“A Promise in the Dark”
If one listened closely, the only sound which could still be heard in Rivendell at this late hour was the soft sighing of the distant waterfall, continuing to sing her song all through the night. The room in which Frodo lay, in the fair House of Elrond, was nearly dark, save for one elven candle burning on the wall and the warm light of the fire burning in the big fireplace at the foot of the bed.
By Frodo’s bedside, sitting slumped forward in a chair, was Frodo’s faithful Sam. With his chair pulled close to Frodo’s bed, Sam had taken Frodo’s left hand between both his own, hoping to thaw it from it’s icy chill. Despite his valiant efforts to keep himself awake, in case his dear Master should wake and need him, exhaustion finally won out over his will. Sam’s cheek rested now against the stack of their hands laying at rest outside the coverlet. Frodo’s other friends and even Lord Elrond himself had urged Sam to take his rest in his own lovely room just down the hall from Frodo’s. “I shall be right here, Sam, just outside his door if he should need anything, and of course I will check on him frequently” Lord Elrond tried to assure him. But Sam had insisted. He would not leave his Master’s side – not while he was still so unwell. He had been so worried for him ever since the party found him on the other side of the Ford, face down upon the ground, his broken sword beneath him. So pale and cold was Frodo when they found him that, for a moment, they thought him to be dead already. Things had not improved for Frodo very much in the two days they had been in the House of Elrond and Sam’s worries grew even greater. Often he had seen Gandalf look at Frodo with an almost hopeless look on his face and that, more than anything else, added to his anxiety over the fate of his Master, his dearest friend. Though Sam slept now, it was not a peaceful or deep sleep for he dreamed the thoughts he fought off during his waking…thoughts of a world without Frodo in it. Samwise didn’t know how he would ever be able to go on should Frodo not recover.
Barely breaking the silence, a hoarse whisper roused Sam out of his rest. He sat up, awake now, and listened…had he dreamed it? Suddenly it came again. “Sam?”. He realized then that the hoarse whisper had come from Frodo and that he was calling his name. Again he called out softly, “Sam…Sam? Please…I’m thirsty…could I have some water please, Sam?” Finally getting over his shock at hearing Frodo actually requesting water (for he had not spoken anything coherent in two days), Sam answered his master, stroking his hand as he did. “Yes, yes, Master. Of course. Just a moment.” Jumping up from the chair he had been occupying, Sam made the five or six strides across the room to the water pitcher in just seconds. He poured water into the small cup by the pitcher and brought it back to Frodo’s side. Sitting on the bed beside Frodo, Sam used his left hand to very gently raise his master’s head, the other he used to bring the cup to Frodo’s eager parted mouth. Greedy with his thirst, Frodo drew the water down his throat in great gulps…too quickly for Sam’s satisfaction. “Easy now, Master…not too fast. It’s been a bit since you had any water, save for the few spoonfuls, Lord Elrond’s gotten down you – and even longer since there’s been any food on your stomach. Don’t want to over do it and make yourself sick. There now – that’s the way, nice and easy for your Sam.” Sam crooned to him. “Thank you, Sam.” whispered Frodo as he finished drinking. With his Master’s thirst now satisfied, Sam sat the cup on the small table by the bed and gently lowered Frodo’s head back down to the pillow again. As he did, he noticed a drop of sweat trace down Frodo’s brow to be caught in the already damp, dark curls at his temple. Sam went for the cloth Lord Elrond had been using and bringing it back to Frodo’s side, used it to blot away the sweat on his brow. Then Sam, with as much tenderness in his gardener’s hands as he ever had when handling a young seedling plant, brushed back the damp curls which had strayed far down onto Frodo’s forehead and into his eyes. As he did this, the back of his hand touched the skin of Frodo’s face and he found that his master still had a raging fever. Strange it was, that his hand, arm and shoulder could be so deathly cold and the rest of his body still burn with fever. As Sam sat looking at his master, wondering what, if anything, could be done to make him well again, Frodo opened his eyes and gazed back at him. Sam tried to smile reassuringly at him, though his fear was still great. “Sam…my Sam”, Frodo breathed softly, rewarding Sam with a weak, drowsy smile in return.
Sam noted that the eyes that looked at him were very clear and fever bright. Frodo, at this moment, looked more himself than he had since being brought to Rivendell, though he was still pale, fragile and weak in the extreme. His eyes now, thought Sam, seemed to be truely looking at him instead of through him as they previously had when Frodo had ‘wakened’. In his delirium, Frodo spoke often aloud, recounting and likely reliving, all of the horrible things that had befallen him since leaving the shire. Surely anyone hearing Frodo would have thought his words of remembrance to be a fabrication…but they were terribly real. He spoke, and cried out, but could not be reached by anyone. Sam remembered his feeling of helplessness and his broken heart as his Master had cried out pitifully for him, and then was unable to hear as he assured him over and over that he was indeed right there with him, ready to do anything to comfort him. Often in his reliving of the events leading up to his current situation, Frodo thrashed about frantically in his bed, so that he had to be repositioned and recovered often. Indeed, at times, the only thing that could calm him was the mysterious medicine that Lord Elrond administered to him. But now, as Frodo looked at Sam, Sam saw a look of understanding and coherence in his eyes.
Feebly, Frodo tried to reach out to Sam who sat beside him on the bed, but the effort was just too much. The left arm he tried to reach him with had been useless to him for many days now. Sam’s heart broke at this and he assisted Frodo by taking the hand in his own and raising it with the arm, up to his face. Frodo’s hand felt very cold as Sam pressed it to his own warm cheek. Tears gathered in his eyes, as Sam looked at the figure of his broken friend, very small against the great pillows of the House of Elrond. Before Sam’s tears could find their way down his face and onto Frodo’s hand, Frodo spoke again. “Sam…you must promise me something.” The voice was so soft and hoarse, it was barely audible and Sam leaned in to hear. “Of course, Master, dear. Tell me…what is it? You know your Sam will do it for you if he can…or die trying if he can’t!” Sam answered him with a gentle smile. “If I should fail, Sam…in this quest…if I should fail, promise me, Sam that you will go forward – that you will take it on.” came Frodo’s reply. At hearing this, Sam sighed deeply with sadness. His master was not himself after all – his words had belied the coherence in his eyes. He must still be delirious. “Poor dear, Master.” thought Sam to himself. “He’s so confused…he doesn’t even have the comfort of knowing that his quest is over…that he’s safe now…that he’s made it to Rivendell and the ring will be safe here. For all his pains and wounds, he doesn’t even have that small comfort for reward.” As the silence between them lengthened without Sam’s promise being made, Frodo spoke again. “Please, Sam…my faithful, Sam…you MUST promise me this”, Frodo said, raising his head a little bit from the pillow. Sam looked at him with pity and saw that his eyes were very big and urgent now…with his fever making them so bright, they looked now like a blue flame, making Sam wonder again if Frodo did indeed know and understand what he was saying. But it just could not be – he must be still delirious. “Shhh, master…you are sick and confused just now…you don’t know what you are saying. You are safe, Master, safe. And so is the ring.” Sam tried to make him understand. “NO, Sam. Promise me.” came Frodo’s reply with more vehemence than Sam would have thought possible. “Of course I will promise you, Master. Anything. Rest now, Master dear. We will talk more of this later, when you are feeling more well.” replied Sam to his Master, playing along he thought. Anything to comfort his master. Frodo lay back exhaustedly once again against the pillow and his eyes slide shut. “Thank you, Sam. I shall rest now. Thank you…always so good to me, Sam. My dear, Sam.” said Frodo. Frodo did not feel the tear that finally spilled down Sam’s cheek and onto his hand because he was already asleep again. Sam held his hand to his face for just another moment, then kissing its palm, laid it gently back to rest again on the coverlet beside Frodo. “Whatever it takes, Master…whatever it takes…I’ll do it. I’ll do it.” Sam whispered to his Master who did not hear. Then, making sure that his Master was well covered and as comfortable as possible, Sam took his place once again in his chair beside the bed, continuing his vigil. As morning dawned and Rivendell began to wake up, Sam told no one of his promise in the dark. That time was just between him and his Master.