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Caught Between the Light and Dark  by Budgielover

Disclaimer: The Lord of the Rings and all its characters and settings are the property of the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien, New Line Cinemas, and their licensees. These works were produced with admiration and respect, as fan fiction for entertainment purposes only, not for sale or profit. This story and all my others may be found on my website,  My thanks to my dear Marigold for the beta.

Caught Between the Light and Dark

Chapter One

Two small, curly heads peered over the lip of the steep embankment, joined a moment later by a third. The yelp that had shocked the hobbits from their stumbling, half-asleep march still lingered in the cold, pre-dawn air, its shrill echoes fading as it reverberated amongst the winding gorges. Three sets of hobbit hands clenched the edge of the cliff as their owners flung themselves flat to peer down into the crevasse. Dust was still billowing up from the fourth’s sudden, involuntary descent down the almost sheer slope. A heartbeat later, two larger heads joined them, one dark and one blond, then three more, these sporting beards of varying lengths.

Frodo closed his eyes and dug his hands into the shallow dirt coating the cliff wall against which he leaned, his feet precariously balanced on a narrow rock shelf that jutted less than a foot out from the stone wall. His heels hung over the precipice. Loose soil crumbled under his fingernails, drifting down to pepper the top of his feet. Trying to calm the panicked beating of his heart, he raised his head and squinted up the sheer wall. "Would anyone else care to look?" the hobbit asked with resignation. "Bill, perhaps?"

One of the smaller heads, glinting bronze in the faint pre-dawn light, leaned out a little farther. Merry latched onto the hood of Pippin’s cloak and pulled him back against a tree standing almost at the edge, choking his younger cousin. "Not so close to the edge, Pip! Do you want to fall off too?"

"Gaaack!" Pippin coughed, rubbing his throat reproachfully. He wriggled free and deliberately inched closer to the lip to exacerbate his cousin’s dislike of heights, grinning over his shoulder at Merry. Turning back to the settling dust, he called down in gleefully disingenuous tones, "Why did you fall down the cliff, Frodo?"

Midway down the almost vertical cliff-face and with his face forced against the wall, Frodo resisted the urge to kick the rock before him and ground his teeth. He looked up at the line of heads that were gazing down on him. "I didn’t intend to," he gritted out. "I slipped."

"Likely not watching where he was walking," remarked Merry cheerfully with a poke to his cousin’s ribs.

"I heard that, Meriadoc!"

"Are you all right, Mr. Frodo?"

Frodo sighed again and sagged against the wall, taking mental inventory of the scrapes and friction-burns he was beginning to feel. The chasm in which he so unexpectedly found himself was deep but very narrow, a crack in the earth that resembled the letter "V." From where he perched on the ledge, the opposite wall loomed less than two yards away. The wall was being cast into shadow by the sun’s ascent and the light overhead was bright and burning to dark-accustomed eyes.

The Fellowship had walked through the night, and all were weary. It was that fatigue, Frodo decided, that had dulled his normal alertness and caused him to misstep. He had been struggling to hide his exhaustion from the others, though he doubted he had managed to deceive either Aragorn or Gandalf. He harbored no hopes of fooling Sam.

"Perfectly, Sam. No damage done." He looked up again and blinked against the sharp division of light and shadow above him. It was perhaps fourteen feet up to the flat ground where the rest of the Fellowship stared down at him with varying expressions of concern, amusement, exasperation and irritation. The wall was too vertical for him to climb and completely lacking in convenient handholds or small stunted bushes for pulling himself up. Except for a thick thatch of scrub growing against the opposite wall almost directly across from him, that side of the crevasse was likewise barren of strongly rooted shrubs or projections. His luck hadn’t changed any since their departure from Imladris, Frodo thought dismally. It was all bad.

"Are you sure, sir?"

Frodo sighed and rubbed his forehead tiredly, smearing a thick band of dust across his brow. He had better speak up or his friend would no doubt be down after him. "Other than being stuck on a little rocky shelf about a foot wide above what appears to be a bottomless ravine, just fine. Would you please throw down a rope, Sam?"

"Shall we?" asked Merry, sitting up on his knees to look at the others. "He’s being sarcastic."

"Enough, Merry," said Gandalf. Merry grimaced as the wizard leaned over him to peer down, using Merry’s shoulder as a support. Gandalf straightened with an aggravated sigh. "Samwise, would you be good enough to toss Frodo a rope?"

Sam climbed upright, shuffling his feet, getting dust in his foot-hair. "Er … Mr. Gandalf, sir, I … I don’t have any rope." Finding himself the sudden center of attention, Sam blushed in mortification. Gimli made a contemplative rumbling sound, stamped over to a boulder and laid his great axe against it. Sitting himself down, he turned to watch the silent landscape, obviously settling himself in for a wait.

Leaving the guard to the dwarf, Gandalf turned back to Sam. "No rope? How can you not have any rope?" The wizard’s bushy eyebrows were raised in disbelief, and annoyance glinted in his sharp blue eyes. Boromir and Legolas looked taken aback; Sam’s efficiency had been demonstrated time and time again, and this lapse was surprising.

"I didn’t see there weren’t any till I was finishing the packs," Sam explained miserably. "And then we had to go … and it was too late ‘ta get any before we left Rivendell."

"Let’s go back!" enthused Pippin. "With only short rests, we could be there in a few days. To get the rope, of course," he added hurriedly when Gandalf glared at him. "And have a decent meal or two," he finished in an aside to Merry, who nodded, but without much hope.

"What is going on up there?"

Aragorn leaned out and called, "Just a moment, Frodo. We have a minor problem." From where he knelt, the Ranger could see the top of the Ring-bearer’s dark head and the pale oval of his raised face. Aragorn leaned out farther, one hand steadying himself against a tree growing near the edge to avoid repeating the hobbit’s misfortune. He could see that Frodo’s feet were now turned sideways and the hobbit was straining to press back against the rock wall. Knowing how hobbits dislike heights, the man grieved for him.

Frodo had seen the movement above him. He attempted to lean back to see the others better, resulting in a small cascade of loose stones and dirt down the steep cliff side. The hobbit hastily pulled back against the cliff, closing his eyes with a shudder. The ledge on which he stood was perhaps four feet long in length, jutting from the wall at one end and abruptly breaking off at the other end. It looked as if a boulder had loosened from the top and come down on it, long ago. The small ledge was the only projection that Aragorn could see on either side of the steeply sloping walls.

"What problem? What is happening up there?"

"Nothing to worry about, Frodo. We’ll be with you directly."

From below them came a muttered grumble that human ears could not make out, but elven and hobbit ears could. Merry and Pippin grinned. Legolas seemed amused, while Sam looked woeful. "We could tie our cloaks together, sir," the poor hobbit continued, waving his hands about vaguely. "Or maybe find a long branch for him to climb up … or something…"

"I don’t want to use my cloak," Merry commented. "It’s mid-winter and freezing out here. And I wouldn’t suggest asking Frodo to climb up a long branch," he continued loudly, his eyes sparkling, "you know how he tends to fall off things. Out of trees, over cliffs—"

"Or trip over pebbles or his own two feet—or air," contributed Pippin happily, raising his voice to make certain that Frodo heard. Assured that their cousin was unharmed and in no danger, the two young hobbits’ weariness was forgotten as they delighted in the opportunity to taunt their cousin without the possibility of immediate retribution.

"You two stop that!" Sam scolded. "Ain’t he embarrassed enough? We should have been watching him closer." Frodo groaned and rested his forehead against the cool rock.

Cautioning the remaining hobbits to be careful, the Big People withdrew a few feet from the cliff’s edge to discuss the situation.The slanting rays of the rising sun were casting the small ledge into shadow and the two younger ones were having difficulty seeing their cousin. Frodo was now only an indistinct shape against the rock; his upturned face and white hands splayed against the rock all that was visible of him.

That face was distinctly annoyed, even in the gloomy light. "I’m cold," Frodo complained. "I daren’t wiggle around to get into my pack for a blanket. And I’m hungry. Sam, would you throw me down some bread, please?"

"I have some boiled sweets, Frodo," Pippin called down before Sam could reply. Before the others could stop him, he dived a hand into a pocket, took aim and let fly.


"Sorry! Sorry!"

Sam captured Pippin’s hand firmly as the tweenager took more careful aim with a second sweet. "That’s good of you, sir, but I think Mr. Frodo would rather have a piece o’ bread for breakfast. Or cheese. Or anything else."

"Considering it was Frodo," Gandalf sighed as the others clustered around him, "I suppose we are fortunate that he did not fall all the way to the bottom or impale himself upon a tree, or break his leg upon the ledge or some other absurd accident."

"I heard that!"

Ignoring the conversation behind him (in which Pippin was now offering to pelt his cousin with tomatoes or a nice boiled potato and Frodo was threatening instant doom if he did so), Boromir remarked, "Perhaps I could climb down to him and bear him up on my back. I have done some mountain climbing and know the use of crampons and climbing spikes."

"We have neither of those," retorted Gandalf testily, "nor any means to make them."

Aragorn pondered a moment. "Master Gimli, could you shape Bill’s extra horseshoes into crampons?" Glad of having a task to perform, Sam scurried over to the patiently standing pony and rummaged through the saddlebags, emerging with a shoe. He hurried back to the seated dwarf and pushed it into Gimli’s grasp.

The dwarf considered, turning the heavy metal shoe over in his thick hands. "Aye, with a proper forge and hammer," the dwarf responded. "Not out here in the wild." Discouraged, Sam returned the shoe to the saddlebags.

"Ridiculous hobbit," Gandalf growled, jabbing his staff into the earth to emphasize his irritation. "How shall we get him out of there?" Legolas smiled, his eyes on the staff. "What?" asked Gandalf warily, following the Wood-elf’s gaze.

"Your staff, Mithrandir. It is of good, stout wood. Surely it would not break under the weight of one small halfling—and a slim one at that."

"It would not be long enough," Gimli objected, keeping his gaze on the surrounding countryside.

"Frodo could jump for it," suggested Aragorn. "If he could catch the larger end and hold on till he could get both hands on it, we could pull him up."

"Or he could miss, and fall into the ravine," Gandalf countered. "Or catch the end and then fall, probably taking my staff with him. Do not forget that his shoulder is not fully healed. Frodo is not as strong as he was before the Ring-wraith’s attack. I would not see him injured further." The wizard’s fingers slid over the rough, gnarled wood thoughtfully. "Nevertheless, I can think of no better plan. Let us try." With a grunt, Gandalf folded himself to his knees then stretched out by the two young hobbits.

"Frodo," the wizard called, "I am going to lower my staff. Can you jump and catch the end of it?"

"I’d really rather not," Frodo replied from the deepening shadow. "I can’t see very well down here until the sun climbs higher."

"That is a high jump from such a narrow ledge," Merry said seriously. "I don’t think this is a good idea, Gandalf."

"Do you have a better?" the wizard asked sharply. Merry shook his head. Aragorn and Boromir again lay themselves flat on each side of the wizard and clamped a hand on the staff as it was lowered, ready to add their strength to his in hauling the hobbit up. Displaced by the men, the three hobbits fanned out to each side of them. Legolas exchanged a glance with Gimli, then the Elf positioned himself to the rear, prepared to leap forward and pull anyone back who overreached himself.

Frodo had no room to step back, but he did achieve a good height from a standing leap. His fingers brushed under the staff, not touching but close. He landed hard and immediately threw his weight forward against the wall. Another cascade of small stones and soil rattled loose under his feet and were lost to the growing darkness. As one, the Fellowship held its breath and listened. The miniature landslide did not strike bottom for many long moments.

"It’s no good!" Frodo called up breathlessly. "I can’t reach it. And I’m afraid to try again. I don’t know how sturdy this ledge is."

"Very well, Frodo," Gandalf called back. "It was a good effort," he said to the others as he rose stiffly to his feet, "but I fear we will have to fish him out. Unpack the blankets, Samwise, and we’ll tie them together."

"I have an idea." Aragorn walked to the edge again and stood frowning for a moment. "Legolas," the Ranger asked, "could you fire your arrows to build a stair up the opposite side of the crevasse wall?"

It was the Elf’s turn to consider. "Some will have to be shot at a very close angle, Aragorn." Legolas knelt gracefully next to Merry and regarded the sloping side thoughtfully.

Merry rocked back on his knees and glanced up at him, his face calculating. "If they strike rock, they will bounce off and be lost."

The Elf nodded. "I fear so. And if they do not penetrate deeply enough, they may dislodge when Frodo steps upon them. One of us larger folk could not do it, but perhaps a hobbit could." Legolas reached over his shoulder and effortlessly retrieved an arrow, flexing it between his hands as his keen gaze gauged the opposite wall. "It is a good thing hobbits do not weigh much. I believe it could be done."

Aragorn moved to stand beside him, resting a hand on the Elf’s shoulder as he leaned over the edge. The sun was above the horizon now, filling the sky with glorious yellows and oranges and reds even as it threw the gap below them into deep shadow. "Frodo," the Ranger called, "Legolas is going to fire arrows into the opposite wall to build a stair. You will have to leap across to the far wall and use them to pull yourself up. Can you do this?"

"I am surprised you would trust me not to fling myself into this bottomless pit," grumbled Frodo’s voice from the growing shadow. "Considering you lot think I can’t walk without falling over."

Pippin leaned farther out, unable to resist. "We don’t think that, Cousin!" he shouted down cheerfully. "We don’t think you are accident-prone, or anything like that. These things just happen to you, don’t they?"

A martyred sigh was the only response to this question. "Peregrin," Gandalf snapped, "stop that. Be quiet." Grinning, Pippin scooted back.

"Frodo," Aragorn called, "It is probably only five or six feet to the wall opposite you. I know hobbits are agile—you should be able to leap and turn without difficulty. And if you fall—well, perhaps it is not so far to the bottom." The Ranger’s weak attempt at humor fell flat. Sam was giving him an unfriendly look. Aragorn sighed and turned back to the featureless shadow that now hid the unfortunate Ring-bearer.

"Frodo, I know you will not fall." Silence greeted this. "Frodo," called Aragorn again, a note of apology in his voice, "it is not such a far leap to the other wall. I know you can do it."

No response.



"Frodo! Answer me!"

* TBC *


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