Thicker than Blood
By Ariel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
If you wish to read earlier chapters of this fic, please click on any of the following links.
Chapter 1 – https://www.theonering.com/docs/12538.html
Chapter 2 – https://www.theonering.com/docs/12619.html
Chapter 3 – https://www.theonering.com/docs/12725.html
Chapter 4 – https://www.theonering.com/docs/12849.html
Chapter 5 – https://www.theonering.com/docs/12977.html
Chapter 6 – https://www.theonering.com/docs/13091.html
Chapter 7 – https://www.theonering.com/docs/13391.html
Chapter 8 – https://www.theonering.com/docs/13491.html
Chapter 9 – https://www.theonering.com/docs/13582.html
Chapter 10 – Desperation – where even Sam can see the end is near, but he will not give up,… not while his master still draws breath.
It was a grim day despite the fact that Frodo seemed to be improving. His strength slowly returned as the effects of the elven cordial spread through his body and the fever abated, but he did not wake to full consciousness. Merry, Pippin and Bilbo stayed with him the whole morning, managing to get Frodo to eat a little and noting with joy that he seemed a bit more responsive afterwards, but the dark thought did cross Merry’s mind that his cousin’s seeming alertness might be like the bright flaming of a candle wick just before it sputtered out. It was a bleak image that he did not share with his companions.
That day Sam tended his master with extra care. Not that he had ever been anything but tender, but in the quiet of afternoon after the others had left, he sat at the bedside and watched Frodo sleep. He found he was beginning to catalog every detail, every feature or fault of his still form. It was as if he were trying to memorize him, to preserve him in the only way he could. He’s a finer hobbit than I could ever dream of bein’, Sam thought sadly. I don’t know why or how, but it’s like he’s got this light inside him. Even when he’s this sick you can see it. He’s special somehow, and it ain’t right he’s got to be the one to suffer so. At that moment he would have given anything he had to be able to see his master safe back in the Shire smoking his pipe in his sunny garden, at peace and contented without a care for black riders or rings, but he feared that neither of their lives would ever be as simple again.
They hadn’t bothered to brush Frodo’s hair since the first night and days of lying in the bed had made a rat’s nest of it. Sam pulled out his comb and turned Frodo onto his right side, being careful to avoid jarring the left shoulder. Then, as gently as he would handle the most tender pea sprouts, he began to work through Frodo’s tangled curls. Frodo had always been a hobbit of tidy personal habits and Sam thought that he would feel better if he could be more presentable. Considering the circumstances, Sam doubted his master would mind him getting so familiar. When at last he could run his comb through the dull hair without a hitch, he rolled his master back and settled him as comfortably as he was able.
“There you go, sir, you look a sight better now.” Sam smiled. It was somehow a comfort to speak to his master as if he were awake. Perhaps Mr. Bilbo had found it to be as well. He pulled his chair closer till he could lean over and speak directly into Frodo’s ear. “Can you can hear me, Master? It’s your Sam talking.” He looked about the silent, twilit room as if embarrassed that someone might overhear him, but, satisfied they were alone, he continued. “I hope you can, sir, cause there’s somethin’ you ought to hear, beggin’ your pardon. They’ve been talking about you, sir, these elves, Mr. Elrond in particular,…and, well, they don’t think you’ve got much of a chance, sir. Now, I don’t want you listening to all that nonsense, Mr. Frodo. You’re a lot stronger than they give you credit for and I know you’ll fight and well,…” Sam sighed. “You just got to, sir. It’s not for me, `course, I’d miss you, but it’s Mr. Bilbo. If he’d lose you, sir,…I…I think it would just kill him. He’s a lot older than when you saw him last – `course, I was just a lad when he left, but he’s aged 50 years if a day! It’d just be the death of him, I know. So you see, Mr. Frodo, you just got to live.” Sam’s voice was starting to break. “You gotta fight and prove these folks wrong. I know you can do it, sir, if you try.” He half fancied he saw Frodo’s brow twitch, as if he really did understand and was trying to frown. Sam gasped and leaned closer, hardly daring to hope and touching Frodo’s shoulder gently. “Do you understand me sir?!” he asked. “Oh, please wake up an’ answer me.”
Frodo opened his mouth and he uttered a tiny gasp. His frown deepened. Then, with appalling swiftness, his face became a contorted mask of agony. He screamed and the sudden, full-throated exclamation horrified Sam. It had the ring of that haunted cry that they had heard echoing across the Marish in the Shire but it was also Frodo’s voice, in anguish and utterly terrified. Sam jumped back, frightened that something he had done had harmed his master. Frodo opened his eyes and stared, unseeing, at the dark beamed ceiling then screamed again, though this time with only his own tormented voice. Sam wrung his hands and darted from the bedside to the door and back again. Frodo was writhing, more wildly than he had since coming to Rivendell and his face was turning red. His back arched with a violent heave and Sam was scared he would toss himself bodily from the bed.
“HELP!” shouted Sam at the top of his lungs. He ran again to the door and flung it open. He raced a short way down the darkening corridor screaming in desperation, “PLEASE, HELP!” and without waiting for any answer, he ran back to Frodo’s room.
His master was shaking, trembling uncontrollably and his eyes were rolled back till only the whites showed behind half open lids. His mouth was open wide and gulped, as if some weight were pressing on his chest and he were desperate to get air.
“Oh, master, PLEASE!” Sam was sobbing. He reached for Frodo’s arms to hold him down, but he was suddenly grabbed from behind and lifted out of the way. Elrond was there and he instantly placed a hand directly over Frodo’s heart. Sam looked behind and saw that several others had come into the room; tall and comely elf lords, their beautiful faces grim and dark as they witnessed Frodo’s frantic struggles. Elrond called commandingly to them in his elf tongue, and they arrayed themselves around Frodo’s bed, each one laying hold of his body, hand, head, leg and torso. The hands they placed on Frodo’s body began to glimmer with a fair golden light but it did not seem to give his master much comfort. Frodo screamed again and the sound was so forlorn and forsaken that Sam choked and wanted to fling the elves away from his master.
“What’s wrong with him?” he cried, still feeling that it was something he had done that was causing this torment.
Elrond didn’t look at him, his whole concentration was on Frodo, but he answered, his silky voice almost awed with wonder. “He’s fighting,” he said grimly. “I don’t know where he finds the strength, but he’s fighting us too!” Elrond placed a hand on the side of Frodo’s face, stilling it’s frantic rocking from side to side. “Frodo!” he called and then spoke words that Sam did not understand, strongly, insistently, willing Frodo to hear them and obey. Frodo closed his eyes. Tears squeezed from beneath the lids and his face screwed up in a grimace of agony. “HEAR ME!” Elrond’s command in the common tongue resounded through the room and finally Frodo stilled. “Let us in… we are not your enemy!” The grim elves who held Frodo’s body began a low chanting litany that seemed to still the very air in the room. Sam could even sense the brooding power that swept over his master, enveloping him, holding him. Frodo still shook, but whether he at last understood they were trying to help him or was simply unable to move, Sam could not tell.
“We cannot wait. It must begin now.” Elrond motioned to his companions and one of them sprang to the door, almost colliding with the group of hobbits that were just coming through it. Merry and Pippin looked frightened and lost, but they moved aside and stepped into the room followed by a terrified and very ancient looking Bilbo. The elf slipped past and disappeared down the hall. The hobbits clustered behind Sam and looked upon the brutal scene before them in abject fear. Elrond smiled grimly, noticing them from the corner of his eye. “Do not interfere,” was all he said and continued holding a firm hand down on Frodo’s chest.
TBC in Surgery – The final operation begins.