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[Index]

1

The moon shone high in the night sky over Lothlórien. The tall, majestic mellyrn towered overhead the small creature who looked up at them in wonder. In the distance, he could hear the soft singing of elves, and he was content. Indeed, he hadn't felt this content for a long time.
Time. What was time? Did time really exist? It did not seem that time existed here. It seemed as if time were just a distant memory… just like danger.

Danger. Was he really in danger here, anymore? Was danger a thing of the past? For once, was he, the Ringbearer, safe?

Indeed, he did not know. His hand involuntarily slipped up to his neck, to where the fate of the world hung on a chain. Right below it, he felt the cool touch of Bilbo's mithril vest; nay, his mithril vest. Its small chains were cool against his skin, and the mail so light that he did not usually notice it there.

But now, now that he did notice, wise words which Aragorn had spoken right before Lórien came to his mind: 'Do not lay it aside, even in sleep, unless fortune brings you where you are safe for a while, and that will seldom chance while your quest lasts.' Now as he lay on his back, in a bliss he hadn't felt in a long time, he wondered if he were in a place where he was safe. A place where he could rest in peace, in safety… where he could remove his mithril vest without fear.

However, he was still not completely sure. The Ring drew many enemies, even to the most unlikely places at the most unlikely times. He still had the haunting memories of the Ringwraiths in the Shire.

After a few moments of thought, he decided that he would ask for Aragorn's advice. The hobbit stood up, stretched, and went to search out the Ranger.

***

Lothlórien. One of the only places in Middle-earth in which he felt at peace. And as Isildur's heir, he rarely found peace. Constantly on the run, constantly hiding. Constantly battling whatever enemy came upon his road. It was a wearisome life, and the type of things he dealt with can build quickly upon a person. One cannot blame him for using whatever time he had for rest at it's fullest.

Indeed, perhaps this is why he lay completely rested in the long grass, with the elanor and nimphredil blooming about him. Perhaps this is why he lay his sword aside, something he did not often. Perhaps this is why he fell asleep without a second thought, confident that he was finally in a safe place.

He woke with a start, and was startled to find himself in darkness. Complete darkness. He felt as if he were back in Moria, only worse. Why, however, he was not sure. Perhaps it was the sense of the unknown that he feared? Indeed, that rightly could be it, for he had no idea where he was.

He needed to focus. Focus. Where was he last? Ah, yes. He remembered lying down upon the tall, soft grass, thinking about the one he loved. He smiled softly at the thought of his beloved Undómiel, but swiftly came back to the present. He thought quickly to himself, and came to a short solution. Wherever he was, he needed to get out of here. And how better to get out of a dark void than to start walking?

So he chose a random direction in the darkness, and walked. And walked. And walked on and on. For how long he walked, he did not know. There was no way to tell time in this oppressing void. His thoughts strayed as he walked, but soon he could not concentrate even on his thoughts. He felt as if he did not get out of there quickly, he would go mad.

His walk became quicker. He had to get out. He had to see light, see a shape, see anything! He did not care if he saw Sauron himself, he had to see, hear, smell… something! His walk soon became a jog, and that jog became a run. How long had he been there? He did not know. It did not matter. But another moment in this dark chasm and he was certain that he would go mad.

He could not hear the pounding of his feet against the ground. He could not feel any air rushing in his face. He opened his mouth and screamed, but no voice came out. He tried to feel his face with his hands, but could not. When he looked to his hands, he found that he could not see them. He was devoid of all senses, and that thought frightened him.

He tried to calm down, but found he could not. He tried to think about his family, his friends, his love, and all that mattered to him, but found he could not remember them. He could not remember anything. Who was he again? He did not remember.

There was only one thing left: fear. Fear and darkness. All that was left to him. He tried to cry, but could not. He tried to scream again, but could not. He wanted to fall. He wanted to fall and die, wither away. He could not survive here. He would not survive here. That he knew.

A sudden thought came to his mind: Frodo. What was Frodo? Was 'Frodo' supposed to mean something? Another strange thought came: Gondor. Gondor? What was Gondor? And then more came. The Ring, the fellowship, Gandalf, Elendil, Sauron, Nazgûl, Isildur, Narsil, Moria, hobbits, elves, dwarves, men, Imladris, Lórien, the Shire, Bilbo, Elrond, Arwen…

It was as if a sudden wave came washing over him. He felt deathly cold against the invisible waters that swallowed him whole. He had to get out. He had to survive. He remembered. He remembered. He could not die, not now. He struggled against the unseen enemy, determined to leave alive. It was not his time.

A small gasp escaped his lips as he awoke. The moon still shone high in the peaceful night sky. The elves still sung in sad harmony of the past, of days long gone, of the present, in which sorrow is still sown, and of the future, bleak for them in whatever ending.

He sighed with relief at the realization that it was only a nightmare. He hadn't had a nightmare for many long years, and was surprised to be haunted by one here, of all places. For how long had he been asleep? It did not seem to be that long, though in there… it could have been an eternity. He gave an involuntary shudder as the memories came rushing back… thoughts of fear, of uncertainty, of lost hope…

"Aragorn."

He was startled by a small voice from behind him. He quickly turned around, and saw Frodo standing there, looking at him in concern.

"Frodo." He gave the hobbit a small smile.

"Is aught wrong?"

Aragorn shook his head, and beckoned the Ringbearer to sit down. Frodo sat by his side, not at all convinced by his answer.

Aragorn gave him a small smile. "It was nothing. Just a nightmare."

Frodo nodded in understanding. "I have had many, and they had increased after… after Moria," he ended in a whisper. "But ever since I entered Caras Galadhon, they have ceased."

Aragorn nodded. "The Lady of the Wood watches over you, Ringbearer."

Frodo nodded, his hand going to the Ring. Underneath it, he felt the mithril shirt… the reason for his being here.

"I have a question," he said after a moment

Aragorn blinked, and was turned from his thoughts to the hobbit. "What ails you?"

"Not much," he said. "But earlier, I recalled your words about my vest; to never take it off, 'unless fortune brings you where you are safe'. Would you deem this place safe enough?"

Aragorn thought to himself for a moment. Finally, he said, "Indeed, this place is safe. One of the safest places on the east side of the Misty Mountains. But…" He paused. "But even in safe places does evil still manage to slink in. With It, you are even more vulnerable. I would not remove it until our Quest is fulfilled, and you are no longer in possession of the burden that you carry.

Frodo nodded in understanding. Evil was present in even the safest of places. "As in your nightmare."

Aragorn nodded. "Indeed. As in my nightmare." He smiled again. "Go get some sleep, Frodo. Rest, while you can."

Frodo smiled back at him, nodded, and stood up. "You too, Strider," he said, calling him by the name he learned him as in Bree. With one last look, he turned and walked away.

Aragorn's smile faded as the hobbit left him. "Yes. We shall all need whatever rest we can acquire for the time. For the road is long and weary, and evil shall follow us all, and will only leave us if we complete the Quest."

"When we complete the Quest," a small voice in his head told him.

"When we complete the Quest," he repeated quietly, and soon, he found himself in a calm, dreamless sleep.

[Index]

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