Stories of Arda Home Page
About Us News Resources Login Become a member Help Search

Fear  by Ariel

Chapter 3 - Screaming

It seemed only an instant later but Frodo knew something was different.  He was no longer falling, but the plunging feeling was still gripping his stomach.  His head was resting on someone's shoulder and hurt horribly.  They were walking quickly and each jostling step sent more waves of pain through him.  He tried to open his eyes, but the brightness confused him.  His whole world seemed to be jerking past in halting half turns.  The only thing that he could see clearly was the trail falling sickeningly away and he was suddenly gripped with a wild fear.  He was going to fall again!  He cried out and struggled to turn his face into the chest of the one who held him, away from the sight of the roiling ground, but whoever it was who held him seemed unwilling to provide this simple comfort.  His captor kept a hand on the back of Frodo's head, keeping his face turned so that it dangled in mid air above what seemed a cavernous space of spinning air.  Hanging that way made his head hurt even worse, and the fear of falling churned the pit of his stomach.  Oh, but he was miserable. 


"…, help me!  He's about to…"  The words filtered into Frodo's tortured brain, but he could make no sense of them.  The one who held him spun him around and put him on his feet.  For a brief moment, Frodo was standing shakily and then he threw up. His caretaker wrapped an arm across his chest as he retched and leaned his body over it.  His legs buckled as the spasms of vomiting shook him but the arm held him up.  Frodo felt he was leaning over a precipice and the only thing keeping him from toppling into the depths was that arm and it held him none too closely.  His head had hurt before, but now it felt like it was splitting in half.  The agony of it blotted out every other sensation.  Even before he had finished heaving, he began to scream, but the sound that came forth, a haunting monotone wail, sounded odd even to his ears.  It was the best he could do; a scream that really echoed the depths of his terror would have hurt his head too much, but for some reason once he started the pitiful, monotonous howling, he could not stop.


Seredic knew what was coming, he felt it in the tensing of the child's stomach muscles, and was prepared.  He dropped Frodo onto his feet, though to keep him standing, he had to support his whole weight.  The boy was trembling, his eyes were closed and his skin was a damp, pasty white.  Seredic aimed his face away and jerked back his feet just in time to avoid getting vomit on his toes.  Frodo's legs buckled the moment he started heaving but Seredic had him securely as he hung, convulsing, off the older boy's arm.  Seredic had fallen of the roof off one of the outbuildings when he was 12, so he knew what Frodo probably felt like.  It had worried him when Frodo didn't even flinch during the splinting process but throwing up was normal for an injury like this and the fact that Frodo was doing so was actually encouraging.  The boy might not be in great shape but at least he wasn't about to expire in his arms. 

"You done?" Seredic asked with joking fondness but no lack of empathy.  "No more surprises?"  The tiny child hung limply off his arm but still twitched with heaves.  Seredic touched the back of his head gently.  "It's O.K. - you'll be all right."  Frodo's hair seemed wet and when Seredic looked at his hand he saw it was from blood.  The whole back of Frodo's head was soaked with it.  Chilling realization swallowed any relief Seredic might have begun to feel and just as the dread began to fill him, Frodo began to wail. 

It was an eerie call, half howl, half scream, but completely wretched and pitiful; one long, pain-ridden tone that neither wavered nor fell.  The child paused only to take a breath before beginning another cry in the same haunted monotone.  Seredic snatched him up and he and Milo began to jog even faster towards the Hall.  Frodo kept wailing, seemingly oblivious to anything around him.  The cry he made was the kind a desperately wounded animal would make, the kind that ran up your spine and froze your blood, the kind you could understand instinctively even if you had never heard a hobbit make such a sound; here was a creature in agony.

While he screamed, his head didn't hurt so much, but the moment he stopped, the pain redoubled.  He dreaded even pausing for a breath, the agony in his head seemed to wait for those moments to torment him, so he kept on screaming.  It was a focus, a guide - something he could control while his world spun crazily around him.  Bright sun, and then dappled shade.  His stomach lurched again but there was nothing left to expel.  Oh, why were they holding him this way?  He wanted desperately to feel safe, held close in the soft protection of his mother's embrace.  Even with the pain, he would have felt far less desperately terrified with her loving arms tight about him. 


Bright sun again, and this time it was more than a brief flash of light through the trees.  The whir of color around him changed to bright green.  The outer fields.  They were nearing… what?  Strangely, he could not make his mind remember where he was.  The pain blocked out everything.  He held on to his wail until he was completely out of breath and at the last possible moment drew another to renew it.  The agony was almost unbearable - and even the keening cry was losing its effectiveness.  He closed his eyes and screamed. 


Primula was hanging wash in the bright morning sunlight; Drogo's deep green brocaded waistcoat, Frodo's little white night shirt, her own sunny yellow petticoat - the tidy labors of washday morning.  It was hard work, but at least there were only the three of them in her family to do laundry for.  She smoothed the careful stitching on a little pair of breeches.  In time, she hoped, the job would be a larger one.  There had been two children so far; one, a daughter, who did not survive her birth, and her son, Frodo.  She clipped the pants to the line and the wind lifted them.  Frodo was 8 years old now, but she still felt the loss of his sister keenly.  His coming so soon after eased the ache, but there still remained a hole in her heart.  It was perhaps because Primula had already lost one child that she had always been so careful with her son.  He was all she had.  She and Drogo had been trying for another child for a couple of years, but, as yet, they had not been successful. 

She wiped her hands on her apron to dry them as the last of the bedsheets caught the summer breeze.  Menegilda, her sister in law and undisputed head of the ladies of Brandy Hall, contended that it was just a matter of patience to be gotten with child - that if Primula kept herself busy and didn't dwell on the problem, she would be pregnant again before she knew it.  Menegilda had not had difficulty in that regard and Primula hoped she was right.  The nightshirt fluttered in the light breeze and caressed her cheek.  She had chosen the fabric carefully; a wool that was blended with finest cotton to give it softness.  Only the best for her little princeling.  She smiled, remembering the feeling of his small hands on her cheeks, his jam covered lips giving her a happy good-bye kiss before going off to play in the hall.  He might have been her one and her only - but Primula knew she couldn't have asked for a more perfect child.

A sound broke her bittersweet reverie; faint, but growing, and it chilled her despite the sunlit morning.  The strain was weak and barely discernable as it rose on the wind, but her body reacted to it, freezing still and tensing, before her mind fully registered what it was.  As it grew and came closer, Primula gasped in terror.  Her heart began to thud heavily in her chest.  Fear ran like ice water through her veins.  It was an eerie, heartaching call but Primula knew it was a hobbit - and that made it all the more terrible.  Whoever it was was dreadfully wounded and in immeasurable pain.  It sounded too high and clear for an adult voice.  A child then, and this was no scraped knee that would be eased with a well placed kiss.  This was a grave hurt, and deadly.  The cry rose a bit as the wind dropped and Primula reeled.  Yes, it was a child, and the sudden realization struck her like a physical blow.  It was her son who was screaming.

Primula had never in her life felt such a surge of pure, primal fear grip her and it spurred her to frantic action.  Wash abandoned, reverie forgotten, she ran towards the source of the sound as fast as her bare feet would carry her.  Buckland was a narrow strip of land between the High Hay and the Brandywine but it was quite long.  The sound seemed to becoming from away north.  She ran through her family's tobacco field, heedless of the valuable young plants and swerved almost blindly through the stanchions.  Field hands busily attaching shade nets to the weathered frames had paused and were staring off towards the wood.  The sound was getting both closer and weaker.  Suddenly she saw two hobbits emerging from the edge of the trees carrying a small child in their arms.  Primula's heart, already beating rapidly with fear and exertion, seized painfully and she sprang forward with a hysterical cry.  She could see her nephew Seredic's face now.  It was sorrowful and ashen and when he looked up and saw her approaching, he blanched even paler.

"NO….!" Primula screamed as she rushed towards them.  Her tears fell heedless and her breath came in great trembling gasps as she stumbled to Seredic's side.  She cradled her son's pale cheek and his blue eyes fluttered a bit, but still he howled.  The sound faded as he ran out of breath, but he drew in another and continued, oblivious to her touch.  "What happened?!" Primula demanded with a trembling, grief broken voice and taking his small face in both her hands.  His left eye was beginning to swell shut and there was dried blood caked on his face from a bloody nose and cut eyebrow.  His bright eyes, half lidded, would not focus on her.  The icy cold terror clenched Primula's belly and she started shaking.  Though she was no healer, she could sense the chill of death stealing upon her son.  She had seen it before, had felt the helpless fury and blind agony of its cruel touch, but this time it would not take her only child from her without a fight.

A female voice, far away but coming closer.  The sound made Frodo pause in his cries, but the pain returned again and he was obliged to continue.  He heard weeping.  The female voice was nearly hysterical, but something about it comforted him.  Other voices were speaking but he could no longer even pick out the words.  The pain was getting worse and the fog in his brain thicker.  His world still spun in curiously dizzying, half halting turns, but the edges of things he could see and hear were dimming.  If only the pain would recede as his other senses were.


"We don't rightly know, Aunt Prim."  Seredic explained, his voice subdued and anxious as he answered her question.  Primula reached for Frodo and Seredic gratefully passed the child into her arms.  "Milo saw him fall out of one of those old oaks by the High Hay - not more than 10 minutes ago - but we don't know why or how bad he is hurt."  Seredic held up his right hand guiltily; it was still covered with blood.  "He's got a cut on the back of his head too, and what felt like the beginnings of heck of a lump, and his arm's broken, I'm sure."  Primula stared at the smear of blood that spread from the neck of Seredic's waistcoat across his bare shoulder.  That was her son's blood.  The icy knot of fear stabbed at her again and she felt her heart stumble.  Death would not take this one too.  She could not let it.  She took her son's still screaming, rigid body and settled him protectively against her breast.  He responded at last.  With a soft sigh, he gave up his cries and relaxed.  His eyes were half open as he curled against her but closed even as she watched.  He was badly hurt but he knew her and welcomed her embrace.  Primula desperately grabbed at that small sign.  He knew her.  It gave her hope - something she sorely needed right now.  Frodo's uninjured arm curled around her waist and he clung to her tightly.

He was being moved.  Other hands held him and cradled him close to a warm, soft bosom.  Mother!  He could smell her curious musky scent - part chamomile, part lye soap and sunshine, part mysterious warm earth - finally she held him close and he felt his fears fade.  He cried once more, but softly and sank against her body, grateful for safety at last. 


 "We doctored his arm as best we could," Seredic gestured towards the splint and his own shirtless state, "But I'm no healer." 

Primula pulled her apron up like a sling and tucked it around Frodo's small body.  "I'm no healer either but we must find one, and quick!"  She looked down at his small pale face where it lay in the crook of her arm.  His brow was still creased, as if in pain, but the tenseness was slowly leaving his body.  Bit by bit he was easing his grip, loosening his hold on her and on his own consciousness.  She denied the debilitating panic that rose in her.  He knew her.  He would be all right if she got him to the healer.  What she needed was cool efficiency.  Her son was endangered.  This was no time to lose her head. 

"We sent Darroc for a healer before we started back," Milo offered.  "And Marmadas to get Drogo."  Primula nodded to him and turned on her heel heading back to the Hall as fast as she could walk.  The boys jogged behind her.

"I told Darroc to find Daisy Burrows, if he can, Aunt Prim," said Seredic. "Rather than old Doc Clearwater.  I…I hope that was right?"  At Primula's brisk nod, Seredic smiled gratefully.  "I know you like her and she's ever so much better with the children - but there are some I know who'd want the Doc anyway, him being a learned gentleman and all."

Primula quickened her pace. "Doc Clearwater's been treating Brandybucks for fifty years," she said.  "But I agree with you.  Daisy is better with children,… and Doc Clearwater can be… a bit old fashioned."  She hiked up her grip on her child.  Frodo was dead weight now, his un-splinted arm hanging loose and slapping her side was she strode.  She held onto him desperately and tried not to think what his unresponsiveness might mean.  "I think you did right by asking for her, Seredic."

The pain did not go away even with the comfort of the warm flesh against his cheek.  He was safe but not whole.  He wondered what might be wrong with him, but even forming these thoughts caused agony, so he abandoned the effort.  What he knew was that the arms around him meant comfort and the gentle rocking movement would lead to a place of warmth and security.  It did not matter how he knew either of these things.  A yawning darkness was filling the space around his mind but in it he felt a taste of relief.  It was the first thing that had eased the dreadful pain even a little.  He reached for it gratefully….


<< Back

Next >>

Leave Review
Home     Search     Chapter List