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Just One Drop

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Greetings! This story is a re-written version of a very old fanfiction of mine. My very first LotR fic, it went on unintentional hiatus for many years (many many years) but with all the excitement about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey I sat down one day a month or so ago and marathoned all the extended editions of The Lord of the Rings. As I did I couldn't help but think about this story, the one I'd left hanging for years. I went back and re-read it, and realized that I could make it better.

So I rewrote it, added more detail, changed the title. The plot stayed the same, but I was able to flesh out the chapters more.

Originally it was born out of a crazy idea to attempt a sequel. So without further ado, here is the first chapter of my re-written story. I hope you enjoy it.

Aragorn, son of Arathorn, King of Gondor, was standing on a parapet overlooking Minas Tirith, the jewel of Gondor. The city spread out before him; the white stone shining even in the darkness of night, lit by the softly glowing torches of the city, which cast a gentle illumination over the beginning of the Pellenor Fields before the city's gates. Every now and then Aragorn caught the quiet noises of the city guard's patrol, or a snatch of laughter on the breeze. The city was thriving again – a creature that had once lain dormant for a long time, it was again full of life and bustle. 

Aragorn's gaze swept the darkened landscape. The plains of Gondor stretched away to his right, and the last mountains of Ered Nimrais, the mountain range that formed the border between Gondor and Rohan, were on his left. Across from him, the Pellenor Fields stretched to the ruins of Osgiliath. Aragorn could only just, and with great difficulty, see the abandoned city that spanned the river. He was committed to re-building and re-populating the area, but had been working on Minas Tirith in the meantime. Osgiliath was next to be cleansed of Mordor's taint. Beyond the once-proud city of men, the Mountains of Shadow that bordered that evil land rose, intimidating, in the distance.

The king's gaze lingered for a moment on the mountains. Memories of events that had happened a year ago, events that had changed him and his friends forever, filtered into his mind. The battles that seemed hopeless; the unending waves of Orcs and Uruk-Hai snarling a hair's breath from him. Having to watch friends suffer, injured, and the constant worry about two little Hobbits, alone in the dark lands, who could not know how much they were thought of, prayed for. Watching good men die, seeing glory and splendour replaced with sadness and loss of hope. Sometimes, evil memories appeared in nightmare, other times, it was merely reduced to a feeling of unease towards Mordor.

But it was all over now. The Ring had been destroyed – two Hobbits who did what armies could not have achieved – the battles won, injuries healed. Friends who had not survived were mourned. And he had taken his rightful place as King of Gondor.

Aragorn was jerked from his reverie by something that chilled him to the soul. A flash of red lightning, above the Mountains of Shadow. Coming from Mordor. The clouds were so thick it was only seen for the barest instant, a sudden streak of colour in the night sky.

He stared the mountains, searching for another flash of red. Aragorn knew it could only mean one thing – Orodruin, Mount Doom, was active…after a year of lying dormant after its destruction when the Ring was destroyed. But that was not all. The flash of red, seen through the gap in the cloud, had illuminated something else. The edge of a colossal black tower; spiked and evil silhouetted against the flame. Another flash of red confirmed his worst fears.

Aragorn turned hurriedly from the parapet and strode inside, trying to keep calm. He knew he must ride now for Rivendell – and not entrust another soul with this task. Gandalf and Elrond had to be alerted as soon as possible, and he would go. Alone he could travel faster and cover more ground; even if it was 'improper' for a King to do so. He went to wake his wife, and tell her what was happening. Arwen could easily take care of the city while he was on this errand.

Somehow, Barad-Dur was rebuilt.

Sauron laughed again, his spiked helmet thrown back in glee. Frodo was unable to move – through his own fear or a spell he did not know – as the figure was dragged before him, thrown roughly to the ground. Frodo cried out to his friend, who pushed himself up only to be run through with Sauron's sword. Frodo cried out again, as the blood covered his hands…

Frodo woke, pale and covered in a sheen of sweat. He had often had nightmares, after returning from the Quest. Lately, they were becoming more and more vivid, worse, and almost more real. The feeling of unease that accompanied them in waking no longer faded after a few minutes, but persisted throughout most of the morning. And he could never go back to sleep after them.

This one had been the worst for a while. Frodo could never remember the nightmares in full detail, often he could only remember part of them if any at all. They all ran along the same theme: Mordor. Each time, he was confronted by Sauron, and each time, someone he knew and cared for was killed in front of him. The person changed – Sam, Merry, Pippin, Aragorn, Gandalf, Legolas…

This time, it had been Aragorn, cast before him on the rough ground. But this dream had also been the most vivid. He could hear the sounds of the sword being slid out of a scabbard, hear the echoingly nauseating sound of Sauron's laugh, feel Aragorn's blood on his hands; see everything so clearly as he watched his friend die.

It's gone. Frodo thought to himself, trying to calm his racing heart and fast breathing. It was destroyed, Mordor is ruined, and Sauron is gone. It's over.

Feeling a little more in control, Frodo looked out the window. Pale colours were appearing in the sky, heralding the new day - it was dawn. Frodo lay back onto his pillow. As he did, a searing pain shot through his left shoulder – the same place as ever, where he had been stabbed by the Morgul blade on Weathertop. He cursed in pain, gritting his teeth against it so as not to cry out a second time.

There was a knock on the door a moment later, and Sam appeared, looking slightly worried. "Are you all right?"

Frodo shook his head, a hand pressed over his burning scar, as his friend came over. "It's the Morgul wound," he sighed through gritted teeth. "It's worse than...ever before."

Sam's face grew more worried. Gently, he reached around Frodo's neck and drew out the Evenstar from under his friend's nightshirt. "Take it. Remember what Lady Arwen said."

Nodding, Frodo grasped the pendant. Almost immediately, the pain lessened, and his breathing eased. Feeling the cool metal and bright white crystals between his fingers, Frodo closed his eyes. "I remember. 'When the memory of the fear and darkness troubles you, this will bring you aid,' is what she said." The worst of the pain passed, and Frodo opened his eyes, looking at Sam. "But there's one thing I don't understand," he said slowly. "It's mid March. I fell ill on the thirteenth, from Shelob's sting, but that has nothing to do with my shoulder wound…why is it acting up now?"

Sam shrugged. He had never been sure about any of these 'magical' and 'cursed' wounds. They were too complicated for him. "Well, if you're that concerned, Mr. Frodo, we can talk about it later today with Master Merry and Master Pippin. They're coming to visit, remember?"

Frodo nodded, the last of the pain ebbing away. "That's true. I can't help but think something's wrong."

Merry frowned as he listened to Frodo's story of what had happened in the early hours of that morning. "I don't know. Nothings been out of place; I mean, there have been no strangers in the Shire like last time, or anything hinting to it. Not that I've heard." He idly scratched the back of his neck. "I could double check with the gate staff to be sure."

The four of them were walking across some fields not far from Bag End. The day was clear and warm, by all rights a perfect day. Yet the faces of the four Hobbits were serious, as they considered matters far beyond their own lands – something that had made their kin even more wary of them, the four 'Travellers' who were involved too much in things that shouldn't concern Hobbits.

"What about Gandalf?" asked Pippin. "Have you heard from him?"

Frodo considered this. "No, and that's a good point. Gandalf would surely tell us if anything was wrong."

Frodo had been mulling away on what this could mean all day. He couldn't think why his wound might be hurting now, there was no reason for it to. The date was wrong, the Nazgul were destroyed – all his usual triggers were unaccountable.

"Anyway, Aragorn's King of Gondor. He'd stop Mordor," stated Pippin, drawing himself up proudly and tapping his Gondorian gauntlet. Merry rolled his eyes, pointing at his own Rohirric gauntlet in challenge. Pippin turned back to Frodo, serious again. "And, he'd probably be the first to know – considering how close Minas Tirith is."

"There's another thought, Frodo. Don't go getting worried if nothing's happening." Merry smiled at his elder cousin.

Frodo smiled back, though it faded. It was difficult to explain how much this worried him – he knew his wound well by now, and this was definitely out of the ordinary. "It still doesn't answer the question of why my shoulder was hurting."

Pippin shrugged, kicking at a flower. "Maybe it was just a twinge?"

"Maybe. But I think..."

"Think what?" Pippin interrupted, knowing Frodo's habit of verbally dancing around the point.

Frodo shrugged. "It might sound worrisome, but I think it's linked. To what, I don't know, but every time…." Frodo stopped speaking with a sharp intake of breath, pressing a hand to his shoulder.

"Again?" asked Sam gently.

Frodo nodded, slowly breathing out. "Not as bad as before." He was about to reach for the Evenstar, when the pain vanished. He took his hand away from his shoulder. "That's odd. It's stopped hurting. Just…suddenly. It's never done that before." Frodo shrugged. "I wonder what's wrong, if anything?"

In the moment of silence that followed Frodo's question, there was a sound from far-off. A sound straight from nightmares and shadow, that chilled all four Hobbits to the bone and they all looked at one another, fearful and worried.

"I don't believe it," Pippin whispered.

"Believe it!" said Sam, searching the skies. "There's only one creature who makes a noise like that! Run!"

He pointed behind them, where a black shape on the horizon was growing larger with each passing moment. The Hobbits ran for the safety of Bag End, back the way they had come.

Merry tripped over a lose stone. Frodo ran back to help him, realising that the Nazgul was so close he could almost see it in perfect detail. The hands – or what were akin to hands – gloved in sharp metal, the black cowl that surrounded darkness, the gleam of a sword-hilt.  He pulled Merry up and ran beside him. They were within a hundred meters of Bag End when the Nazgul's steed swooped down and grabbed Frodo in its claws.

"Frodo!" yelled Merry. He whistled shrilly as the Fell Beast began to turn. "Sam! Pippin!"

Sam appeared beside him, holding Sting. "Frodo! Catch!"

He threw the sword, in its scabbard toward the slowly rising Nazgul. Frodo twisted in its claw and caught Sting, drawing the blade in.

"By Elbereth, let me go!"

Sting bit deep into the Fell Beast's leg, and black blood spilled onto the elven blade. The creature shrieked and let Frodo go. Frodo dropped from the claws, landed heavily on a haystack, and promptly rolled off, winding himself. Dazed, he struggled to his feet as the Nazgul screeched and swooped again, but a shaft of white light made it wheel away, back to the East, the way it had come. Frodo leaned against the haystack, his head spinning.

"Frodo! Frodo!"

He could hear the sound of people coming across the grass in his direction. Dizzy, due to lack of breath, he slowly opened his eyes. His vision was slightly blurred, but he could make out shapes coming towards him.

Sam was the first to reach him. "Frodo! Are you ok?"

"I believe so. Just a little dizzy, and a little sore." He rested a hand on Sam's shoulder, reassuring his friend who was justifiably worried.

Merry and Pippin arrived almost after Sam. "What did you do?"

"Slashed its leg. Sting cut deep, and it let me go. I dropped Sting when I fell."

"It's here," another voice said. Frodo looked up to see Aragorn holding Sting, hilt first, towards him. Frodo reached out and took the sword from him, noting the sticky black blood on the blade and wiping it off on the nearby haystack.  "Thank you, Sire."

Aragorn sighed at his Hobbit friend's formality. "Do not call me that! None of you need to."

"And here is the scabbard, Frodo," said Faramir, who had come up on the other side of Frodo. Frodo took it gratefully and carefully slid the now-clean blade back inside. "Thank you, Faramir. But…what are you doing here?"

Aragorn and Faramir exchanged a glance. Frodo sighed inwardly – such a glance could not mean anything positive.

"I think it best if we go inside. Gandalf and Legolas are waiting."

Frodo blinked in surprise. "Gandalf's with you?" Something surfaced from his memory. "Of course, the white light. That was him, wasn't it?"

Aragorn nodded. "It was. He and Legolas await us, there is much to discuss." He watched as Frodo gently pushed himself off the haystack. "You are fit to walk, Master Baggins?"

Frodo smiled at him. "I'm fine, thank you, Sire."

Together the six walked across the last stretch of field to Bag End. Inside, Gandalf looked as at home as ever leaning on the mantle, but Frodo couldn't help but be the smallest bit amused by Legolas's height making him a far more awkward guest as he leaned against a clear patch of wall. Frodo's amusement faded when he noticed how serious they both looked.

Gandalf smiled broadly when they entered. "Frodo my lad, you're alright. That was some quick thinking of you," he said as he knelt down and momentarily embraced his small friend.

"It was Sam, really. He had the idea to get Sting."

Gandalf turned to Sam, who looked sheepish. "Then thank you Samwise, for some quick thinking when a friend was in danger." Sam muttered something in reply as Gandalf stood straight and surveyed them all. He sighed heavily, deciding not to engage in small talk as time was of the essence.

"You all need to come to Rivendell."

"To Rivendell? Why?" Asked Pippin.

"Because evil is again in Mordor." He sighed again. "I wish I was here on a better errand. But things are in motion and we must answer them. You four are heroes of the War of the Ring; and you represent the Halflings, and so are required for the Council. But furthermore, we think we know what is happening and it concerns you all personally."

Okay, so there's the first chapter. Drop me a comment, it would make my day!