it. Why had he volunteered?
There was the Shire, of course. How could he let his home be destroyed? Then there was the fact that the ring had come to him and he felt he had no right to pass such a horrible responsibility on to another.
It was sickening to admit, however, that it was probably the fear of being parted from the ring that had finally made him volunteer to take it to Mordor. Even to think of someone taking it from him made his heart labour. Fear made a part of him want to give it away to anyone who would lift this burden from him and that same emotion made him want to scream at the thought of losing something that had become so enmeshed in his soul. Frodo suspected that if it were wrested from him its roots would rip a part of his heart away with it.
With such a hold over him this early in his ownership, would he be able to give it up at the end? And yet, dear Bilbo had kept it all those years before its call began to affect him. Perhaps it was not ready to move on, and when it was it decided that it needed someone else to take it where it wanted to go; someone ready for adventure. Frodo wished that this adventure was happening to anyone but himself. But, on the other hand, he could not place such a burden on anyone else. He felt trapped. Had that been one of the triggers for his illness? Elrond said that there could have been many.
Frodo let his thoughts flow through him and acknowledged each, as he had been taught. Had he been trapped? He knew that Elrond and Gandalf were often closeted together in Elrond's study. Had they manipulated him, just a little? They could have relieved him of the ring as he hung between life and death, during those first days in Elrond's house. He need not have been involved in the Council at all. But the bickering between the other races had left only one logical choice for the Ringbearer and Frodo could not believe that such a thought had not occurred to two such learned people.
Hobbits had never been involved in the squabbles of the other races and had no use for power. Perhaps it was the fact that they did not seek power that made it more difficult for the ring to sway them? It could not imagine a being that did not want to be, all powerful. Frodo was, therefore, a good choice; not only because the ring would take longer to sway him but because the other races did not see him as a threat.
Frodo remembered Gandalf and Elrond exchanging a glance when they heard him speak up, "I will take the Ring, though I do not know the way." Gandalf's eyes held a challenge that almost said, "I told you so" and Elrond's held one of hope and a little surprise.
When the Lord of Imladris had looked at the hobbit, Frodo felt that he was looking deep into his heart and knew every thing held there, good and bad. Then Elrond had gone on to say that he thought the task had been appointed to Frodo and that this was the hour of the Shire-folk. Appointed by whom? Frodo wondered. Perhaps he would ask Elrond some day, or Gandalf.
He could hear Sam, moving about the room. Elrond's hand touched his shoulder. "Let me help you up. Do not try to move too quickly."
Opening his eyes, he allowed the elf to roll him on to his side and then sit up. Frodo found that he had lost track of time and that the room had grown dark; the winter night had drawn in silently around them. Sam was folding back the covers on his master's bed. He would be going with Frodo soon, on that terrible journey to Mordor. Still, Frodo had to acknowledge, he could not bear to go alone. Was this the work of the ring or of his own mind? He could hardly tell anymore.
Sam shook out his master's nightshirt. "Come on, now, Mr Frodo. It's late and you should be in your bed." Elrond helped him stand, with a hand beneath his elbow.
"Thank you, Sam. I am sleepy."
The healer looked down at him appraisingly and Frodo felt his keen glance probing deep inside his mind again, as he had at the Council. "I believe you will sleep more soundly now, Frodo. Goodnight."
"Goodnight, Master Elrond." The elf collected his mantle from a nearby chair and left, pulling the door closed quietly behind him.
Frodo began to take off the rest of his clothes, laying them across the bed. The bed was huge. Too big for him; but then most things, nowadays, felt too big for him. It was a fact that could not be changed, so it must be accepted. Council could be given but the decision to take that council was his and his alone. He would use all the strength within him to succeed in the task before him or he would die in the attempt but no-one could take that burden for him.
He was the Ringbearer.
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