Of Darkness, and Of Light by Cathleen

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Story Notes:

Written for the Spring Frodo Challenge Fic Exchange in 2006.

Author's Chapter Notes:

Includes direct quotes from FOTR.

“Of Darkness and of Light”

Shadows. Death. He was falling and he could not reach the end. Nor could he breathe for his very breath lay caught in his throat as he was forced to helplessly watch the scene play out before him again and again.

Gandalf fell.

He couldn’t reach him nor change the evil scene before his eyes, or even stretch out his hand and touch him. He could not prevent Gandalf’s tumble over the edge of the jagged rocks. He was unable to save him. A dark blanket of doom descended upon him and he felt trapped within his nightmare

He felt himself lifted into the air. Lifted and carried away. The silent scream was still on his lips, the name of his friend echoed from the cavern walls as his anguished cry was ripped from the very depths of his soul. His despair experienced by the entire Fellowship.


But somehow deep down inside, he was alone. Completely and utterly. The scream gurgled upward from the depths of his being once more and he opened his mouth to release it…and it would not come.

Frodo’s eyes shot open in the darkness and the intense scream died on his lips emerging as more of a whimper. He sat up and took in his surroundings. His cousins and Sam slept albeit restlessly, nearby. A soft voice spoke his name in the gloom.

Frodo raised his head as she passed, barefoot and silent as the moon that rose high in the night sky. Her gauze-like gown drifted behind her as she walked, nay floated, by. Her voice was in his mind. He knew she had not spoken his name aloud. Frodo arose and followed her.

They proceeded down a flight of steps that were carved into the stone surrounding the hollow into which they descended. Upon a pedestal also carved from the stone rested a wide and shallow basin. Lady Galadriel filled it with the pure water of the fountain contained in a silver ewer. She paused and held the Ring-bearer’s gaze for a long moment before speaking.

“Here is the Mirror of Galadriel. I have brought you here so you may look in it, if you will.”

“What shall I look for, and what shall I see?”

“Many things I can command the mirror to reveal, but the Mirror will also show things unbidden. What you will see I cannot tell. For it shows things that were, and things that are, and things that yet may be. But which it is that he sees, even the wisest among us cannot always tell. Do you wish to look?”

“Do you advise me to do so?”

“No, I cannot advise you one way or the other. Seeing is good, but may be perilous. Yet, I believe you possess the courage and wisdom to do so, else I would not have brought you here. It is your choice.”

Frodo hesitated but a moment longer and made his decision. He climbed upon the pedestal and gazed into the water, a great sense of awe overcoming him as the dark water parted and in its place came vision after vision. He saw a long dark road and a white clad figure that appeared to be Gandalf. The figure’s face was hidden from him and Frodo was filled with doubt. Was it Gandalf or Saruman? The scene faded into another and then another. Frodo witnessed the raping of the Shire, saw fire burning hotly as homes were set aflame, friends and family lead away in chains, tormented and killed.

He struggled to break free of the gripping fear the scenes elicited. His very soul began to ache with despair. More frightening than any of the previous visions the great eye appeared, flaming hotly, lidless, searching. Seeking…him. The water began to boil and steam, the Ring was being pulled into the vision against his will. Frodo resisted, but the struggle was becoming more difficult.

“Do not touch the water!” Galadriel admonished, and at that moment the Ring-bearer was thrown backwards, away from the basin, to fall upon the ground. The spell was broken. He looked up at her, his small body shaking.

“I know what it is that you last saw, for it is also in my mind. Do not be afraid.” The Lady held up a slender hand. “This is Nenya, the Ring of Adamant, and I am its keeper. Sauron suspects but he does not know one of the three remaining Rings is here, in Lothlorien. It is not by the power of the elves alone that this land is protected. If you fail, all will be laid bare to the enemy.”

Frodo inclined his head in acknowledgement. “If you wish it, I will give you the One Ring.” He held out his hand, the circle of gold resting on his palm.

The Lady stepped forward and beheld the Ring, her gaze filled with longing. “I do not deny that my heart has long desired this. You begin to see with a keen eye, Ring-bearer. And you offer it freely.”

Galadriel lifted her arms to the star filled sky, the Ring on her finger radiating a bright white light. The elven queen’s form was fully illuminated by the glow. A clap of thunder startled Frodo as the night filled with a streak of lightning and he looked up, searching the sky. Just as suddenly the light faded. Galadriel regarded him with sadness, her gentle voice speaking softly. “I pass the test. I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.”

She extended her hand to Frodo. “Let us return, for tomorrow you must depart. You have made the choice and the tides of fate are flowing.”

Frodo took the hand that was offered to him and followed the Lady out of the hollow. He looked back over his shoulder one last time. He shook with dread as he hurried away, almost expecting one of his frightening visions to crawl up from the depths of the font and pursue him through the dark night.

Sam sat up as he returned. “Where have you been?” His tone as always was filled with concern. “Are you all right?”

Frodo nodded slowly as he descended into his bed of blankets. He shivered as the memories of what he’d witnessed began to overtake him again. What was real and inevitable, he wondered? How much could he change? Would the terrible visions of his beloved Shire come to pass? Oh, to be allowed to seek counsel with Gandalf again! I said that I would do this thing. I have chosen. But how, when I still have such grave doubt within my soul?

“Mr Frodo?” Sam tried again.

“What is it, Sam?” Frodo sounded weary.

“What happened? I woke up and you were gone. Are you all right?”

Frodo sighed and sat up. “I was speaking with the Lady. That’s all.”

“But you seem upset. Has anything changed?”

“No Sam. Nothing has changed. Nothing at all. Get some sleep.” Frodo curled himself into a tiny ball and lay with his back to his friend. To all intents and purpose he appeared to sleep. Nothing could have been further from the truth. His mind raced, filled with dark thoughts for the remainder of the night. When morning light dawned he had not slept a wink.

As the company prepared to depart their hearts were heavy with the thought of leaving Lothlorien. Here they had dwelt for an unknown number of days and nights, the exact amount of time was still hidden from them. The elves assisted them by providing food for the journey that they placed in the boats they were given.

Nearby, Frodo could hear Aragorn speaking quietly with Lord Celeborn, carefully considering the direction they would take. Frodo’s troubled thoughts continued to plague him. His cousins and Sam watched him closely but Frodo was unresponsive to their continued attempts at conversation.

“Never before have we clad strangers in the garb of our own people.” Galadriel’s voice carried to him, soft and hypnotic, as the Company was gifted with elven cloaks fastened with the delicate leaf-shaped brooches of green and silver. “May these cloaks shield you from unfriendly eyes.”

Each was also presented with a special gift destined to aid them in their journey at the proper time.

As the remaining members of the Fellowship gathered in the boats Frodo clutched the little crystal phial the Lady had given him, and pondered her words once more.

I give you the light of Earendil, our most beloved star. May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out. Remember Galadriel and her Mirror!

A black mood threatened to consume him whole. Frodo could do nothing other than stare straight ahead, a frozen figure shrouded in the silence of his own despair as the little boat was propelled away. The quiet conversation around him seemed to come from a great distance. He was drowning in a tidal wave of sadness once more. Gandalf. His long time friend and mentor. His thoughts swirled as he remembered bits of their last conversations. Bittersweet memories embraced him. Frodo felt his consciousness retreating, his thoughts turning inward, growing apart from the others even as he tried to fight his way back.

The day was long and tiring. It seemed traveling by boat was every bit as wearisome and uncomfortable as traveling afoot. The gray winter lands lay barren and mournful along their path. The only living things they saw were birds. Frodo shivered. He had imagined that heading south would bring them into warmth, and the greening of the grass as well as the sight of blooms of every description. Instead, all his eyes beheld were bare trees and overcast sky. The depression loomed as a great black nothingness. He knew if he allowed it to descend he would be smothered alive.

He looked to Aragorn, his question was plain in the puzzled expression in his eyes. Aragorn smiled gently.

“We have not journeyed far south yet, and here the world is cold until the sudden spring.” He reached over and touched the Ring-bearer’s shoulder in empathy. “Do not fear. Spring will indeed come to this land again.”

Frodo attempted to smile but the gesture was too great an effort. He flicked his eyes at Sam before focusing his attention once more on the barren landscape. Sam glanced about, his sense of unease growing as he maintained a quiet vigil over his friend.

How they longed to stand and stretch their legs! At last, Aragorn directed Legolas and Boromir to follow his lead to the shore where they could take respite from the long ride and prepare the evening meal. Merry and Pippin tumbled out of the boats, happy to be free again.

Sam followed more slowly, offering his hand to Frodo as they rose from their seats. Frodo accepted it numbly, staring up into his friend’s face with slightly unfocused eyes. Sam frowned in concern and waited for Aragorn and the others to finish dragging the boats ashore before speaking. He left Frodo and sought out the Ranger who was now unloading provisions and placing them on the ground near where they would soon build a fire.


Aragorn looked up and frowned. “Sam? Is something the matter?”

“Aye, something’s the matter all right.”

“What is it?”

Sam glanced back uneasily before continuing. “It’s Mr Frodo. He’s hardly spoken since he talked with the Lady last evening.”

Aragorn also looked over at the figure of the huddled Ring-bearer, slumped on the rock where Sam had left him. He was doing nothing except staring at the ground. He looked back at Sam questioningly. “When did he speak with Lady Galadriel?”

“Late last night. We were sleeping and I woke up just as he was coming back. He seemed…well, disturbed. Restless. He wouldn’t tell me anything about what she’d said to him. ‘Go to sleep, Sam.’ That’s all he’d say.”

Aragorn sighed. “I will speak with him. Perhaps he is contemplating what happened in the mines.” He looked around at the small company as they hurried about making camp. “We are all suffering the loss of Gandalf. Frodo feels it perhaps even more keenly than the rest of us. He needs some time, Sam.”

“Aye, and I understand that Strider. But I’m telling you, it’s more than that. Something happened during that conversation last night, something was said that changed his feelings and has got him even more upset. I can feel it, I tell you.”

Aragorn studied the distraught hobbit before placing a hand on his shoulder. “I will speak with him, Samwise. Never fear.”

Sam nodded gratefully.

Aragorn stood and gestured to the dwarf. “Gimli.”

Gimli trotted over to him. “What is it?”

“Would you mind taking over here for me for a time? I need to tend to Frodo and it appears it cannot wait. I would be most grateful if you would assist Legolas in unloading the boats whilst Boromir helps the little ones gather wood and gets the fire going.”

“Aye, that’s no problem Aragorn. You just go ahead and tend to the wee one all you need to now. I’ll keep this group in order while you’re gone.”

Aragorn couldn’t help smiling. “Thank you, Master Dwarf. I shall be in your debt.” He bowed slightly.

“Sure, don’t mention it. Just share some of that pipeweed with me tonight, will you?” Gimli chuckled as he ambled back to the boat.

Aragorn approached Frodo quietly. The Ring-bearer looked up into the gray eyes when he came to a stop at his side. “Come,” he said, extending a hand. Frodo took it without protest and rose. He followed at the Ranger’s side as they headed for a more private place to talk.

After a few moments of silence Frodo spoke. “I know what you would say. Sam is worried about me because I’ve been quiet.”

Aragorn did not answer right away. Instead he guided the halfling to a sheltered place further away from the others and sat on some fallen logs. He beckoned Frodo to join him. “I have also noticed your reluctance to speak, little one. I know you are mourning the loss of Gandalf, just as we all are.”

Frodo focused his huge blue eyes on him and smiled sadly. “Yes.”

“You must find the strength within yourself to go on. Gandalf would have wanted that.”

“I have not halted the journey, have I Aragorn?”

Aragorn hesitated. “No,” he said slowly. However, your well-being is uppermost in my mind. It is obvious you are in no small amount of distress. I would ease that discomfort for you if I knew but how to go about it.”

“Thank you for your concern. I think my cousins and Sam might benefit from your ministrations more than I.”

“What do you mean?”

“I am alone, Aragorn. There is a part of myself deep inside that is holding on for dearest life at the moment. I am the only one who is able to reach down and prevent that portion of my being from diminishing completely.” He smiled sadly, his grief-stricken eyes reflecting his inner misery. “And that is what I am trying to do. Hence, my quiet demeanor. I must find the well of strength within myself in order to continue. That is no small task. Sam simply cannot understand.”

Frodo stood and began to pace. “I have only begun to realize the magnitude of the demands set upon me and I question my ability to meet them. Once again we are laid bare to the horrors of the Dark Lord now that we have left Lothlorien. And I know now exactly what it will mean if I fail in my task.” He stopped and looked closely at Aragorn. “I must come to grips with that knowledge. Do you understand?”

“Yes. Frodo, this realization you have come to, is it due to the conversation you shared with the Lady Galadriel last night?”

Frodo was quiet for a long moment, studying Aragorn with intense eyes. “Yes,” he answered finally. “It is because of that I now realize the full horror of what it is we face. And what will occur if I should fail.” He took a deep breathe and threw his head back, searching the evening sky as if the answers lay somewhere in that direction. He allowed the air to escape his lungs as he turned to look at Aragorn once more. “She bade me look into her Mirror and I saw terrible visions of what may come to pass if Sauron’s power is not quelled.”

Aragorn regarded him with deep compassion. The Ringbearer’s suffering was a tangible thing, and grim to behold. “Frodo, do not lose sight of the fact that we all must help one another. As alone as you are feeling at this moment, you are never truly without someone to turn to. Allow us to share our own grief as well as our strength with you. Your cousins are also having a difficult time. Particularly young Pippin. I believe he blames himself. And Merry is sick with worry over both of you.”

Frodo looked up sharply. “What makes you think Pippin is blaming himself?”

“I overheard him talking to Merry. He feels that if he had not dropped that stone down the well then the orcs would not have been alerted to our presence. Remember, Gandalf was furious with him. Pippin has taken that to heart and it is eating away at him. Your distress is only adding to his guilt.”

“He is not to blame.”

“Of course not.”

“I’ll speak with him.”

“Excellent. I think it will do you both good.” Aragorn stood and placed his hand on Frodo’s shoulder. He gave it a firm squeeze. “Come then, let us return to camp.”

They walked slowly back, both of them deep in thought and prepared for the long night ahead. A gentle rain that would soon turn into a downpour had begun to fall. Frodo huddled wordlessly among his kin, considering what he might say to Pippin to ease his mind.

He was running, from what it was not clear. Darkness surrounded him, the blackness unlike any he had beheld in his brief years. Ahead, there was darkness. Below, there was more darkness and a great yawning depth waiting to swallow him whole if fate should allow it. Behind him was the worst of all. A great shadow of doom pursued him, one that threatened to envelope him in its black arms and squeeze his very life away in one great choking gasp. In his hand he grasped a golden ring. He squeezed it so tightly it tore at the flesh of his fingers and made them bleed. He raised the ring to his eyes and attempted to decipher the elvish script. Slowing a bit in his retreat he found that if he looked at the writing for long enough he was able to understand its meaning and everything began to make sense to him. He realized quickly that he had tarried too long as a great storming surge of fire caught up and rained its painful embers down upon him. It began to burn, but the fire was cold, oh so cold, like ice! It drove into his body stinging and searing, reaching for his very soul. He must escape! He must…It hurt. It was drawing the very life away from him, drowning him. He looked ahead and saw the burning eye of Sauron…

“Ahhhh! Get away from me, get away do you hear! I won’t go with you! Let me be--”

“Frodo! Frodo, are you all right? Here now, stop! Come back!” Sam was up, wide awake and in wild pursuit of the wayward Ringbearer as he took off across the muddy ground running very fast toward the hill that loomed ahead in their path. Splashing muck up to his knees Sam soon caught up to his friend and tackled him bodily to stop his progress toward greater danger in the rocks ahead. They went down with a huge sploosh in the sucking mud and Frodo found he was suddenly aware of what was happening.

“Frodo! You’re bleeding.” Sam reached out and took the injured hand in his own, oblivious to the chilling rain and his own discomfort.

“Just like in my dream.” Frodo, dazed and a bit uncomprehending held up his hand and turned it this way and that, watching in fascination as the blood dripped from the small cut on his right index finger.

Aragorn was reaching them just now. He wrapped his own cloak about Frodo as Boromir caught up and did the same for Sam, hugging him to his body for warmth and then swinging him easily up into his arms. He followed Aragorn as he whisked the Ringbearer back to their makeshift shelter as quickly as possible, catching the concerned look on the faces of the elf and dwarf as he bent to enter the little overhanging space beneath the great rock.

Frodo’s kinfolk watched him with deep concern as the men helped to dry him and Sam and clean off the worst of the mud, then wrapping them tightly in blankets for warmth. Aragorn took Frodo’s cold hand to inspect the tiny laceration, holding it up to the moonlight and turning it this way and that.

“The bleeding has stopped. You must have cut it when you went down on the rocks. At least it is a very minor injury.” Aragorn looked closely at Frodo, studying his face in concern. “What was that all about? Were you dreaming?”

Frodo drew his hand back and murmured, “I am quite all right, thank you.” He looked around at all the concerned expressions. “I am fine. Do not trouble yourselves.”

“Don’t trouble ourselves? Frodo, you went tearing out of here madly in your sleep and tried to run away! Don’t you think we’re the least bit worried about you?” Merry cried.

“Aye, you resembled a streak of lightning running so fast up the hill Frodo! And all that yelling – you sounded as if a banshee was at your back, about to scoop you up and carry you away!” Pippin crept closer to his cousin.

Sam was watching Frodo with worry. He huddled closer and opened his blanket to afford his friend some additional warmth. “You need to get some more rest, Mr Frodo. Come, lay back down and we’ll dry out together.” Sam attempted to get him to settle in but Frodo was resistant.

“I don’t know if I can sleep any more tonight.” Frodo pulled his own blanket around himself and drew his knees up to his chin, shivering slightly, the remnants of his bad dream overshadowing his mood just as surely as the gray clouds in the night sky.

“Tis very early in the night, Frodo.” Legolas’s voice was gentle. “You need more rest.” He acknowledged his comrades with a nod. “We all do. Come, let us make the effort.” Carefully, he pushed the hobbit down onto the bed of blankets and began tucking him in, urging Sam to curl up next to him and indicating to Merry and Pippin to join them. “You and Sam got the most soaking. You need to dry off or you’ll become ill.”

Frodo attempted to protest when he was stopped in mid sentence by the stern voice of the Ranger. “Listen to Legolas, Frodo. He speaks the truth.”

The Ringbearer said no more, he simply allowed the ministrations of his companions and settled in amongst them. He was certain he would sleep no more that night, however it wasn’t long before he began to doze and soon gave in helplessly to slumber once more, his rest blissfully dreamless.

Frodo awoke to the sound of quiet weeping. He turned carefully in the direction of the sobs and placed his arm about his youngest cousin. “Pippin, what’s wrong? What is troubling you so?”

The little one looked at him with mournful eyes. “You’re having dreadful nightmares Frodo, and it’s all my fault.” Pippin buried his face under his arm.

“What? How is that your fault? Pippin, answer me!” Frodo gave him a little shake.

Pippin pulled his arm away and stared. “Because, Gandalf is gone and it’s my fault he got killed and now you’re having a more difficult time and, and--”

“Hush Pippin. Gandalf’s death is not your fault. It was an accident.”

“My fault!” Pippin’s sobs grew louder, awaking the others. Frodo sat up and drew him into his arms, cradling the curly head against his chest and rocking him gently. Tears began to stream down his face and he looked helplessly at Merry.

Aragorn hurried over to them from where he had been standing watch. Merry had crawled into the little heap and was desperately trying to comfort both of his cousins. Sam threw an arm around Frodo’s thin shoulders as he held Pippin.

“Here now, ‘tis all right.” Aragorn soothed them all with his gentle tones. “It is no one’s doing that Gandalf is gone from us save for that horrible creature who pursued us.”

“Aye, that’s true. Don’t you keep fretting. “Twas none of our doing at all. “Twas the Balrog.” Gimli’s gruff voice interjected.

The horrible memory of Gandalf’s fall descended on the Company like a black cloak, it’s recollection gripping them in its dark hold for an intense moment and taking their breath away.

Gimli was the first to shake off the sense of dread. “About time for me to take over the next watch, Aragorn. Go ahead and get some rest.” Aragorn tilted his head in acceptance of the dwarf’s words and headed for his bedroll.

Frodo eased his cousin gently back down into his blankets and placed a protective arm around the still whimpering lad. Exhaustion finally overtook them all once more and they slept.

As the Company settled down Gimli paced restlessly near the water. The remainder of his watch passed without event and he woke Boromir at the appointed hour. Boromir rose quietly and retrieved his sword. He stretched mightily and inspected the landscape with a critical eye. Seeing nothing of concern he casually walked the perimeter, stopping occasionally to peer into the woods. All was quiet.

Several hours later the Ringbearer began to stir in his sleep once more. The nightmare was just beginning.

He was alone, so alone. It was quiet, so very still. He glanced around frantically. A thought occurred to him. I’m dead! I must be dead else it would not be so still and dark and cold. He shuddered feeling tears rolling down his face. So sad. It’s not my time. It wasn’t Gandalf’s time either. As he remembered the horror of their loss a dark shadow appeared ahead of him. He studied the form keenly. Gandalf? Gandalf! Not yet! I want to be with my family, he railed against the oppressing darkness. My cousins need me! I cannot let this be the end! I must go on. He fought hard against the crawling blackness, struggling valiantly as it pushed over him, crushing out his last breath—

“Nooooo!” The scream of terror woke them all. Frodo found he was wrapped tightly in his blanket and could not move. Sweat poured off his brow and he trembled with the remnant of his nightmare as he attempted to shake off the dread and escape from his prison of bedding. Familiar faces surrounded him, concerned.

“I, I’m sorry,” he whispered, mortified that his night terrors had disturbed them again. Frodo began to weep uncontrollably, small shoulders shaking, his head in his hands.

Sam enveloped him in a hug of fierce protection. “There, Mr Frodo. You’re all right now. You’re here with us. We won’t allow anything to harm you.”

Pippin crawled bodily over Sam to join in the embrace and Merry scooted closer. Frodo found he was cocooned in a circle of comforting hugs and warmth. He looked up to find Aragorn watching him kindly. He smiled sadly and then reached to peel Pippin off his neck.

“Are you going to be all right Frodo? Oh my, you scared us so bad! That bloodcurdling scream was awful.”

“I’m sorry, Pip.” Frodo regarded them with a weak smile. “Thank you all once more for your concern. I am…better now. My apologies for waking you once again.” He shook his head.

Aragorn took Frodo’s hand and spoke softly. “The ring is compounding your emotions, Frodo. Remember, it feeds on negative feelings and you are so filled with emotion I fear it is responsible for the night terrors you have been suffering.” He took a deep breath and added, “It may grow worse as we draw nearer to our destination.”

Frodo studied the Ranger’s face for a long moment. “I had wondered if that might be so. It is really not a great surprise.” He sat up straighter and faced them all. “Never fear. I will endure. I promise you all.”

“And we will all be here to assist you,” Aragorn laid a gentle hand upon his shoulder and gazed about the circle of worried faces. “Now, once more we must attempt to gain some additional rest. Lay down Frodo. Sam, stay close if you please. Merry and Pippin, back to bed now.”

As the Company settled in once more Aragorn took up the watch at the side of the river. Legolas joined him and they stood gazing across the water in companionable silence for a time. Aragorn spoke at last.

“I am afraid I will be unable to get back to sleep.”

The elf nodded in understanding. “Shall we share the watch then?”

His companion tilted his head in agreement and indicated the path that lay around the edge of the woods. “Walk with me.”

They walked for a time before Aragorn spoke once more. “Frodo was chosen for this task for a purpose. I have faith he will accomplish what he has set out to do.”

“As do I. However, he will face many trying challenges along the way, as we all shall. And his kin now realize that much more is at risk than they knew before. They are finding his dreams most distressing. They must learn to trust in their own instincts if we are to remain strong and whole.”

“That is very true. In spite of their youth I believe it is a blessing that Frodo’s kin accompanied him on this journey. Concern for their well-being motivates Frodo’s will to succeed.”


The Ring-bearer tossed restlessly in his sleep for the second time and then quieted. A calm seemed to come over him at last and he actually smiled in his dream.

The shadows parted and the clouds in the overcast gray sky lifted to reveal the dawning sun. Light filled his being and he sighed softly. The Lady Galadriel bent and brushed a stray lock of dark hair from his brow, her golden radiance lighting his dream from within. Frodo reached up to her and she caressed his hand and then held it against her silken cheek, bestowing a kiss upon the small fingers. Frodo’s face lit up with joy as he spied Gandalf standing next to her wearing a flowing white robe. The wizard raised an ivory staff in supplication.

Frodo was lulled compassionately back to sleep within his dream, feeling cradled in protection as if he were a newborn babe. The remainder of his night passed without fear or dread.

The Fellowship awakened to the first sunny day they had seen since departing from Lothlorien. The brief respite of a cloudless morning was a balm for their souls. Smiles appeared on faces that had been mournful and solemn only a few short hours before.

“Why, it reminds me of the first day of spring in the Shire. Almost,” Sam corrected himself. “Leastways, it is good to see the sun at last.”

“Indeed, that is an understatement Samwise!” Aragorn agreed heartily as the Company prepared for the day’s journey.

“This reminds me of when we celebrated the Winter-Fylleth, early in our journey.” Sam added.

“Aye, more turning points Frodo!”

“But now we’re looking ahead to Astron. Rather than the coming of winter, which will soon be in the past, we are looking ahead to the rebirth of spring,” Sam said.

“But you’re right Pip. More turning points,” Merry agreed.

“Is anything the matter Frodo?” Sam watched his friend with concern.

“Oh, I was just thinking about the meaning of turning points Sam. It’s odd because we are actually traveling toward a greater darkness in Mordor. I don’t feel much like divination at the moment.” Frodo’s smile faded a bit despite the positive words.

Merry patted his cousin on the shoulder. “But also remember that the solstice is about the celebration of the cycles of nature. A positive thing. Why, it’s a reaffirmation that life continues! And that spring always follows winter,” he added more quietly, gazing meaningfully into Frodo’s eyes.

His cousin smiled slightly. It was difficult if not nigh impossible to fool Merry.

“And with the spring comes regeneration of life. And a renewal of strength and resolve.”

Frodo looked around at the Fellowship and straightened his shoulders, smiling slightly. “Come, let us begin a new day.”

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