Gift of the Valar - Capter 6: The Chosen Path
"Hurtin' pretty good aren't ya Mr. Frodo?" Sam asked.
"I've had a few bad moments Sam....but it's not bad....really" Frodo replied.
Sam was quiet for a moment then added "I know ye done it for me Mr. Frodo, I feel terrible thinking I've caused this trouble a' tween you and Mr. Bilbo and I am gonna do all I can to set it to rights....honest I will" Sam said with a sad look in his eyes.
"Sam, Bilbo's stubborn and I'm guessing he's feeling kinda lost right now...not sure what to do. Why I imagine raising a 'tweenager hobbit is a big responsibility and ...well...he's just not sure of how to go about it. I'll be back to Bag End before you know it" Frodo paused and added "or at least I hope I will."
Frodo grasped his cloak more tightly about him "But first we've got to make it to Buckland." He looked to the grey sky....worried. "Snow's coming Sam."
Just as he spoke white flakes began to fall. "First snow o' the year....always seems so perfect like" Sam said cheerfully. "But Mr. Frodo, you said the storm was two days off."
"Yes I did didn't I " Frodo said laughing "perhaps Sandyman kicked me in the head as well as my ribs for I can't remember ever having gotten one of my foretellings wrong in the past."
Sam's face darkened at the memory of what Ted Sandyman had done to his friend "I'd like to kick 'em and more besides" he said scowling.
Frodo remembered the pure hatred he'd seen in Sam's eyes the night of the fight and he recoiled a little at the thought of it. "Sam" he said gently "there's no peace to be had in revenge, for that road only encourages the continuation of hate and wrongdoing." He reached over to pat Sam's knee "Please Sam, you are far to good to travel that road."
Sam was silent a moment...all that could be heard was the 'creak, creak' of the cart and the steady 'clip, clop' of the pony's hooves, a sound that was becoming more muffled as the snow accumulated before them. Sam had an image of Frodo lying on the ground whicle Ted savagely kicked and punched at him with an evil grin on his face. He, for a moment felt a rage inside of him, then turning to look at the pale shivering hobbit next to him, he understood. He knew Frodo was right. "Wrong just begats more wrong...is that what yer meaning Mr. Frodo?" he asked.
Frodo breathed a sigh of relief. "Exactly Sam, I'd not have you take that path, it is not your path to take. He paused and continued thoughtfully "There are people in this world who seem to be evil by design or choice....we can't stop that, but we can rise above it and hope that they might someday choose our path." Frodo smiled gently and then clutching his cloak more tightly about him said "Speaking of paths, I can barely see ours...my! but this snow is thick."
Indeed, what had started as gently falling flakes had quickly changed to a maelstorm of wildly swirling snow; the temperature had dropped and the wind was beginning to sound more fierce. Frodo found he had to raise his voice to be heard above the roar of the wind.
"Sam, how far are we from Hobbition?"
"Dunno Mr. Frodo...I'd guess near to 12 miles or a little more perhaps." Sam said loudly.
Frodo found himself wondering if they should turn about and make their way back to Hobbiton....then an image of Bilbo's face was before him and he knew he could not disappoint his Uncle again. "Sam" he yelled "we must be near to 30 miles from Buckland on this road....do you know the old Greenway trail that leads over Nobs Hill?"
"Well...I guess I do...Me and Jolly hiked a little of it last summer" Sam shouted back.
"We could take that trail and cut our distance in half...that way we'd not have to travel all night in this" Frodo gestured to the storm around them, raising his voice to be hear above the noise of the wind.
Sam didn't relish the idea of being out in this storm all night, but neither did he much like the idea of leaving the safey of the main road. "You sure Mr. Frodo? We'll be traveling into the night anyway...no chance of moon to light our way neither." Sam said loudly.
"We'll have to chance it Sam" Frodo yelled.
Sam turned off the main road and made his way up the sloping trail over Nobs Hill as the shadows of the late afternoon were swallowed up by the darkness of the storm. The snow continued to fall and the sturdy pony began to struggle to keep his feet on the twisting and treacherous pathway.
Soon the snow became so thick that both Sam and Frodo were forced to get off as Sam grabbed the pony's bridle and pulled from the front and Frodo pushed from the back of the cart to make their way slowly up the hill. They continued on this way for nearly an hour. By the time they reached the top of the hill Frodo, Sam and the pony were exhausted. They paused for a moment to catch their breath, Frodo gasped from the pain of his ribs and tried to breath as shallow as possible while Sam patted the pony reassuringly. Frodo began to walk to the front of the cart as a gust of wind tore past them in a fury.
The sound of a sudden 'snap' filled the air as a branch broke from the tree overhead. Sam felt a sharp pain in his head as he found himself sprawling on the ground. The pony squealed in fright and reared up....Frodo lunged for the pony's bridle and just managed to pull him sideways enough to prevent Sam from being trampled. Frodo calmed the pony and tied his reins to a nearby tree before running to his fallen friend.
"Sam " he gasped "don't move lad, are you ok...speak to me" Frodo said frantically. "I'm ok sir, just a bit dazed is all" Sam said with his eyes still closed. He felt Frodo checking his arms and shoulders for broken bones and heard Frodo's sigh of relief. "Nothing broken Sam, but you've a nasty cut on your head...I'll wrap it"
Sam heard the tearing of cloth and was soon wearing a portion of Frodo's shirt wrapped about his head. Sam shivered. "Let me get you up, I've got to get you out of this storm" Frodo yelled to Sam as he helped him to his feet.
Sam's head throbbed and for a moment his stomach felt upside down as he swayed unsteadily on his feet. Frodo grabbed for him " easy Sam, I've got you" Frodo helped Sam up onto the cart "Perhaps you should lie down in the back " Frodo shouted his suggestion to be heard above the the wind.
"Nothing doing sir...this here roads gonna need two sets of eyes to be sure we don't lose our way...I'm staying up here with you and that's final." Sam shouted in return. Frodo could tell by the set of Sam's jaw that there'd be arguing with the stubborn hobbit. "You're probably right Sam" he shouted back "hold on to me tight...it's going to be rough from here on out I imagine."
The snow continued to fall and soon neither Sam nor Frodo could see more than 2 or 3 feet in front of them. The night darkened, the wind howled and the snow blew into their faces like daggers of ice. They didn't know how far they'd come, but after a while they felt the path begin to descend. The path down was even more dangerous than the way up had been and Frodo was beginning to get worried. First his foretelling of the snow had been off and then he realized, he'd had no warning at all about Sam's mishap.
Sam was beginning to get drowsy from the combined effects of the head injury and the relentless cold. Frodo knew that to fall asleep here could mean certain death. He kept Sam awake with a constant barrage of songs, poems and questions...always watching the path in front of him vigilently.
The wind seemed to be worsening, the trees shook and goaned under the assault of the storm. With no warning, for the second time that night, a branch broke from a tree and this time the pony did not wait to see where it would fall, he took off in a full blown panic. Frodo pulled back on the reins with all his might but the pony could not be slowed. "Whoa...whoa" he shouted and yelled but his cries were lost to the wind.
In front of them Frodo was beginning to make out in the dim distance a yawning gap in the trees. He turned to a now wide awake Sam and shouted "Jump Sam...Now!" Sam stared at Frodo dumbly and froze in his fright "Now Sam!" Frodo screamed once more. The last thing Sam saw before Frodo shoved him off the cart was his friends blue eyes opened wide in terror.
Sam hit the ground hard and rolled to a stop against a tree, in time to hear the panicked neigh of the pony as the cart went over the side of the hill. He struggled to his feet and stumbling to the edge shouted "Frodo...Frodo...where are ye sir?" He swept his eyes frantically about the space below him. "Frodo" he yelled...he could scarcely hear his own voice in the howls of the wind "Mr. Frodo" he yelled, but only the wind answered him. 'Don't panic Gamgee...can't be that far down' he thought to himself. But his heart knew better, they'd climbed a fair ways...the cart could have plunged 100's of feet for all he knew.
Sam carefully turned around and slid his legs over the side of the hill so that he was clinging to the face. He could see next to nothing in the growing dark and snow. He stopped every few feet to yell "Frodo" but got no answer.
In this way he came at last to the ruins of the cart, it was upside down and half buried in the snow. There was no sign of the pony, the harness and traces had snapped clean off. He thought he could make out the outline of hoof prints disappearing into the distance.
"Frodo" Sam yelled again, hoping he'd managed to jump or be thrown clear of the wreckage. Sam crawled about the cart 'till he came to the other side and the sight of his friend nearly stopped his heart.
Frodo was lying impossibly twisted under a portion of the wrecked cart. He was on his back, one arm trapped beneath him, the other across his chest. In the dim light, Sam could make out a slowly growing stain of red upon the fresh white snow. He grabbed the hand on Frodo's chest and felt for his pulse, barely able to hope that he'd feel anything but cold. As his fingers found his pulse, he readied himself for the emptiness he feared the most. But there it was, the weak but steady throb of Frodo's heart. Sam sat back in the snow in relief as a tear came to his eyes...."praise Arda" he said with feeling "He's alive."
'Now where's all this blood coming from?' he thought to himself. He dug at the snow under the cart, where he could see Frodo's legs were pinned...there it was. A section of the sideboard had splintered in two and from what Sam could see from his angle, it was passed through Frodo's leg above his knee. Sam decided to check for other injuries before trying to wake Frodo. He knew that his poking about would hurt and he wanted to spare his friend what pain he could.
He gently felt around Frodo's neck and groped the length of the arm on top...'this one's alright...now for the other one' he thought as he shifted Frodo's body gently to get to the arm trapped beneath him. Sam could feel a looseness in the shoulder that surely meant a dislocation. Sam couldn't get to his friend's ribs or back with him pinned beneath the cart. 'I wonder if I can lever it up and wedge it somehow?" he thought to himself.
He searched a few yards away from the cart and came back with a long branch and a few chunks of wood and rocks he could use as wedges. He placed the rocks and wood chunks near to the edge of the cart, within reach of his foot and then put the branch under the cart and started to lever it upwards slowly. He pushed down on the branch with all his might and managed to lift the cart only inches before he was alerted to his friends increasing pain by a load groan. He carefully took his weight off the lever, but the cart still came back to rest on Frodo suddenly. In the dim light of the veiled cresent moon Sam saw Frodo's eyes open as he rocked his head side to side in pain.
Sam got to his knees and shouted to be heard above the wind said "Frodo, Mr. Frodo, don't move sir, you're hurt...pretty bad I'm afraid sir." Sam tried hard to keep the fear and panic from his voice, but he knew as Frodo reached up to grasp his hand that he hadn't succeeded.
"It' alright Sam" Frodo whispered "Are you OK Sam? you're not much hurt are you? I'm sorry I had to push you from the cart."
"Don't you worry none about me sir...seems you kept me outta harms way...again." he muttered to himself. Sam sat in the snow by Frodo's head " What are we to do sir? we've got hours till sunrise, I can't get the cart off ye and the storms getting worse. Your leg is bad cut...I gotta get help, but I don't even know where we are?" Sam's voice was rising as his panic became more apparent.
"Shhh Sam" Frodo said soothingly "we'll figure this out...somehow" Frodo said gently, staring calmly at his friend.
"First thing Sam, you've got to stop the bleeding...I can feel myself getting weaker. Did my bag get thrown clear?"
"I'll search Mr. Frodo, give me half a minute...I'll be back" Sam replied.
"Ok" Frodo said biting his lip to fight back his discomfort "I'll remain right here, I promise." he joked. With that Sam left and crawled about the cart for a few minutes.
As Sam came back with Frodo's satchel he saw his friend begin to close his eyes "Oh no you don't Mr. Frodo...you're not taking a nap now." Sam insisted.
"Ok Sam, I'll try to stay awake" Frodo said licking his lips weakly. "Now go through my bag and find something you can tear to bandages." Sam reached in and pulled out one of Frodo's nightshirts...he was admiring the fine stitching and quality of the fabric...he hated to rip such a fine garment "Sam" Frodo said bemused as he read his friends' mind "I've got others...the bandages please?" Sam ripped several strips.
"Now what sir?" Sam asked. "Can you dig under the cart to get to my leg?" Frodo inquired.
Sam looked and dug a little..."Digging alone won't do it sir, I'm gonna have to lift it I'm afraid."
"Do what you must Sam, but we must stop the bleeding" Frodo whispered wearily "I'm so weak already Sam."
Sam knew what he was to do next would cause Frodo great pain "here Frodo" he said as he handed him a bit of the torn harness "Bite down when you have need sir." Frodo looked Sam in the eye and nodded. placing the leather in his mouth he gestured to Sam to start lifting.
Sam started pushing down on the lever and stopped when he heard Frodo groan. He turned to look down upon his friend, Frodo waved him on and took a handful of his cloak to clench. With all of his strength Sam pressed down and the cart began to slowly inch up. Sam could hear Frodo's groans but could no longer bear to look at him, he kept his eyes on the lever and continued to push. He managed to wedge a rock under the edge of the cart and took a moment to look down at Frodo.
His face was whiter than the snow, teeth clenched in agony upon the strap and beads of sweat along his brow. "Ok sir?" Sam asked weakly.
Frodo nodded, but Sam could see tears starting in the corner of his eyes. Sam pressed on the lever again, up the cart came until the pain was too much for the hobbit to bear...with a scream Frodo let go the leather strap and Sam felt himself go weak at the knees 'I've killed him' he thought to himself...but looking down he could see that Frodo was mercifully unconscious.
Sam wedged a stout log in with the rock that was holding the cart up and grabbing the bandages and Mr. Frodo's satchel went under the cart and examined his friend's injury. It would not be possible for him to pull Frodo from the cart alone, his heart sank, a portion of the cart held Frodo's leg fast where it was impaled. Sam felt quesy from the sight but quickly decided not to try and disengage his friend from the cart "I'll kill 'em for sure' he thought.
He placed the Satchel under Frodo's leg to support it and then quickly bound around the wounded area as best he could with part of the cart still protruding from the leg. He was relieved to see the blood flow lesson from his efforts and hoped that this would be good enough until he could find a way to get help.
Sam took to the lever again and lowered the cart enough to ensure it's stability...being careful to put rocks and logs under the edge of the cart wherever he could. Next, he looked around for things to cover Frodo with to keep him warm. Soon an assortment of shirts, trousers and an extra nightshirt were covering his friend. He laid himself next to Frodo and did his best to shape his own body around him in such a way as to protect him from the snow and cold. Then he waited for him to awaken.
It was sometime past midnight and the storm was starting to abate when Frodo began to stir. Sam, who'd dozed off waiting for his friend, was awakened instantly by the motion beside him. "Mr. Frodo" he whispered "are you with me sir?" he asked hopefully.
In a barely audible voice Frodo whispered "Thank you Sam, you were very brave...I know that was... difficult for you. "Sam clutched Frodo's hand tightly and burying his face in his friends good shoulder began to cry tears of fear and relief. Frodo squeezed his hand "I'm sorry my friend, I never want you to experience such pain again." Frodo reached over to stroke Sam's curls...."shh...you are such a brave lad Samwise, hold on my friend...we will get through this."
Sam stopped crying and looked to Frodo "we'll visit with the elves yet Sam..." Frodo coughed weakily, it hurt to breath "perhaps we'll visit the elves that don't live in trees...I know you think climbing is dangerous my friend....but I've found falling down hills to be more difficult" Frodo tried to laugh and coughed instead. "Mr. Frodo, how can ye be fooling at a time like this?"
"Oh Sam, how can I not?" Frodo smiled..."poor Sam, I feel that there may be more adventure in our future" Frodo whispered.
"More than this?" Sam was aghast. "Mr. Frodo I've been through more pain, heartache, fear, fun, smiles and adventure these past two months with you than I've had me whole life!"
"Can you stand more of the same my friend? will you be content to spend more such time with me?" Frodo asked quietly.
Sam huddled himself next to his friend as he noted how Frodo'd begun to shake with the cold. The snow had finally stopped falling and the suns first light was about to make it's way above the horizen.
""Mr. Frodo, ye'll always find me where ye needs and wants me" Sam assured him.
Frodo was becoming weaker. "Thank you Sam, I must rest now my friend."
"Yes sir" Sam replied "I'll wake ye in a few hours so together we can figure a way outta this mess." Sam brushed Frodo's locks from his face shyly..."Rest Mr. Frodo, someone'll come soon....I promise."
Frodo held to Sam's hand and squeezed it weakly as he tried to smile bravely at the boy. Gradually Frodo's grip became less and he passed into darkness. Sam lay looking at his friend, he was hopeful that with the coming of daylight someone would find them.
Sam was worried though, no one had expected them to take the Greenway trail....they might be looking in the wrong place for them. He debated going off to find help, but looking down at Frodo he knew his place was by his friends' side.
He squeezed his friend's limp hand " don't worry Mr. Frodo...I'll not leave ye." Sam was suddenly overcome with weariness, and with Frodo out of immediate danger he was reminded of his own wound as his head began to throb. He positioned himself next to Frodo and did his best to cover them both with what clothing he could. He felt himself start to drift off....his last thoughts were of the missing pony...' I wonder where he's got to and if he's much hurt poor thing' then closing his eyes knew no more.