Gift of the Valar - Chapter 8: Haunted
Sam quietly left the room. Only then did Frodo notice that Gandalf had been standing quietly in the corner near the doorway.
"Well done my lad, you are doing splendid" the wizard said with a smile.
Frodo took stock of himself and grimaced in pain; fever still raging, broken ribs making breathing difficult, infection coursing through his body from a leg wound that hurt just lying there....he could only imagine how he must appear. "You have need of higher standards" he whispered grimly.
The wizard's smile spread to his eyes and he fairly beamed at the hobbit in front of him. He came to Frodo's bedside and kneeling down he gently took Frodo's hand in his "It has been difficult, I know lad...but you must continue to have the faith you've shown thus far.". Gandalf took his other hand and ran it soothingly through Frodo's damp curls.
Frodo's deep blue eyes stared up into the ageless depths of the wizards eyes "Whatever do you mean Gandalf?" he whispered weakly.
"You will understand in time my friend" the wizard replied kindly. Frodo tried to speak again, to ask more questions...staring at the wizard with wonder when Gandalf placed his finger carefully against Frodo's trembling lips and said "shhhh". Frodo felt himself growing weak as Gandalf continued to kneel by his side.
The wizard took both of his hands and ever so softly placed them on Frodo's head and gradually Frodo felt a burning warmth grow in the center of his being....a growing comfort that fought with the pain...a softly growing feeling growing ever more intense until Frodo surrendered to it's call and slipped into the most blessed state of sleep he'd ever known.
Gandalf remained kneeling by the boy's side for a moment to ensure that Frodo's sleep would bring all the comfort he could muster. Standing at last, he looked down at the hobbit with a loving smile in his eye. "You are doing splendid...we are nearly there" he whispered gently.
A noise behind Gandalf alerted him to the presence of Old Prody and Bilbo. The healer had brought a tray of knives, herbs, brandy and a small saw. He was laying them out on the table.
"Where is Master Samwise? " Gandalf asked.
"The Gaffer took 'em home....we wanted to spare him" Bilbo said brusquely "he's been through quite enough don't you think?"
Gandalf watched old Prody's preparations with amusement. The healer was quite flustered, having never prepared for an amputation before. "Perhaps you'd best check your patient before you begin?" Gandalf suggested.
"Yes, of course." Prody said and he turned to take Frodo's pulse and check his fever.
Bilbo turned to Gandalf and said " Well, it's a blessing he's unconscious to begin this....he's had enough pain, the poor lad." Bilbo's voice broke and he started to cry. Gandalf stepped up to take his friend into a hug "Now, now....perhaps the boy will surprise you Bilbo" he said gently.
Bilbo sniffled loudly " I must be brave for him Gandalf....but my heart is breaking....I didn't know how much it would hurt to feel such love..." the old hobbit buried his face in the wizard's grey robes.
Bilbo paused as he heard Old Prody's mutterings at last become something recognizable. " Don't understand it " the elderly healer was saying to himself " an hour ago he was raging with fever and now he's sleeping as soft as a babe..." Bilbo walked, as if in a trance to his nephew's side. "What are you saying Prody?" Bilbo asked, barely daring to hope.
"Well, his fever is nearly gone, the swelling in his legs is going down....I'll be jingled....this here hobbit's gonna recover. why Bilbo he'll live to fall out of more tree's yet!"
Bilbo sat heavily on the edge of the bed and brought Frodo's hand to his cheek. "Praise the Valar" he mumbled...you're going to be just fine my lad....just fine...." then burst into tears.
Sam had to be nearly dragged from Bag End that night and spent the entire night restlessly tossing around waiting for morning. He was unable to bear the images that assailed him...his friend in so much pain....he listened carefully all the night through and imagined each gust of wind bringing him a scream or whimper from the hole up the lane.
When morning finally came Sam emerged from his room, eyes red...."can I go to him?" he asked the Gaffer.
"Have yer breakfast first my lad" the Gaffer said, hoping to stall him.
Sam looked to his Da "I'm not hungry" he said with agony in his voice....may I go....Please?"
"OK lad....grab yer cloak." he said as the the Gaffer and Sam made their way up to Bag End.
It was a cold and grey moring...the threat of snow was in the air. But Sam thought not of the weather, but of his
friend. 'I'll make 'em a special crutch' he thought 'maybe even find a way to fashion him a leg made of wood.'
He was busy with these thoughts as he reached at last the door of Bag End. They knocked and a very tired Prody answered the door as he was himself getting ready to leave. "Mr. Frodo'll be happy to see you Sam...go right on in"
the healer said as he walked past the pair at the door and walked up the lane.
Sam looked at his father, the Gaffer nodded so Sam let himself in and walked quietly up the hallway to Frodo's room. He stood there a moment willing himself to go in and yet fearing what he'd see.
'I'll be brave for him...no, with him' Sam thought to himself. As he entered the room, he heard laughter and stared in surprise at Frodo who was sitting up and laughing at a story Gandalf was telling.
"Mr. Frodo sir," Sam said shyly, studiously avoiding looking at his leg, "Are ye better sir?"
Frodo looked up, with a happy smile on his face, "why yes Sam...come in and listen to Gandalf tell of Bilbo and the dwarves..."
Sam came forward awkwardly...." How are ye sir?" he asked carefully "How's the leg" he said, barely able to bring himself to ask that question.
Frodo looked to him with sudden understanding...."Come here Sam" and he motioned for Sam to come towards him...Frodo took Sam's hand, Sam closed his eyes when he fiqured out what Mr. Frodo was about to do...."Do not be afraid Sam, I am going to be fine" Frodo said gently and placed Sam's hand upon his leg. The loyal hobbit closed his eyes. Sam was prepared to comfort his friend, ready to have his hand reach a space that was empty and was amazed to find his hand not resting upon empty space at all....but upon Frodo's leg.
Sam open his eyse wide and squeezed in amazement. Frodo winced in pain "Sam, my leg is still here, but it is still quite sore" he said with a short laugh.
"Oh, Mr. Frodo, I am sorry, I was just so...so happy...I had to squeeze to be sure " Sam said said sheepishely.
Frodo laughed...."if it makes you that happy Sam, I'd gladly endure the pain of another squeeze." Sam patted his friend's leg and smiled shyly, his heart full to bursting.
In the following weeks, as Frodo continued to heal and gain strength, Sam rarely left his side. At times Bilbo felt as if he had two boys in his care. Bilbo did not speak to Frodo again of the events of the harvest bonfire, but neither did he mention again sending Frodo to visit Brandy Hall.
Frodo was unable to walk far and relied upon a cane to help him in his travels about the hole. Since his nephew could do little else, Bilbo decided to resume their study sessions.
Their mornings were spent in quiet discussion of elvish lore and about midmorning Sam would show up for second breakfast and his lessons would begin. Bilbo often relied upon Frodo to see Sam through his tasks and would leave the boys alone while he worked on his Elvish translations or saw to the running of Bag End.
While Bilbo seemed content with the daily routine and time passed happily enough, Sam sometimes caught him staring at Frodo with a sad and pensive look upon his face. He knew that Frodo feared to discuss with Bilbo his foretellings and feelings of unease that surrounded his memories of the brief moment of contact he'd had with the Valar. He could see that Frodo wanted despritely to be honest with his favorite Uncle, but didn't know how to go about it.
As Sam sat pondering these thoughts one day during his lessons, he simply asked ""Frodo, why don't ye speak with Mr.
Bilbo about what happened?". Frodo who was busy showing Sam the mechanics of elvish sentence construction, was quite surprised and a little confused by Sam's question.
"Whatever do you mean Sam? Speak to Bilbo of what?" Frodo asked.
"What happened that day, 'atween you and the Valar." Sam said
Frodo put down his pen nib...."Oh Sam, you said you'd not speak of that....that it would remain our secret....you'll not go speaking of it to Uncle Bilbo will you?" Frodo asked anxiously.
"I'd never break no promise Mr. Frodo, you know that" Sam replied.
"Yes Sam, I do know that...I...I just get a little frightened at times I guess." Frodo ansered.
"You sir, frightened?..I find that hard to believe" Sam returned...."frightened of what?".
Frodo got up from the table and looked out the round window of the study to the snow covered gardens of Bag End and in his mind he could see the rolling slopes, lazy rivers and peaceful woods of the Shire. "Afraid of having no place to call home, afraid of having no one want me" he whispered so quietly that Sam had to strain to catch his last words. Sam was nearly speechless, then finally spoke...
"No one want you? Ye truly are cracking Mr. Frodo, why would no one want you...you are clever, talented, full 'o stories, spirited.....and handsome to boot...no one want you.....why that's just about the sillest thing I every did hear." Sam muttered almost to himself.
"Thank you Sam" Frodo said with a teary voice.
"Why Mr. Frodo, yer crying...whatever for?" Sam asked.
Frodo leaned his pale cheek against the cool comfort of the windowsill "I am evil Sam" he whispered.
Sam had to fight the urge to laugh at that notion...but then looked at the sad face of the young master of Bag End.
"I don't understand Mr. Frodo, why yer fair bursting with goodness you are....how can you be evil?" he questioned.
" I saw them drown Sam...I saw it happen...and I could have stopped it...but I was afraid. I felt like I was watching it happen through someone else's eyes. I should have screamed or called for help...or jumped through the window to get 'em....but I didn't." He had tears running down his cheeks and he collapsed against the wall by the window. Looking up at Sam, with tears streaming down his face he cried " I killed 'em Sam, it's my fault, mine, my own" he covered his face with his hands.
Sam sat stunned "Mr. Frodo, you were just a lad." Frodo did not even look up as he answered tonelessly " I was the same age you are now Sam...and you saved me."
"We saved each other Mr. Frodo, and I reckon we're not done yet neither." He carefully helped Frodo up from the floor, trying to protect his leg. Frodo grimaced from the discomfort but looking into Sam's eyes said " I am evil, I don't deserve friends like you and I'm afraid that if Bilbo knew my story he'd not want me either...so Sam, I'm sorry to say that you are twice the keeper of my sad tales and much depended upon to keep my secrets."
"I'll keep your secrets sir, but I'm thinking it's not just your tale sir." Sam said sadly.