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The Acceptable Sacrifice
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4: Who for Ringbearer


He rose by himself, saw clothing set out for him, including the quilted silk shirt to wear under the mithril shirt, went to put it on, then had to stop and sit down. Legolas called out, “Frodo?” and the Hobbit answered,

“I’m awake.”

The Elf entered as Frodo looked up, horrified. “No, Legolas!”

Legolas paused in the doorway, his face grave. “Aragorn asked me to come to you when you awoke, help you rise and dress.”

“I can dress myself!” He felt his face flush, then go white.

Looking at where Frodo was sitting now at the foot of Sam’s bed and taking in the tremor of his hands, Legolas shook his head slightly. “Oh, Ringbearer, I can see how well you can dress yourself. Aragorn told us you would most likely be weak and sometimes nauseous for the first few days after waking. I rejoice to be able to help you dress--I so much feared that I would never see you again before the end of days.”

Frodo looked up at him, the echoes of Gollum’s last Preciousss! in his mind. “Perhaps it would have been better so, Legolas.”

Legolas stood most still, his eyes glinting in the light entering from over the fabric walls. When at last he spoke, his voice was as sharp as the tips of his own arrows, as sharp as the edge of his white knife. “Do not say that to me again, Frodo--ever. It would be poor recompense to me to know you died, and still enslaved in part to that. No, let you examine those times and then let them go so that you may be able to be filled once more with joy and peace as is right and proper before you leave the bounds of Arda. It was for that the King called you back from the Gates.”

Frodo sought to change the subject. “Where is Sam?”

“Aragorn took him to the privy, and advised me it was likely to be a prolonged time. His body also was stressed to near the breaking point, Cormacolindor.”

“I no longer wear It on a chain about my neck, Legolas.”

“No, that you do not, and I am grateful. Yet, there is no greater honor for me than to know you and to know that you did, that no others should know It’s power.”

“Sam carried It--for a time. He thought I’d died. He took It to complete the quest.”

“Did you take It back?”

“Of course I took It back! Do you think, once I’d awakened, I could bear to think of another holding It? But I barely remember--just one moment I was being--was being beaten, and the next the orc had become Sam, then Sam became the orc again, fondling the Ring, driving me mad! I snatched it from the orc--I think I may have struck his face. I know I screamed at him--at Sam! Then he was Sam again, and I knew he’d been Sam since the one beating me fell. I was shamed--shamed and relieved.” He realized that while they’d been talking Legolas had slipped the night shirt off over his head, then slipped the quilted silk shirt onto him, and now stood holding the mithril shirt, ready to help him don that. “I don’t need that, do I?” Frodo asked.

“Perhaps you don’t, but there still may remain some of the orcs in the Ephel Duath, and this at least offers you some protection if such should seek to harm you.”

“I’m no prince to wear mithril and silk, Legolas--not as you are.”

The Elf sighed. “Frodo, some inherit their titles of nobility. Others earn them, as you have. You are far more worthy to wear this than any other I have known.”

Reluctantly Frodo lifted his arms, and Legolas gently helped him don the mithril. “It ought to go to Sam instead.”

Legolas smiled at him as he examined him closely. “No, even as thin as he has become Sam could not wear it, or not for very long. But I sense it was intended for first Bilbo and then you.” He picked up a clean surcoat and held it out, and became solemn as Frodo again reached up his arms to slip them into the sleeves. “You must realize, Frodo--you took the Ring, and in so doing you saved the rest of us from doing so. Sauron knew the minds of Elves as well as any who is not an Elf can, and the Ring was keyed to allow him to learn more from those who wore the Three, as It was keyed to learn of those who wore the Seven and the Nine as well. But no one thought to make any ring of power for Hobbits, for there are no lords as such among you; and so he had not prepared that which you bore to rule your people. Perhaps none but a Hobbit could have carried It to the last to Mordor, much less through it and into the heart of the Mountain itself. To make it to the Cracks of Doom considering how long you had held it and how strongly it sought to take you--that was unprecedented.”

He picked up the trousers that lay there, casually straightened the blankets on Frodo’s bed and sat himself on them opposite the Hobbit, and held them out for Frodo to take. “Had you not taken the Ring, I think either Boromir or I would have taken It next. I thought I, being the son of Thranduil, would be able to resist the lure of the Ring--but that was ere we left Rivendell and I began to hear It call unto me--call unto me with Its promises and Its blandishments. And I saw how you struggled ever more strongly to resist It than I could do, and I was humbled.

“As for Boromir--It would have swallowed him whole once he actually touched It--swallowed him then spat him out as an owl regurgitates mouse pellets. I might have made the Emym Muil before It took me at the last--Boromir wouldn’t have made it, I suspect, to Caradhras.” Reluctantly, Frodo nodded his agreement. Legolas continued, “If Gimli and I hadn’t started to argue then, I suspect I would have claimed the quest, and in the end all should have been lost.”

Frodo looked away. “It was almost lost anyway. Had Gollum not have taken It from me----” He looked into the Elf’s eyes. “I let It take me at the end, Legolas,” he whispered. “It took me, and I claimed It.”

Legolas placed a shapely hand on the side of Frodo’s face. “Know this, Frodo Baggins, It would have taken anyone who was near It, there in the Sammath Naur itself. How do you think one such as Isildur should have been taken by It, or one such as Lord Elrond compelled to allow him to leave with It still in his hands?”

Frodo shrugged. Legolas lifted a cloth off of a mug that sat on the small table that lay between the two beds, lifted the mug and smelled it as Frodo pulled on his trousers and stood up to fasten them. Once Frodo was finally seated again the Elf handed the mug to him. “Here--this is for you to drink now.”

Grimacing, the Hobbit took it and drank its contents down, then accepted the tin mug filled with clean water. “Now,” Legolas said, “it’s your turn to be taken to the privy, I think.” He rose and held out his hand to Frodo, who reluctantly stood and accepted it and followed him out into the camp.


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