#5 The Vigil

"Its nearly morning, Mr. Frodo. "

The hand was so cold. It was a stone held desperately between his own. Only the barely imperceptible disturbance of the bed covers, up and down, gave witness that the hobbit was still alive.

"We've made it, Mr. Frodo. All the bother we went through to get to the place, and you've seen none of it."

Sam didn't know why he spoke, continued to talk as if Frodo was only resting and would, within the blink of an eye, smile broadly and answer back. Maybe it was just to fill the heavy silence in the room, maybe it was a way for Sam to hang on to the reality that had seemingly deserted him. His Gaffer would say he was crazy and he was probably right, but Sam knew, if he had been the one lying there, lost in the shadows, he would want to hear a familiar voice calling him back.

"You should see these elves, Mr. Frodo. All of them so beautiful, beyond reason. And their singing! It lightens the heart and causes it to weep at the same time."

The small figure, dwarfed by the enormous bed, stirred and vague mumblings were whispered from it's troubled sleep. Straining to hear, Sam leaned closer, hoping to catch a phrase, a word, anything that would help him understand what his master battled within his dreams. For if he knew, maybe, in his small and insignificant way, he could help. And that's all he wanted to do: help Frodo, bring him back. But, it had been three days, and Frodo remained unconscious. And hurting.

"What's that you say, Mr. Frodo? You're wanting another pillow?"

Picking up one that had fallen to the side, Sam gently raised the hobbit's head. He could feel the radiating heat of the fever that consumed the body. Suddenly he was possessed with a helplessness that left him weak and nauseous. At home in the Shire, surrounded by his garden, he need only spy an ailing plant and he knew intuitively how to resotre it to full bloom. With the soil under his knees and fingernails, he could work miracles. He was a gardener, that was where he belonged. But, out here with those Black Rinders hunting and strange men and elves about, he knew he was useless, unimportant.

When his chin nudged his chest, Sam realized that he had almost succumbed to the weariness in his soul. But, he couldn't give in. Not with Frodo still lost. He stood by the bed and looked out on the pre-dawn Rivendell. He began to hear in his mind all those stories that had left him wide eyed with wonder as a child. Yet now, here he was breathing the same precious air as those mysterious creatures and that long ago excitment would not come to him. The sound of the elves echoed through the leaves outsdie, but it brought him no comfort.

"Your garden's in bad need of tending, I should guess, by now, Mr. Frodo. Those roses don't like to be neglected no how."

Moving his chair even closer to the bed, Sam sat, watching Frodo. His mouth was dry and his eyes were filled with grit. Closing them, he tired to rub them clean of sleep. His eyes were shut for only a second, but in that second the horrors of the mad dash to Rivendell came rushing back.

He had almost missed Frodo, lying there on the far shore, as he stumbled across the river, momentarily forgetting his supreme dislike and terror of swift flowing water. Strider was the one who spied the body fist, and, before Sam could reach the other side, the ranger had picked up his fallen master. Weightless he seemed in be the the big man's arms, lifeless like a toy left behind by a growing child now too old to see its magic. Taking just a brief moment to check for life, Strider was gone, running up the path that led away from the water, running towards Rivendell, running towards hope.

Not for the first time since leaving the Shire, Sam cursed his short, stubby legs as he lost the battle to keep in step with Strider. By the time he reached the city, Strider and Frodo were nowhere to be seen. Panic rose to choke his throat as he ran through unfamiliar halls, calling his master's name. He had vague memories of tall, beautiful elves staring with bemusement as he careened from room to room. Not knowing exactly how, (naught by his own doing, that was for sure), he found where Frodo had been taken. Strong arms checked his forward rush at the door. "That is Master Elrond, High Elf of Rivendell," Strider whispered harshly in his ear.

But Frodo was surrounded by strangers, shut out completely from Sam's sight. He didn't want to trust this man, and he began to kick and struggle violently. "Get your hands off of me! Let me see Mr. Frodo!"

"Calm yourself, Samwise Gamgee," a harsh, yet soothing voice broke through Sam's panic. "Frodo will not be harmed."

Twisting around, Sam saw a welcome sight standing by the bed. "Gandalf!," he shouted. And, despite the annoyed glares from the others in the room, Sam began to loudly relate the tale of their journey from the Shire.

"Peace, Samwise," Gandalf spoke quickly, holding up his hand, "Stop your prattling. Strider has informed me of all that has befallen you."

Sam pulled himself free of the ranger's arms and took a few courageous steps into the room. The raspy breaths of his master added fuel to his already seething terror. "You've just got to help him, Master Elf," he pleaded in a small voice, "Help Mr. Frodo."

"And help him he shall," the grey wizard said. "The best thing for you, Master Gamgee, is to join your friends and partake of Rivendell's hospitality."

Strider called from the doorway, "Come, Sam, you can not help Frodo. Only Elven medicine can save him now."

Sam looked at the man's dirt marred face, then to the kindly old one. He wanted to trust them, to listen to their advice, to lie down and sleep for a year. But, when his gaze took in the bed where his Frodo lie helpless, fighting the shadow, his decision was made. "I may not be able to help him with that elf magic, but I will aid my msater by staying by his side." And with that he sat down on the floor. Nothing would move him. Not even the stern words and looks from Mr. High Elf himself. He had been by Frodo's side ever since. Three days his vigil continued unabated.

Merry and Pippin came with concern and a bribe of a pipe filled with Old Toby. They both volunteered to relieve Sam. Strider came quite often, never speaking, only standing by the door, silently on guard. Gandalf sat with Frodo also, worry etching his much wrinkled face. Master Elrond came, and after each visit, his face grew harder and more concerned. All begged Sam to rest, to sleep, but he would not give up his place. He would be here when Mr. Frodo awoke.

"I'm here, Mr. Frodo. Don't you worry. Sam's gonna see you though the darkness. 'Til the very end of it."

A great gasp grew within Frodo, wrenching his body upwards. Grabbing his hand, Sam was torn between leaving for help and staying at his post. Murmuring, "Mr. Frodo," over and over, Sam stood at the bedside, helpless, watching that tiny figure twist in agony. Just at that moment when Sam had decided to run for help, a mournful, sickening wail escaped Frodo's lips and then he lie silent among the tangled sheets. Petrified that the worst had happened, Sam stopped breathing. Before him a wonder enfolded. Gradually at first, then like the great rush of spring buds blooming, warmth began to flow through Frodo's wracked body. The pink of his cheeks returned and his breathing returned to the easy pace of one who is in the midst of a pleasant dream. The barest hint of a mile traced his lips.

Frodo had returned to this world.

Sinking to the floor, Sam laid his head down on the edge of the bed and wept.

Gandalf found the two hobbits asleep; Frodo resting peacefully in the bed and Sam beside on the floor, his hand resting on his master's. The old wizard whispered through the hobbit's slumber as Strider bore him away finally to his own bed, "You have done well, Master Samwise Gamgee," and he knew that he had chosen Frodo's companion wisely.

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