From Tolkien’s text, The Grey Havens:
All things now went well, with hope always of becoming still better; and Sam was as busy and as full of delight as even a hobbit could wish. Nothing for him mattered that whole year, except for some vague anxiety about his master. Frodo dropped quietly out of all the doings of the Shire, and Sam was pained to notice how little honour he had in his own country. Few people knew or wanted to know about his deeds and adventures; their admiration and respect were given mostly to Mr. Meriadoc and Mr. Peregrin and (if Sam had known it) to himself. Also in the autumn there appeared a shadow of old troubles.
One evening Sam came in the study and found his master looking very strange. He was very pale and his eyes seemed to see things far away.
‘What’s the matter, Mr. Frodo?’ said Sam.
‘I am wounded,’ he answered, ‘wounded; it will never really heal.’
But then he got up, and the turn seemed to pass, and he was quite himself the next day. It was not until afterwards that Sam recalled that the date was October the sixth. Two years before on that day it was dark in the dell under Weathertop.
The next two sets of screencaps are intended to compliment a beautiful, evocative short story about Frodo writing the Red Book after the Quest, pearlette’s Star of the Sea. (A different set of "desk scene" screencaps will accompany a poem of jan-u-wine’s in Part III of this series.)
If I were forced to choose a favourite from all the Frodo fic I've read, Star of the Sea would be it. It’s exceptionally-well written and it touches me on many levels. It breaks my heart, but lifts my spirits.
I first knew Pearl from afar when I was a newbie to LotR online fandom, admiring her well-written posts on TORc (Tolkien Online). Her writing was intelligent and full of Tolkien-knowledge, insight, and frothy wit. I found out only later she wrote fic, too. She has posted a number of fics under her pennames, mostly gen like this one, but some het and slash as well. Some of it is light, some serious.
This story is a good example of what she does best in her serious fic: grounding a fic solidly in canon, then opening it up: wider, higher, deeper. Especially higher and deeper. In her best things I feel she lets me touch what is profound, other-worldly, and numinous in Tolkien’s sub-creation.
Although this story is posted at a few fanfic archives, for my own reading pleasure (and yours if it appeals to you) I decided to post it here in full, so that it could appear with the screencaps I felt illuminated it. Pearl has given her permission for me to do so.
Star of the Sea is a five-chapter story, but, since the chapters are fairly short, I have divided the fic into two larger parts. Chs. 1-3 appear below, immediately following the screencaps I have chosen for this section.
As usual, all the caps have been tweaked for contrast, lighting and focus.
Click HERE for Whiteling’s illustration for Star of the Sea, created May 2007.
~ Frodo at his desk in Bag End, from RotK, full-screen theatrical version:
Star of the Sea ~ by pearlette (aka Diamond of Long Cleeve; Nienna)
Summary: March 1421. As Frodo writes the Red Book and wrestles with painful memories, a vision comes to him in the depths of the night.
Rating: PG-13 for violence and bad language by orcs in Chapter 3.
Posted at: Frodo's Harem Archives as 'Nienna', and at the Henneth Annun and West of the Moon archives under my other online name, 'Diamond of Long Cleeve'.
Disclaimer: I don't own Tolkien's characters and am making no profit from posting this story on the internet.
Ch. 1 ~ The March Malady
Frodo was ill again in March, but with a great effort he concealed it, for Sam had other things to think about.
~ The Return of the King, J.R.R. Tolkien
The first hints of spring. Bright sunlight gilded the naked trees. Fat catkins furred the hedges. Clusters of primroses and violets grew in banks upon The Hill. Already a faint green mist was appearing in the woodlands, and the slender branches of the willows around Bywater Pool were blushing red, hinting that the rich juice within was ready to burst forth into bud. Starlings and sparrows were chattering on the grass roof of Bag End.
The sunlight streamed through the window of Frodo’s study, which faced south-west. Sunshine lay in broad gold bands across the creamy vellum pages. Frodo’s pen flew across them. In contrast to his uncle Bilbo’s somewhat erratic and spidery handwriting, his hand had always been firm, flowing and distinctive. Despite the minor disability to his right hand, he had schooled himself to recapture the quality of his former writing style; this he had achieved, as long as he remembered to take regular breaks and exercise the muscles in his fingers and hands, as Merry had recommended.
His face was taut with concentration. He was making good progress on the Book. Since the previous Mid-summer, he had sorted out all his notes – and Bilbo’s and Merry’s – and as the golden summer of 1420 melted into a mild autumn, he began writing in earnest his account of the War of the Ring. He had kept solidly at it. There had been a spell in early winter when Sam, alarmed at his master’s brief spell of ill health the previous October, had insisted he take a break from writing. Sam had in fact been so concerned about Frodo’s absorption in the Book that he had sent a note by pony post to Crickhollow. Masters Meriadoc and Peregrin had therefore arrived in time for Yule, armed with messages and presents from Brandy Hall and Great Smials and an abundance of good advice for Frodo. ‘Now, cousin Frodo,’ said Pippin. ‘Put down that pen. Put away those pages. We are here to look after you during Yule, and to entertain you into the bargain, and properly entertained you shall be!’
It had been a merry Yule, and Frodo had been glad to forget about his book for a while, and to simply enjoy the company of his closest friends, as they laughed and drank and celebrated Yule together, and ate an abundance of food – including a brace of plump partridges brought by Rosie’s brother Nibs – and they had all toasted Sam and Rose and the baby to be born in the spring.
In January Frodo had taken up the Red Book once more. His world had virtually shrunk to his study at Bag End, but he didn’t mind. Physically he might have been in his study, but mentally he was far away, traversing the mountains and plains of Middle-earth. He wrote with a fierce, all-consuming energy. The words fell easily from his pen, clear and rounded. His memories were stark and clear: there was so much to tell; so much, so much!
His method was simple: he would write as much of the narrative as he could during the morning and afternoon, with appropriate breaks, and then in the evening he would add details like a poem or a song, or embellish a particular chapter with some extra details from Bilbo’s or Merry’s copious notes. Sometimes he would school himself not to return to the study before supper, and would spend a quiet evening with Sam and Rosie in the parlour by the fire, chatting to Sam while Rosie sewed bonnets and blankets and little smocks for the baby. Evening visits to The Green Dragon or The Ivy Bush had become rare: Sam could not be spared from the house for long now. The baby was due soon.
Frodo stopped writing and passed a hand through his hair. He caught sight of himself in the looking-glass across the room, and smiled wryly. His hair was still dark but there was the faintest suggestion of silver around his temples. He could see the weariness in his eyes. He sighed, and looked down at the new chapter he had just begun.
Cirith Ungol, The Spider’s Pass.
Frodo’s heart tightened.
It was a curious thing but as chance would have it, the chronology of the events of the War coincided with the present time. He had begun to write the book in September 1420 and therefore found himself recording the events of two years previously, in September 1418, when he had started out on his quest. When he resumed writing, in January 1421, it didn't take long to record the quiet and watchful months spent by the Fellowship in Rivendell before they set out on their epic quest on 25 December 1418. He was able then to launch straight into their journey to the Misty Mountains and over Caradhras, which took place in January 1419.
Now that it was March 1421, he found himself about to tell for posterity the darkest chapter of his story, two years ago, in March 1419. Yes, the darkest chapters, and the darkest hour of Sam’s life.
‘Not for me though,’ Frodo murmured. ‘For me the darkest part was yet to come.’
He laid down his fountain pen, suddenly feeling faint and queasy. Instinctively he sought for the white gem on its chain round his neck, Arwen's bright jewel, which he never took off. The realisation of which date it was - 13th March - hit him like a dull, queasy blow. Damn it, Frodo thought, but he should have remembered, he should have been prepared. Two sicknesses in one year: March and October 1420. He should have realised that the sickness would come again. He had felt fine this morning. Now every time he looked at those words on the page, his vision swam. He found that he was breathing hard, and perspiring. The sweat dried on his forehead and chilled him.
All morning Rosie had been busy in the kitchen, sorting out things in the larder and preparing the mid-day meal for herself and Mr Frodo. Sam was out all day on his forestry work: the last of his assignments in Bindbale Wood. He would be working closer to home now that the baby was almost due, and he had promised Mr Frodo that the Bag End garden would be his first priority during the summer.
‘It’s quite all right, Sam,’ Mr Frodo said gently, ‘the rest of the Shire needs your attention too. Bag End can wait!’
‘No, Mr Frodo,’ said Sam firmly, ‘the baby and Rosie and you and the garden at Bag End will be my first concerns as from this moment on. The Shire is healed now. It’s back home for me. This is where I belong now.’
‘Indeed it is,’ said Frodo.
Rosie had grown used to the sound of Mr Frodo’s fountain pen, busily scratching in the study. He was so utterly absorbed in his work. It was such a long and mysterious book he was writing – he had promised her that it was a book for herself and Sam, that she could read it for herself one day. Rosie could read: Sam had taught her years ago. And with Mr Frodo’s help, she could read even better. She had even picked up a few of the Elvish words which her Sam seemed to know, and Mr Frodo knew best of all. Sam had told her a little about the Quest, and the War of the Ring – Mr Merry had told her more, him and Mr Pippin were full of wonderful tales about the lands of the South, where the King and Queen lived, and the golden-haired people of the plains rode their horses, and trees walked and talked in the woods, and the King’s white-circled city stood in the shadow of the Mountains. Wonderful tales out of the South. The local children – and many of their parents – liked to come and visit Bag End whenever Mr Merry and Mr Pippin were there, listening open-mouthed to these stories of tall Elves and Rangers and a huge battle before the gates of the King’s city. Folks had become more curious about the world since the four Travellers had come back. Shire-folk had a King now: maybe he would come and visit them one day. Mr Merry and Mr Pippin – and Sam – had been involved in great battles, seemingly, much bigger than the one in their own Shire, and that had been bad enough. Sam had hinted to Rosie that Mr Frodo had been in a war of his own, something to do with a magic ring belonging to Old Mr Bilbo. Sam had hesitated to say more at this point … and Rosie detected darker strands in the tapestry of the tales of the four Travellers. It was enough, she realised, to know that Mr Frodo had been wounded in some mysterious way during the War, and needed time to recover. So Sam said little, but his tenderness towards Mr Frodo said much. And Mr Frodo said even less, but smiled and joked with Sam and Rosie about the baby. And wrote his book.
Which reminded Rosie. She would take him a glass of milk, just before she started lunch.
‘Mr Frodo?’ she called, as she opened the door of the study.
Frodo glanced up. He had resumed writing.
‘I’ve brought you some milk, Mr. Frodo ---' Rosie stopped abruptly. ‘Are you all right, sir?’
‘Yes, Rose. I’m fine,’ said Frodo, with an effort.
He didn’t look fine. His face was white, and his brilliant blue eyes were staring at Rosie as if she weren't there: staring through her.
‘You’re looking awful pale,’ said Rosie anxiously.
‘I’m tired, that’s all,’ said Frodo, drawing a deep breath. ‘I think I’m just worn out with writing. I’ll go for a lie-down. But I’m not sick.’
‘You don’t look well at all, sir. Please let me fetch someone.’
Frodo managed to smile. ‘You’re not going anywhere, Rose Gamgee. You’re not traipsing down the Hill in your condition. Call the healer if I’m not well by this evening, but for now I shall go and lie down and rest all afternoon. I’m not sick, only very tired.’
‘The folks at Bagshot Row can call the healers,’ said Rosie. ‘Marigold or her husband can go. It’s no trouble. Please, sir.’
‘Rosie,’ said Frodo gently. ‘No. All I need is rest. And a glass of milk,’ he added with a faint smile. ‘Thank you.’ He stood, and swayed slightly.
‘Mr Frodo,’ said Rosie. She came and took his arm.
‘Just help me to my room, Rose,’ said Frodo. ‘And then you must rest yourself after lunch. You need to conserve your energy for the child.’ He tried to smile at her, but it was obviously an effort: he looked strained.
‘Do you have a headache?’ Rosie insisted. ‘I can make you a feverfew sandwich.’
‘No, dear Rosie.’ Frodo’s voice hinted at a laugh which sounded like a sob – and indeed he felt like laughing or crying. No gentlehobbit in the Four Farthings was looked after with more care than himself.
But there were some things Sam and Rosie could not help him with. This strange March malady was one of them.
He drew a deep breath, and looked down at Rosie’s sweet, perplexed face, and patted her arm. ‘I’ll rest for a couple of hours,’ he said. ‘Check on me then. If I’m any worse, you may call Marigold, but I promise you I won’t be. And then I will have some late lunch. For now I just need to recover a bit.’
Gently he closed the door of his bedroom behind him.
Rosie looked after him, troubled. He’d had some funny turns like this when he and Sam had been staying at her dad’s, after the War and before she and Sam had married. It was something to do with the mysterious wound he had sustained … Sam said so little about it, and Mr Frodo nothing at all. It seemed to Rosie that Mr Frodo’s missing finger was the least of the problem. It was as if this wound, whatever it was, was on the inside of him, which couldn’t be reached.
She returned to the kitchen, shaking her head. She put Mr Frodo’s meal in the oven to keep it warm, and sat down with her own lunch: a generous helping of bacon and mushrooms.
Writing, writing, always writing. His face taut and absorbed and strangely, nervously animated. This was when he looked most alive these days, when he was writing, as if a fire lit him from within. His pen flew with a strange urgency, as if he was trying to get things down on paper as fast as he could before the memories faded. As she regularly brought him drink and cakes for refreshment, Rosie would glance at his thoughtful face framed by silky dark curls, and wonder for the thousandth time why so handsome a gentlehobbit had never married. And why, at times, an inner light seemed to illuminate his sensitive, finely drawn features. And why the deep quietness in him seemed to grow even deeper.
Ch. 2 ~ Fading Light
A thrush was singing in the Bag End garden. The cascade of liquid notes poured forth in the evening light. In the West, the sky was flushed a soft and beautiful rose. Vivid pink streaks in the sky had dissolved into a soft flush of sunset, promising another beautiful spring day on the morrow.
Sam and Rosie were sitting on the garden bench near Mr Frodo’s bedroom window, talking as softly as they could so as not to disturb him. His bedroom had once been Old Mr Bilbo’s: it was situated on the western side of Bag End, affording a fine view of the fields and woods stretching towards the White Downs just visible on the horizon.
Sam was smoking a pipe and his left arm enfolded Rosie, who was wrapped in a shawl and snuggled close against him. The light was fast fading but it was such a glorious evening they had wanted to make the most of it while it lasted.
‘Not long now,’ said Rosie softly.
‘Aye,’ said Sam. And he moved his arm so that his strong, square hand came to rest tenderly and protectively on his wife’s swollen belly.
‘Our spring baby, lass. Our little Frodo. And what’s more, he'll be born around the same time as the Dark Lord fell, so Mr Frodo reminded me the other day.’
Sam’s voice was rich and warm with pride, and something like reverence.
‘That'll be a day to give you and the master brighter thoughts then,’ said Rosie, ‘I don’t want neither of you looking back at dark times and becoming sad. The day our baby comes should be a joyful one, Samwise.’
‘You couldn’t bless me with a greater gift, Rose,’ said Sam, kissing her. ‘It were a joyful day when we celebrated the fall of the Dark Tower. And I reckon it might have been some of the Lady’s elvish magic which made you conceive our little one so he would be born around this time.’
‘Elvish magic, Samwise Gamgee!’ said Rose, laughing, punching his arm playfully. ‘’Tis no elvish magic which makes hobbits beget their babies, you daft hobbit! Just the normal kind of magic!’
‘The kind which makes lads and lasses do the Springle-ring in the spring,’ chuckled Sam, citing an old Shire-joke.
He nuzzled her neck and they both giggled, and then kissed, gently and lovingly.
‘Just listen to that song-thrush,’ said Rosie, after a contented interlude. 'It’s singing its heart out.’
‘It’s in the blackthorn,’ said Sam. ‘That’s where it is.’
‘Mr Frodo said it was singing last night too.’
Rosie murmured, close against Sam’s chest,‘You still worried about the master, Sam?’
Sam’s brow furrowed. ‘I dunno, Rose. He seemed all right when I came in. But sometimes I wonder if he keeps things back. He can be like that, you know.’
‘He was a lot better by tonight,’ said Rose. ‘But you didn’t see him earlier, Sam. He was that pale.’ So pale, she thought, that his eyes seemed even more blue and bright.
‘He’s always been pale,’ Sam muttered. ‘And slender-like. Stronger than he looks though. Like steel, he is. I dunno … like an elf, he can be.’
‘He sayshe’s all right,’ said Rosie anxiously.
‘Aye, but I know my Mr Frodo. Things go deep with him, and you have to ferret him out. And he don’t like burdening me, or so he thinks – I know that for a fact. Burdening me …' ... Sam tutted ... 'as if he ever could.’
‘He’s not ill,’ said Rosie, ‘he didn’t have a fever or a temperature and he wasn’t talking funny, like that time at my dad’s.’
It was true. She had left Frodo to sleep all afternoon, and had peeped in on him at several times. He had been sleeping as sweetly and soundly as a child. His face had lost the dreadful pallor she had seen earlier, and his cheeks were their usual flushed ivory. He was pale anyway for a hobbit-gentleman, and that was the Took strain in him, of course. But after carefully watching his serene face, Rosie felt satisfied that he was not ill.
When Sam came in, about five o’clock, tired but happy after a good day’s work at Bindbale Wood, he was bearing a bouquet of mallorn blooms for Rosie, freshly picked. By then Frodo had awoken, and appeared in the kitchen doorway while Rosie was apprising Sam of what had happened earlier. A warm and delicious smell of herbs and garlic and steak pervaded the kitchen: she was cooking the evening dinner.
‘Mr Frodo,’ Sam exclaimed, his voice full of concern, ‘Rosie said you weren’t feeling yourself.’
Frodo sat down in one of the kitchen chairs and pushed his dark curls out of his eyes. He gazed at Sam soberly. He would not prevaricate.
‘It’s the thirteenth of March today, Sam,’ he said. ‘I was – remembering what happened that day, two years ago. That was all.’
Sam became very still.
‘The spider’s lair,’ said Frodo, and his voice was tired. ‘The orcs.’
Sam frowned. His capable hand pressed down on Frodo’s.
‘Bad memories, master,’ he said quietly, and his brown eyes were warm and intent upon Frodo.
Frodo smiled shakily. ‘Yes. Bad memories.’
Sam pressed Frodo’s hand again, and kissed his forehead.
‘The evening meal is nearly ready,’ said Rosie softly, watching them.
Frodo managed a tired smile. ‘Well, that’s good,’ he said, ‘because I missed out on lunch!’
After dinner, Frodo helped Sam wash up, so that Rosie could put her feet up for a bit, and then said he would retire early to bed and read for a bit, most likely. He had smiled at them and bidden them good evening. When Sam and Rosie had gone out to take the night air, there was the sound of rustling pages from the master’s bedroom and a soft golden light under the door.
Sam sighed. ‘No, he don’t seem ill, Rose, not in an outward way, not like last time. And yet … it’s all taking him so much longer than I had reckoned.’
‘To get over everything that happened on your journey?’ asked Rosie hesitantly.
‘Aye,’ said Sam, his arm tightening around her. ‘And what happened here at Bag End and all, what with that Saruman and his mischief, and Mr Lotho being murdered. Mr Frodo seems to relive it all – first in October, when the Witch-king stabbed him, and now in March, when I lost him in that dreadful place where that spider-monster was. This is the third time.’
He shook his head. ‘It’s not right he should be troubled so. Not after everything he’s done.’
‘Perhaps writing his book don’t help then,’ suggested Rosie, ‘not if it’s keeping all these things alive for him.’
‘Ah, but I reckon in a way it does him good,’ said Sam, ‘and Mr Merry reckons the same. Mr Frodo likes to write. And anyhow Mr Merry reckons all this is something our folk need to know.’
‘I’d like to know,’ said Rosie simply. ‘Mr Frodo says that one day I will. He says the book is for me and you.’
‘I thought he was mostly writing it for Old Mr Bilbo,’ Sam said, with some wonder.
‘He says he’s writing it for everyone,’ said Rosie.
‘Well, there are some that surely need to read it,’ Sam muttered.
He sighed and shook his head.
‘Don’t take this amiss, Rose,’ he said. ‘Mr Merry and Mr Pip, they’re special. Folks take notice of ‘em because they are. And they suffered like other folks did during the War. Mr Merry nearly died. They made him a knight, the Rohan folk, the people of the horses, because he saved the Lady Éowyn, and he nearly got killed. And Mr Pip, he saved the Lord Faramir’s life, and he was there at the Black Gate when the Captains marched on the Black Land.’ Sam paused. ‘But the master’s also special. And nobody seems to notice that. And I don’t know why.’
‘It’s because he ain’t like other folk,’ said Rosie. ‘And he never has been. People often judge what they don’t understand, Samwise.’
‘You’d think the War would have changed that,’ said Sam. ‘People give all their respect to Mr Merry and Mr Pip and deservedly so –'
‘And to you, love,’ said Rosie softly.
‘—But they ignore Mr Frodo. It troubles me, Rose. I dunno what I can do to put it right.’
‘Just be here for him, Sam. I think that’s all the master wants. He don’t care for fame and fortune. And he don’t care what people say.’
People, in fact, said plenty. As the quietness settled into Mr Frodo more and more, he had ceased to venture much into the village, and he saw few Hobbiton people. It had been noticed. People were all a-gog whenever the two Captains (as they called them), Mr Meriadoc and Mr Peregrin, came riding to Bag End, but it was murmured how queer and silent Mr Frodo had become since he had given up being Deputy Mayor.
Turned out just like old Bilbo, he had. Too many books and fancy ideas in his head. Never talked of his adventures. You’d think he’d want to, after all Mr Merry and Mr Pippin and Sam had said, about saving the world and all. (Hobbiton folk were still rather hazy about the exact details of the War of the Ring despite Meriadoc’s patient explanations).
But no, he just kept himself locked away. Queer.
They shook their heads knowingly.
Should have married, really. A nice lass would have steadied him. Always a bit too fey for his own good. A dreamer. It was being Mr Bilbo’s nephew that had done it. And having Brandybuck blood. Takes him off wandering and he comes back not quite all there.
Rosie had heard the gossip, and so had Sam.
‘They should tell all that to the Took and Thain,’ growled Sam. ‘He knows true gold when he sees it, and so do I. I feel like sayin’ to the gossipmongers that Mr Frodo’s seen things which none of them could imagine and been to places which they wouldn’t want to imagine neither. And I tell ‘em he is the best and kindest master one could ask for, and me and my Rose are very happy at Bag End, so they can put that in their pipes and smoke it!’
‘Not everyone in the village is like that, Sam,’ said Rosie, ‘and Mr Frodo’s folks over at Buckland, and some of them Tooks, seem to understand.’
‘It still bothers me though,’ said Sam. ‘All I want is for my master to be whole again.’
‘I’m sure he will be, love,’ said Rosie. ‘One day. Oof!’
Sam glanced down at her.
‘Are you cold, wifie?’ he asked tenderly. ‘It’s gone chilly now that night has fallen.’
‘Oof,’ said Rosie, ‘yes, I am, and the baby is moving about so. Ouch!’
‘Not long now,’ said Sam, gently helping her to her feet. ‘Here, lass. Slowly now.’
They made their way gingerly along the garden path, Sam supporting Rosie.
‘Oh baby, settle down!’ laughed Rosie. ‘Ouch, Sam, he’s moving around so!’
‘Patience, baby Fro,’ said Sam to Rosie's bump.
Night had fallen over the faraway hills. It was half past six. The thrush was still singing. The Evening Star, Eärendil, was twinkling near the horizon.
Sam and Rosie went inside. They found Frodo in the Bag End kitchen, busily making himself some scrambled eggs.
‘I’m going to write some more,’ he announced. His face was flushed and his eyes looked bright.
‘Are you sure, Mr Frodo?’ asked Sam doubtfully.
‘Oh yes,’ said Frodo, ‘I have a new burst of energy. I must finish this chapter tonight.’
His eyes were brilliant – almost feverishly so, Rosie thought. But he was smiling at them as if nothing was wrong.
‘Don’t be writing all night, sir,’ said Rosie. ‘Get some rest.’
‘I will,’ said Frodo.
At eight o’clock Sam and Rose retired to bed. Rosie was very tired, and Sam had to be up with the larks the next day: he was seeing Rosie’s father early in the morning about some business down at Cotton’s Farm and then he would be back at Bag End in the afternoon.
The sound of Frodo’s pen scratching came from the study.
‘Goodnight, sir,’ Rosie called.
‘Goodnight, Rosie. Sam.’
Frodo’s voice sounded perfectly cheerful.
Ch. 3 ~ The Memory of Darkness
Frodo wrote until midnight.
The chapter was finished.
Cirith Ungol. The Spider’s Pass. Gollum’s betrayal. Waking up in the Tower, surrounded by orcs. Sam’s rescue. Their entry into Mordor.
At midnight, he laid down his fountain pen, slowly and deliberately, upon the desk, and buried his face in his hands, breathing deeply. His hands trembled.
He had thought that writing it all out would lance the poison. He had not lied to Rosie and Sam. He was not sick, not in a physical way. No healer in Hobbiton could cure this malady of the soul. What he was suffering from was a surfeit of memory, and a phantom pain which was not real.
Slowly and relentlessly, like a huge dark wave approaching to engulf him, the memories were coming, and whether writing them out would help him in the long run, he did not know.
Frodo rose from his desk, feeling weak and dizzy. He closed the Red Book carefully and shuffled his papers together with a shaking hand.
He stumbled along the corridor with a night-light. He could hear Rosie’s soft breathing and Sam snoring down the passageway, in their spacious bedroom on the south-eastern side of Bag End. Somehow he made his way down the corridor to his bedroom.
He almost fell inside his room, and collapsed on the bed as the great white wave of nausea arrived in full force and swept over him.
Frodo’s body convulsed. He groaned out loud and hoped desperately that Sam and Rose would not hear. Sounds carried in the night.
March 13th had now turned into March 14th, but the sickness had not abated. It had bided its time all day, and was hitting him hard in the early hours when one feels most alone, most abandoned.
The suffocating darkness, the sickening stench, the paralyzing fear … the memories were coming relentlessly and he could not hope to escape them. His teeth clenched and his hands, sharp-knuckled, clawed into the bedclothes.
‘Aiya Eärendil Elenion Ancalima!’ he moaned, but the prayer in the tongue of the High Elves did nothing to alleviate the pain. The phantom pain had awoken. The old wound on his neck, long healed, no more than a scar, a mere ridge of flesh, was throbbing, as if the spider-poison was newly poured into him.
‘Please,’ he whispered into the pillow, ‘hail Eärendil brightest of stars … please …’
It would not avail him to call on Eärendil or Elbereth. The dark wave of memory was coming, and all he could do was ride it, like a ship tossed upon storm-driven waves.
He butted his head into the pillow, panting. His curls were slick with sweat, his body trembling rigidly. He was falling into the darkness and there was nothing he could do to prevent it.
He had awoken, sick and dazed, to find them all around him.
The feral stench of them: the smell of iron and dirt-encrusted leather, the smell of blood, the smell of suspicion and brutality.
They had hauled him to his feet, feverish as he was from the spider-poison, jabbing and prodding him with their hard fingers.
Their voices were harsh. They uttered Black Speech.
‘Who is this little shit?’
‘Oy! We’ve got strict orders not to lay a finger on him.’
‘Well, that’s a friggin’ shame. He looks like he could be a lot of fun.’
Yells of laughter.
‘Shut up you!’
Somebody got cuffed by a superior. The same somebody swore, and wiped away blood from their cheek.
He closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the wall, feeling sick. Sam, Sam, oh where was Sam? He must not mention Sam. On no account must he mention Sam. Almost without thinking, his hands rose to his throat in a protective gesture before a sharp memory jabbed his brain, making him gasp and drop his hands at once. No, no. For the love of Elbereth, they must not guess what he carried on his person. They must not find the Ring!
‘Strip him, lads. That’s orders. And if anyone messes him up, they’re dead. Got that?’
It was a nightmare. He would wake up soon. Sam would call ‘wake up, Mr Frodo,’ and he would feel Sam’s hand pass gently over his brow, smoothing the curls back. Sam. Sam. Sam, where are you? Are you dead?
Hard claws tore at his clothes. He fought back in fury and fear, but above all, fear. The Orcs hooted and yowled as he struggled frantically, twisting and writhing against their brutal clutching hands, but there just seemed to be more and more of the creatures, their numerous claws swarming over his body, forcing him to submit.
I’m dreaming … I must wake up … please …
His head was slammed back hard against the wall and the sharp pain cracking against his skull made him cry out. Then the dark fever of poison clouded his brain once more and he could only feel dimly through a hot haze of pain and confusion. He sank helplessly in the clutching grasp of vicious claws as they ripped off every single vestige of clothing: his travel-stained tunic and breeches, the mithril shirt (causing greedy exclamations from the orcs and bellowed curses from their captains), his under-garments, Sam’s sword in its sheath, the Elven cloak …
Numbly he realised that the Orcs had torn every last scrap of clothing from his body. He was naked, exposed, alone, adrift on an icy sea of terror and confusion. Cold air flowed from somewhere over his pale flesh. His head rolled forward as the delirium took control again. There was a sneering laugh.
‘Wakey wakey you. We want you nice and alert for the Captains.’
A hard hand gripped his chin, forcing his head back. Suddenly he gagged: a vile-tasting burning liquid was being poured down his throat and he spluttered and choked. Clattering metallic-sounding laughter. They were pressing all round him, jeering, gloating …
Some were squabbling. He could not remember which orc it was who had first roughly ripped the mithril shirt over his head, snagging some of his curls in its delicate links … he only remembered seeing its soft glittering beauty being passed from claw to foul claw, and the accompanying shrieks and curses.
‘Give me that!’
‘It goes to Shagrat, you stupid maggots! He’s the one in charge, so stop arsing about!’
Another voice, deep and snarling.
‘Yes, I am friggin’ well in charge and if one of you miserable little runts doesn’t give me that pretty shirt right now, I’ll slit their miserable throat, I swear to the Dark One himself, so help me. Hand it over. NOW.’
Yes, Shagrat, the Captain of the Tower of Cirith Ungol, had been in charge.
‘Where are you from?’ he hissed at Frodo.
Questions, questions, questions.
‘Who are you?’
‘Why are you here?’
‘Who are you?’
Daggers and eyes, daggers and eyes.
Gloating eyes which burned into him. A dagger placed at his throat. The knife-point trailed tauntingly down the length of his naked body.
He had shuddered and closed his eyes, forcing himself to stay awake. He could survive this. He had no choice. He must survive this, stay awake, not blurt out anything. He must not mention Sam. Sweet Varda, could Sam still be alive? Dear Elbereth, he must not mention the Ring …
The incredible shock jolted him completely from semi-delirium. Of course. The Ring was no longer round his neck. How could it have been? They had completely stripped him. He stared wildly in front of him, his heart pounding, his horror blinding him to everything else, not even seeing the ugly gloating smiles of the Orc-captains and the cruelty in their eyes. The dreadful loss of the Ring loomed far larger than any distress at being naked and helpless before these vile creatures. When had they taken it? He could not remember them tearing It from his neck when they stripped him. Dear Lady of the Stars … when? They must have taken It while he was still unconscious, when they found him in the tunnel, and bore him to this hellish place.
He buried his head in his hands, unable to suppress his anguish. The Orc-captains snarled and one of them struck him brutally across the mouth, splitting his lip.
‘We’re talking to you!’
He didn’t care. If the Ring was gone, Sam was dead. They had taken the Ring to Sauron, and the whole world was swallowed up in darkness.
All he longed for was death. But he knew they would not allow him to die quickly.
Previous screencap entry, "Frodo Returns to Bag End" HERE.
Next screencap entry, "Frodo Writes the Red Book, Part II" with Pt. 2 of "Star fo the Sea" HERE.
Listing of all Frodo screencap entries HERE.