Chapter 2: A Day of Good Tales and an Eve of Misfortune (Continued)
"I feared this would happen, though I hoped against hope that it would not." Said Elrond grimly, bending over the limp body of Frodo lying on the bed.
"So did I, Lord Elrond, but it seems that he is not over this yet." Replied Gandalf solemnly; Bilbo fretted around the bed, wringing his hands and mumbling obvious concerns. Elrond gently undid the top buttons of Frodo's tunic, uncovering the fragile and almost pale to the point of blue shoulders. On his left shone a sickly white scar. "It is this cursed thing that causes him so much pain!" the wizard hissed through an in taken breath. "I do not understand but one thing," he said more quietly this time, his brows knitted with perplexity. Elrond looked at him with a gaze of quiet question. "When I was traveling west with the Hobbits after the War, we passed near Weathertop on this day, but Frodo showed no such discomfort; at the worst, he was slightly paler that usual and a little feverish, but nothing more. Why is his condition now so much worse?" Elrond sighed and sat in thought. His sea-grey eyes were closed as he tried to concentrate on the answer.
"It might be the final attack of the wound; perhaps it is strongest now, because he will never again be bothered by its accursedness. I think, Gandalf, this is the worst that this fit will become. Let him rest." Said Elrond and beckoned for Glorfindel to help with the healing. The younger Elf took the cloth and after dipping it into the pitcher of boiling water, pressed it against the scar to put some warmth of that place of cold.
Frodo unfortunately did not feel the warmth of the cloth, for he was far gone into a world of black dreams. Against his will, horrible visions began to appear before his mind's eye, more horrible even, then ever before when the wound troubled him: he was on Weathertop again, and Samwise, Peregrin, Meriadoc and Aragorn were with him once more. They were sitting about a cheerless fire in the dark of night, and outside, the Ringwraiths slowly advanced. For the first time, Frodo saw himself during that horrific evening. He saw himself shift uncomfortably on the stone floor before the fire, and though he was screaming now not make the mistake of putting on the Ring, he saw his self slowly draw out the treacherous golden band (the sight of the Ring hit him like a physical blow and he wanted to be sick, but he could not turn away) and slip it round his finger. He was gone and from that point, things did not go as they had during that night.
The Black Shadows suddenly grew terribly clear. Frodo saw his terrified self lying on the stone floor, looking up at the Nazgul uncloaked and unmasked: they were robed in their ghostly grey mantles. And eerie glow was about them, while all else was in shadow. Their faces were old and menacing, but their eyes were black, save for a tiny blue light that shone as if out of a great depth, but it was a deathly glow. On their long, cold fingers were many rings, but they looked cold and unwholesome. In their hands were long, cruel knives and upon their grey heads were crowns of iron. The tallest of these, and the most ghastly looking, strode forward and extended his long, bony arm. Frodo's left hand, as if by some will other than his own, began to lift towards the Wraith, who was willing him to give up the Ring. Frodo with the last effort resisted and called out the name of Elbereth Gilthoniel and the Witch King recoiled in horror; but then, he, in his wrath, took up his knife and pierced, not Frodo's shoulder, but his heart. There was a shrill cry that left Frodo's lips as he felt a touch of penetrating cold; it was as if many arrows of poisoned ice were shot through his heart at once. Amid his pain, he could vaguely see the shape of Aragorn leaping upon the Ringwraiths with flaming brands, who were dismayed to find that there was resistance. In his pain, Frodo could hear one cold voice whisper:
"Let them fight! We will be back in short while!" yet even though Frodo grew terribly frightened at those words, with his last remaining strength he tried taking off the Ring, but it would not yield. He was doomed to wear it.
The pain and cold that he felt was so strong now that he could not move or even utter a sound. He lay on the cold, flat stone, while everything else was slowly getting dimmer and covered in shadow; there was a dead silence in the still air; there was not a sound to be heard for many miles around Weathertop. Frodo could feel his own heart and breathing labouring in the heavy darkness. Suddenly he understood: he was alone! The others were not there and were either gone or killed, but no one would see him anyway, if they came back.
Fear seized him like a long shadowy arm and he wept, and so did the Frodo that watched him. He heard his own small and now hoarse voice crying into the on-growing darkness. With much toil and agony, he raised himself on his right elbow and looked at his left side. It was covered with blood that was still gushing from the wound, but where the wound was, he could see a thin line of cold light. He looked up and saw what he has long dreaded: the Wraiths were coming back, but not five---all nine. The Witch King stopped at Frodo's feet and laughed at him in a voice that sounded more like a hiss in an unholy wind. Frodo was stricken dumb; he could not move or cry for help, because of the cold that had consumed him. He shook with fear. The wound, it seemed, had overtaken him. He heard the thin voice calling as if from a great depth and far, far away:
"Come with us! Come with us! To Mordor you will go!"
Finally, that horrible vision of the dream faded and all was black before Frodo's eyes, but almost as soon as the darkness came, it dispersed and Frodo saw an image of a tall horse. At first it seemed white in colour, with a proud head and beautifully arched neck and a tall, fair Elven rider sat upon it, but then the horse turned black and it's head was bowed low, whether from the heavy iron mask that it wore or from some other misfortune, Frodo did not know. All that could be distinguished on its face were its merciless red eyes. Upon the horse sat a rider cloaked in black, but it could not be a Wraith, for it was much too short. His hands were of a pale grey colour and were long and bony. On the forefinger of its left hand, he wore a ring of cold that shone brighter than any other light present. Frodo could not see his face since a hood covered it.
To his horror, the rider suddenly lifted its head; he was looking at himself---as a wraith! His face had lost its entire colour and was now cold and pale. His eyes were black, save for a blue flame that flickered faintly in the midst, as if from a remote distance. His hair might have been silver if it weren't for the terrifying images, for it looked a cold grey and the rest was hooded up. His wraith self looked menacingly straight at Frodo and cried in a cold voice: what have you done? Why did you put it on? In a thin and wailing voice.
Frodo wanted to shout that he didn't want to, that it wasn't supposed to happen; he wanted say that it was all a dream, but his voice was lost/
The tenth Ringwraith looked very wretched and miserable and haunted. The Ring shone on his finger, cruelly tight. Then, another figure was revealed, seated of its knees beside the horse's feet and Frodo recognized it to be Sam. The Wraith, seeming almost to do this against its will, took out a long knife that has been hidden under the cloak and reluctantly raised it above the hobbit. The other Nazgul appeared without warning and formed half a ring around Frodo's diminished form and cried out, as if cheering and laughing at him. With a great cry that rented the clouds like the gale and echoed in the unseen valleys, he smote the figure.
In his sleep, the tormented Hobbit cried out in horror and agony, but did not wake. His knuckles were white, as his fists clutched at the sheets upon which he lay. His expression was of one in terrible pain, and sweat beaded his forehead; his chest heaved as he found it hard to breath.
Glorfindel, alarmed, took his hand off the once wounded shoulder, and looked with great distress at Elrond. The Elf-Lord bade the other Elf stand up, and he himself took up his spot. He laid a hand on Frodo's brow and whispered soft incantations in the High Elven tongue. As his eyes traveled to the Hobbit's shoulder, he noticed a fine chain that hung from his neck.
He brought his hand to it and drew out the Evenstar's pendant.
"Ah! My eyes must be deceiving me!" he cried softly. "Does he know what this is?" he turned the jewel so that Gandalf saw it. The Lady of the Golden Wood came hurriedly into the dimly lit cabin, with a large crowd of concerned Elves framing the doorway, and looked kindly upon the chain that Frodo wore.
"I do not think so, but I doubt it not that he knows what virtue it posses in the simplest of words." She answered, after looking at Gandalf. "This piece of Valinor, passed on from mother to daughter and so coming to Arwen has weaved its fair song through Frodo. I was surprised your daughter could part with such a thing, but she has told me that she and Elessar will sing a new song together.
`She has given him a gift no mortal could ever have imagined!" she continued. "And if he draws so much comfort from one small gem from the glittering Shores of Aman, he will indeed know only happiness and peace in the Light of the Blessed Realm, once we leave the Bent Seas. He will never know illness again." A smile crossed her queenly features. The Elf-lady took one of Frodo's small cold hands and closed it about the gem, whispering soft words onto him. And after a short while, the colour came back to him: his face came back to its normal whiteness and his cheeks grew rosy once more. He breathed more easily and the fever departed him, leaving the Hobbit it peace once more.
Elrond buttoned up Frodo's tunic and then, wrapping the blankets about Frodo, took him into his arms, where he stirred, and opened his blue eyes.
"What happened?" he asked weakly. "Where am I?" he looked up to see Elrond's gentle face.
"You are among friends now," smiled the Elf. "Today is the sixth of October, and your yearly fever has struck you again, Frodo Baggins. And we thank the Lady Undomiel for the gift she had bestowed upon you, so that you may heal quicker." He paused, looking at Galadriel. "We hoped that today would pass without incident, since we saw no alarming signs of trouble. But it seems that such hopes were shattered at dinner; the terrible encounter with the wraiths at the ford had decided to torment you for what we believe is the last time."
Frodo astounded at what he was hearing. He hadn't even realized what the date was! And now he felt horrible for ruining the evening meal of the Elves.
"Oh what a fool I have been!" he cried miserably. "To lash out so against you and cause such a disturbance. What are they going to think of me now? I could have at least held it all at bay a while longer." And he turned away from the four that stood around him, to face the silver-green raiment of the Elf in shame.
"Do not blame yourself for such a thing ever again, Frodo Baggins!" growled Gandalf grimly. "It could not have been avoided and you know it. And hiding it would have cause more harm than not!"
"Mithrandir is right," said Elrond kindly. "The Elves would think highly of you no matter what might befall you. Indeed you should have seen their faces, when we carried you out: they cared not for the food that was before them, but for the well-being of their very dear friend. There is always time for another feast." Frodo turned back to look at them, smiling softly with downcast eyes. And sinking into the comfort of Elrond's arms, he drifted to an untroubled sleep.
The Elf gently placed Frodo back on the bed and drew the covers up to his chin. Then he stood up and looked at the Wizard, Lady and Lords before him.
"Middle-earth does not easily release him." He said quietly. "The sooner we reach the Straight Road the better, but he must be prepared for what he might encounter, once the crossing is made." The four Elves and Gandalf nodded in agreement, for neither truly knew what might happen, when the time comes for them to take the Road Home.
*END OF CHAPTER 2*