Gift of the Valar - Chapter 10: Sacrifice
and they worked together to shoulder the burdens of helping the Gaffer...
The winter drew to it's final days with one last glorious snowstorm that blanketed the rolling hills and gentle slopes of the Shire with a coating of snow that sparkled like diamonds. The children of Hobbiton, sensing that winter would soon be gone, flocked to the slopes above the Mill and readied their sledges for an afternoon of hobbit fun.
Sam looked up from his daily chore of washing the day's dishes and looked out the window to the snow and the bright sunshine....he found himself longing for days past when he and Frodo would have been among the first to race to the Mill with their sledges. He sighed....his world was different now and he turned back to his dishes.
Suddenly he lifted his head from the dishes once more, startled by the noise of his Da clearing his throat "ahem..." the Gaffer awkwardly started to speak "Ye ain't the only one Samwise that knows yer way around tools ya know". Sam looked in amazement....the Gaffer had fixed up his battered sledge and affixed shiney new runners and was proudly displaying it in his gnarled old hands. "Now ye be off and have some boy fun fer a change...I'm not ready for ye to be the grown up of the house quite yet....and take yer sister....Marigold's been a bit mopey of late"
"Ye sure Da? I could finish up the dishes and...." Sam's thoughts were cut off "I'm sure son...now go and get that rascal young Baggins and have some hobbit fun me boy." Sam gave his Da a quick hug which earned him a gruff "off ye be lad" and shouted to his sister "Marigold.....let's go sledging with Mr. Frodo....come on you slowpoke." In a matter of minutes Sam was out the door, dragging his sledge with one hand and his reluctant sister with the other.
His knock at Bag End was quickly answered by a seemingly exasperated Bilbo. "Sam....what a pleasure to see you lad....Mari, you too lass....come in, come in." Bilbo shut the door behind the two and hustled them into the entryway. "Frodo and I are just having our morning lessons Sam...and truthfully " Bilbo's voice dropped to a whisper "I think your Mr. Frodo needs a break...why he's starting to argue with me about my choice of Elvish verb tenses."
Sam, who wasn't quite sure what a verb tense was, much less that there might be more than one of them, suggested to Bilbo that a little fresh air might clear Mr. Frodo's thinking.
A few moments later, with Frodo muttering something about "past perfect tense is the one to use" they set off to join the other children of Hobbiton. As they made their way to the slopes above the Mill, a lone fiqure in grey robes and a blue pointy hat was making his way towards Bag End.
Sam and Frodo chattered on with great excitement about the new runners on Sam's sledge, while Marigold whined about how cold it was and how sledging was "for babies". Frodo, six years her senior,laughed...which did nothing to improve her humor. It was not until they'd climbed the hill at last and Marigold spotted her new friend Chrysanthamum Goodfellow, that she lost the sour and pinched look she'd been wearing. Miss Goodfellow had recently moved to Hobbiton, when the winter sickness that took Belle Gamgee claimed the lives of both of her parents. The newly uprooted Hobbit lass was living with her Uncle Prody, and feeling a little lost in the midst of so much change. Marigold ran to Chrys, as she was called, and with a squeal and a hug they were both soon feeling better about their circumstances.
The sounds of giggles, shouts and laughter filled the air in an ever increasing volume as more and more child joined the fray. Frodo and Sam took turns sharing their sledges with the girls and soon all their faces were pink with the excitement and exertion of the day. Suddenly, Ted Sandyman was there with his sledge, challenging Sam to a race. They'd had so much fun so far and Sam's new runner's were so fast that he was about to say 'yes' when he looked to Mr. Frodo. His bright blue eyes were clouding over and he seemed to be 'looking through' Sam in a funny way.
"Another one o'yer headaches Mr. Frodo?' Sam asked concerned. Frodo, not wanting to spoil the first fun his friend had had in many a month, was reluctant to let on...he did his best to ignore the throbbing at this temples. "It'll be fine Sam...you go ahead" he said quietly. Sam turned to go with a bright smile lighting up his face....he just knew he'd beat Ted this time.
Frodo felt as if his head would explode and he could contain his groan no more....he sank to his his knees with a moan and found Sam at his side in a flash. Ted rolled his eyes and shook his head "hey Sam, yer crybaby friend don't want ya to have fun with naught but him....he's got himself another 'headache' " the Miller's son mocked . Sam gave Ted a look that said 'I'll deal with you later' and turned to his friend.
Sam dropped to his knees and looked Frodo in the eyes "let it go Frodo, if it's a hurtin' that bad...perhaps ye'd best listen to this one" he whispered. Frodo nodded in agony and rubbed his temples....as the pain began to subside he noticed the gradual lessoning of noise around around him....Sams face faded from before him and he stared, as if in a trance, at the events which were soon to unfold....
a laughing Ted Sandyman atop a hill...Sam hurtling towards the pond...a crash and a wet, limp body with sandy curls....the Gaffers face as he buried his son...
With a shudder Frodo broke his trance and stared into Sam's warm brown eyes. "You'll die Sam" he gasped with fear and horror reflected in his blue eyes "don't do it Sam....don't...I beg you."
Just then loud laughter struck Frodo like he'd been slapped and he looked up to see Ted at the top of the hill pushing the girls on his sledge. Frodo scrambled to his feet as Sam yelled "Noooo." Ted was pushing the sledge down the wrong side of the hill.....down the steep slope towards the pond.
Frodo ran and crested the top of the hill just as the sledge began to speed down it....his feet flew in his efforts to reach the sledge with the now screaming girls. Sam stood and watched with horror as the sledge went shooting onto the pond and the sickening sound of splintering ice filled the air.
"Nooo" Frodo screamed as he continued to race down the hill....in a desperate race against time...he dove and slid across the ice as he pushed with all his might and succeeded in forcing the sledge across the cracking ice.
Sam breathed a sigh of relief as he saw the sobbing girls fall from the sledge into a snowbank at the far side of the pond. Then, as if in slow motion he glimpsed a flash of Frodo's cloak as he slid into the yawning hole that had been waiting for the girls. Sam was suddenly aware that he was running towards the pond and found himself willing any power he could think of to lend speed to his hobbit feet. As he got to the edge of the pond he saw Frodo's dark curls emerge from the water as his pale hand reached to the sky in a gesture of longing. Before Sam could get close enough, Frodo's curls disappeared and his hand, reaching for the sky was swallowed by the cold forever of the frozen pond. Children, who had been stopped in their tracks, silenced by the events before them, suddenly started screaming in terror.
Bilbo had just settled down to tea with his good friend Gandalf the wizard. He was about to fill his guest's cup when he saw the wizard shudder and grab the table. "Gracious Gandalf, you look as though someone's just walked over your grave....whatever is the matter my friend?....Are you all right?" He asked cheerily. Gandalf said to no one "it has happened then...." and bowed his head. As Bilbo was about to inquire what the wizard was speaking of he noticed suddenly the the absence of the sounds of the children playing....which had filled the air moments ago. Then the sounds of screams filled the silence and Bilbo rose from the table "I do hope...." he started to say as Jolly Cotton burst through the door " Mr. Baggins.....come quick....Frodo's fell in the pond" Bilbo looked to the wizard with fear in his eyes, grabbed his cloak and ran for the door. Gandalf followed slowly and with a heavy heart.