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Shire Yule  by Dreamflower


Good King Elessar, Part III
Here is part three of "Good King Elessar"--Aragorn and Frodo-lad find the going a bit more difficult than anticipated...


As the wind howled around them more loudly, Frodo shivered, and drew his clock more closely. The snow was deeper now--over his ankles, and he was finding the going much slower.

He tried to distract himself, by remembering how his father and the other Companions had tried to cross the mountains. Caradhras had been ever so much crueller, he was sure!

He remembered a day, a few years back, when he had listened to his father, and Uncles Merry and Pippin talking about their journey.

He had been about fifteen at the time, and the weather had been cold and nasty. He himself was only just getting over a cold, and so had been left at Bag End when his mother had taken the other children to visit their grandparents in Bywater. That was why he'd been in the front room, tucked up on the settee next to his father, half-drowsing. He supposed that they thought he was actually asleep, for his father and honorary uncles rarely talked about the more difficult parts of their famous adventure when they thought any of the children might hear.

"It's right nippy out today. I'm just as glad I don't have call to be out in it," said his father.

"It's not just nippy, Sam, it's downright cold!" said Uncle Pippin.

"There's cold," said Uncle Merry, "and there's *Caradhras* cold!" He shuddered and leaned down from his chair to pick up the poker and prod the fire.

There was a brief silence, and then Frodo's father had said, "I never knew there could *be* so much snow in all the world, nor that it could get so deep and heavy! I was right worried about Mr. Frodo. Fair blue he was!"

"We were *all* 'fair blue', Sam, and you as much as the rest," said Pippin softly. "I don't mind confessing it: I'd never known what cold was before we went up the Redhorn Pass."

"I was right scared. It was the first time I thought that *I* might be going to die." Sam-dad's voice seemed distant, and Frodo-lad thought over those words with a shock. He thought back to what he had seen in the Red Book. It was true: Uncle Merry and Uncle Pippin had been caught in Old Man Willow, and poor Uncle Frodo had been stabbed at Weathertop. All of them had been in peril in the Barrow-downs, but his father had been unconscious at the time, and had not known of his danger till later. But going up that mountain? It had been mortal peril for all of them, and they had known it.

"We'd not have survived without Boromir's foresight," said Merry.

"He was quite cross with Gandalf," Pippin added. "So was I, for that matter."

"And everyone was cross with Legolas," added Merry.

This had made everyone chuckle, and the serious moment passed, but Frodo never forgot that note of fear in their voices, that they only allowed to come out when they thought they were just speaking among themselves…

Frodo shuddered, drawing his cloak in even tighter on himself. He could barely see for the swirling snow, and in spite of the hood, his face burned with cold. He could not even *feel* his feet. He tried to look to the side, to where the King had been walking, and realized he'd fallen behind. He nearly stumbled.

"S-sire!" he tried to call out, but he felt the words blowing away as they left his mouth. He gasped, and took a deep breath of frigid air. The King was walking on without him, all unknowing. He felt a moment of sheer panic.

But his faint call had been enough--the King was only a few steps ahead after all, and heard the faint plea, stopped, and turned.

Suddenly, Frodo felt the wind blocked, as the King knelt before him, holding out his arms, he pulled the lad into his embrace. "Ah, Frodo-lad, I am so sorry! I am not so weather-wise as I once was--I was sure this snowstorm would hold off until much later!

He pulled his own cloak closer around them both, "Please forgive me, lad."

Frodo gasped, and nodded his head. He did not trust his voice to work. He was feeling much warmer now that the wind was blocked. The King picked him up, and carried him over to the sled, and sat him down atop the pile of firewood. He chaffed Frodo's feet, and took up one of the blankets and wrapped it round Frodo over his cloak.

"Your old Uncle Strider has been too long away from the wilds of the North! I had forgotten how suddenly these snows can come on! I should never have made a mistake like this!" He took a flask from his pocket, and offered Frodo-lad a sip. "Just a very small taste, lad! Too much will make things worse."

Frodo nearly sputtered at the bitter taste of the liquor, but it warmed him going down. "That's all, lad. It isn't miruvor, and the effects won't last long, but it should put a little heart into you."

"Thank you, sire!" Frodo felt a warmth spreading out through him from the brandy. "I am sorry to be so much trouble."

"You are not trouble at all, my lad, and any trouble I shall have from this venture will be entirely my own fault. I shall count myself lucky if your father does not take Sting to me!" He smiled at Frodo in a way that reminded the lad of his Uncle Pippin.

Frodo-lad giggled; he felt the teensiest bit light-headed. "No, I don't think he'd do that, but Mam might take a broomstick to you!"

The King--no, at the moment he was definitely Uncle Strider--laughed loudly, and the laughter rang out and was carried off by the wind. "And I should not dare to complain if she does, for I most certainly deserve it for being so hasty."

He looked serious once more, though. "Now, Frodo, we are very nearly to our destination; I think it better that we continue, rather than turn back. You could ride upon the sled as I pull it, but I think that you will stay warmer if you keep moving. What say you?"

"Yes, sir, I think so too."

"Very well, then, we shall start up again. Keep that blanket round you over your cloak. I shall go out in front of you, and I want you to walk directly behind me, so that I block out the worst of the wind. Stay between me and the sled, and walk in my footsteps."

Frodo nodded, and hopped down from the sled, and they set forth once more. He did not try to see where he was going; instead, he kept his face down, and simply placed each foot in first one and then another, of the imprints set before him.

He was still cold, but he felt much warmer than he had, as the wind could no longer reach him so easily. And each of the treads in which he stepped made him feel confident and safe.

The journey continued, and Frodo thought once again of his father's and the others' trek up that treacherous mountain--and their trek down again! At least he was not having to be carried, like they were!

After walking a while longer--Frodo was not sure *how* long--the King paused, and pointed to his right. "Yonder lies the spring." Frodo turned and glanced in that direction--he could see the glitter of ice round the edges, but it appeared the spring was still flowing. It would have to be much colder to freeze the running water.

They walked on, and Frodo realized the snow was lessening, though it seemed to be growing darker. No, they had reached the eaves of the wood.

"We are nearly there, lad. Do you need to rest before we push on?"

Frodo shook his head. "No, sire. Don't be stopping on my account."

They trudged on a bit more slowly beneath the trees--but it was much less windy, and there was not so much snow on the ground here where the branches formed a lattice above their heads. The going was easier, even though they had to make their way carefully around the trees--the sled did not pull so well here, with the roots of the trees getting in the way.

Suddenly, the King stopped, and Frodo nearly ran into the back of his long legs. "There!"

Frodo looked. Directly ahead of them was a small ramshackle building, not much bigger than the toolshed at Bag End, though considerably taller, and it had a chimney, from which smoke curled up in silvery wisps. There were no windows, but there was a chink beneath the door, from which a faint line of light emerged.

The King nodded. "Yes, that *was* an old Ranger waystation! But I do not believe that Rangers have made use of it since the time of the Ring War." He gave a decisive nod. "Come, Frodo, let us see if our gifts are welcome." And he strode forward, as Frodo trotted up next to his side, and knocked briskly on the door.

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