Chapter 2: Mirror

The bustle in the spacious room beyond whirled in confusion to Sam’s eyes. Graceful, silent elves glided around the room, gathering curved blown-glass decanters and crystal vials onto silver trays, seemingly in preparation to leave. The size and grandeur of the room disoriented Sam and he struggled to get his bearings, standing still in the midst of the elves’ movements. There were tapering pillars and carved statues, pillowed benches and delicate tables. Filmy fabrics wafted across the open balcony on the far side of the room, somehow preventing the chamber’s warmth from leaching out into the autumn chill. And over there, near the balcony, was a huge dais… could that be the bed? It must be. But, where was Frodo?

Ah, there! As Sam adjusted to the confusingly large scale of the room, he finally glimpsed the small form laid out on the enormous bed, almost hidden from view by the elves working over him. Lord Elrond, a commanding presence, clearly in charge, sat on the bed next to Frodo, laying skilled hands upon the body spread before him. Sam’s legs were leaden and his mouth dry with fear and longing as he made his way through the departing elves.

Across from the bed, there was a full-length mirror in a delicate carved frame. As Sam came closer, he realised that the mirror was angled just so that in its reflection, he could see Frodo for the first time since the ford. He was unclothed now, covered only by a silken strip draped over his hips, so soft and delicate that it lingered over hipbones and every curve of belly and thigh. Dark, tangled curls etched stark black calligraphy on the white pillow. His face was still as death, eyes closed, lashes brushing black over bruised shadows, skin as pale and thin and stretched as gossamer; a silver chain glinted across his white throat.

Sam’s chest tightened. Frodo: dearest master, mentor, taleteller, friend… Sam had always loved him for his humour, wisdom, kindness… and lately, his courage. But never, ever, had Sam’s heart broken so, nor had he loved Frodo more, than for his utter vulnerability now. Seeing him wounded and in agony after Weathertop, suffering and fading on the long journey to the ford… none of that compared to the pain of seeing that strong and fragile body limp, empty of the bright spirit Sam so loved.

He did not take his eyes from Frodo’s reflection until he came around the foot of the bed and could see him for himself. He leaned across the bed and gently laid his hand on Frodo’s ankle, but he was afraid to touch any further, for fear of unbalancing whatever tenuous hold kept Frodo here. He looked to the Lord Elrond for guidance, waiting anxiously until, at last, he lifted graceful hands from Frodo’s body, and turned to address Sam.

“Samwise Gamgee, do not fear to be here with your Master…”

It was only because of his very deepest fears that Sam indignantly interrupted the elf lord. “Sir, it’s not that I’m afraid to be here with him! I would never be afraid to be with Mr. Frodo; why, there’s nowhere else I’d want to be. My only ‘fear’ is of causing him any more hurt.”

Lord Elrond sighed, and looked more closely at this most devoted of servants: here was a glimmer of Gandalf’s reason for choosing Samwise for Frodo’s comfort during this stolen interlude, before deeper and more painful healing could be attempted. He answered Sam’s concerns with directness.

“Frodo’s hurts are yet with him, but set your mind at ease: you cannot make them worse. Frodo requires respite, until we try again to undo this evil that has been done to him. Our arts have given him peace, for a while. Your familiar presence may soothe him and help him rest more easily… until it is time.”

Sam did not dare ask what time was to come; it was enough to be here for now. He turned back to Frodo, and did not notice when all others left them alone in the room.

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