“…Looking in a mirror he was startled to see a much thinner reflection of himself than he remembered: it looked remarkably like the young nephew of Bilbo who used to go tramping with his uncle in the Shire; but the eyes looked out at him thoughtfully.
‘Yes, you have seen a thing or two since you last peeped out of a looking-glass,’ he said to his reflection. ‘But now for a merry meeting!’ He stretched out his arms and whistled a tune.
At that moment there was a knock on the door, and Sam came in. He ran to Frodo and took his left hand, awkwardly and shyly. He stroked it gently and then he blushed and turned hastily away.”

Excerpt from The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R.Tolkien. (Chapter: “Many Meetings”)


Chapter 1: Rivendell

Sam threw down his torch and staggered to the water’s edge, only to be pulled back by Strider’s firm hand on his shoulder. If the truth be known, he also feared that the swollen, raging flood might sweep him away in its equine turbulence of black horses, riders, and those ethereal silvered stallions. Of them all, Glorfindel would be the first to be able to pass, would be the first to reach the opposite bank and the crumpled figure, lying too still beneath the magnificent horse from which he had slipped just moments before. Strider might be able to make it across soon, but Sam and Frodo’s kin must bear the wait until the flood receded, Sam held back on one side, heartbroken, his Master holding forth on the other, fallen, broken…

Sam could only stand and watch, arms folded tightly across his chest, as Glorfindel knelt, gently lifted, and gathered the small figure to his chest, calling back words of hope and life... There was hope in their rapid departure astride the great horse, hope in their desperate race to Rivendell, but it felt like desolation to see them disappear into the woods beyond the receding waters.

After a time, Strider was able to aid the hobbits’ safe passage across the ford, and they resumed their straggling trek in the wake of pain, suffering, and uncertainty. Fatigue and worry made it impossible to appreciate the increasing magnificence of the verdant pines and towering cliffs and tumbling waterfalls as they climbed into the high valleys approaching Rivendell. Single-minded concern for the fragile life borne swiftly ahead prevented them from experiencing relief when the riders sent back from Rivendell swept them up and rushed them onward.

To what? The graceful structures of Rivendell spilled down the cliff high above river and valley, arched walls opened before them, terraces and trees rose above. Strider was welcomed as one long known to this place, and after brief, warm words of reassurance, was hastened elsewhere. Tall figures with murmuring voices beckoned the hobbits within, and with the gracious hospitality of their elven kind, urged them to rooms near those to which their companion had been taken.

There they were halted by the exigency of the moment. Life remained, however tenuously; they rejoiced to learn that Frodo still lived. But the balance was so uncertain that all the healing arts of a great and ancient race were desperately required to restrain the darkness from that one small body. Sam, Merry, and Pippin were left to worry and wait, hoping Frodo’s hold on life would soon be strong enough that they might see him. Food, drink, and opportunity to bathe and rest were offered and accepted by hobbits sensible enough to know that the only aid they could give now was to ensure their own strength and availability for whatever was to come.

Time passed, interminable and unmeasured. Silent, urgent activity bypassed Sam, tucked into a large chair as close to the chamber door as possible. The solemn elves passing through that door had been unable to offer reassurance, and continued quickly on whatever errands such strange injury might require. He knew only that every moment was an eternity, and every voice failed to be the one he longed to hear. The serenity of the place helped him compose himself to bear the interminable waiting, and when he looked over to Merry and Pippin, he saw that the stillness had lulled them, too. They had finally relaxed into exhausted slumber, curled together on a long bench on the balcony, wrapped in the music of the fountains below.

Sam stared, glazed, through the stone arches, across the ravine, at the cliffs opposite this room. Barren and bleak they were to his mind and mood: too big and too sharp and too steep… far too much. Dizziness, almost as if he himself clung across the way, came over him; he slumped in the chair, bowed his head to his knees, and gave in to his grief.

Some time later, the tall door beside him swung smoothly open. The solemn elves passing through that door had been unable to offer any reassurance, and continued quickly on whatever errands such strange injury might require. Sam now dreaded the door opening on news he could not bear to hear, though he could scarcely hope for better. His dear Master had begun to wither and fade after the initial agony on the Morgul blade… Only that last stand, his defiant cry at the ford, ‘…neither the Ring nor me…’ gave Sam any hope. If there was that kind of resistance still left… oh, would that it had not all been consumed, and that somehow enough remained to bring him back!

“Samwise.”

Sam looked up with a start, raising his tear-streaked face to a gentle hand laid upon his shoulder. “Mr. Gandalf, sir!”

He was kneeling by the chair in front of Sam, his eyes filled with a profound sadness. “Samwise, I am so sorry…” and Sam’s breath caught and his face blanched, and the world spun.

“No, Sam, not that… Frodo yet lives…” Gandalf rushed to reassure his misapprehension, steadying him. “But, my dear hobbit, I regret that I could not be there for him, and for you…”

Sam’s grief turned to overpowering rage that this might have been prevented, and he lashed out with the most cutting words he could muster.

“He trusted you! He trusted you, sir, and you weren’t there for him, and you can’t know how he’s suffered, and now he’s in there… now he’s likely going to…” Sam sobbed and threw himself into Gandalf’s arms, forgiving him and trusting him, just as he knew Frodo himself would, if he could. And for a time, Sam and the great wizard shared their heartache for this hobbit they both loved.

“I am so very sorry, Samwise…” Gandalf patted Sam’s back and held him a moment longer, before continuing, “And sorry, as well, that you have been kept from Frodo’s side. But Frodo has been made comfortable, for awhile…” Sam was immediately alert; this was better news than he had feared, and he looked hopefully at Gandalf. “No, he is not yet healed; his injury is difficult… and healing must be attempted again, after he rests. But, you may see him now…”

“Oh, thank you, sir!” Sam slid from his chair, gave Gandalf a quick hug, and started for the door. Gandalf held it open for him, and ushered him through.

* * *

The phrase ‘…neither the Ring nor me…’ is quoted from The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien (Chapter: “The Flight to the Ford”).