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Sacrament

by Ladyhawk Baggins and CRB

25 August 1421sr continued...

From the kitchen hearth Frodo heard a sound that was unfamiliar, coming from the master bedroom. It was Lily -- was it? He walked, then ran down the long hallway.

Before he reached the door he heard her scream, a scream full of agony. By the time he reached the bedroom, he found her holding the wall near the bed, bent double, her eyes shut tight. Desperation seized him.

“Lily!”

Frodo tried to lift her up. She seemed fixed in place. Her eyes remained shut.

“Lily! Lily, what is the matter?”

“Oh -- Frodo!” Each syllable seemed to be torn from her. She opened her eyes for an instant, and he saw there a beseeching, terrified plea. But just as quickly she shut them again, tightly. She was holding her breath.

Frodo took her shoulders gently and again attempted to lift her, hoping to get her into the bed. She was pushing the left side of her body against the wall and her legs had crumpled underneath her.

“No, no! -- don’t, please, I cannot move--”

Frodo dropped down next to her, his eyes wide with fear.

“Lily! What is it? Did you have a fall?”

“No--” her voice was cut off, again, it seemed to Frodo, by pain. But what was it?

“Where is your pain? Please let me help you, Lily!”

“Frodo- please get Ro-” Lily whispered, and then she gasped for air and a terrible heartrending cry came from her, so full of agony that it was like a spike being driven into his soul.

This was a nightmare. He tried to think. He was trying to breathe for her; she was holding her breath for so very long! How to ease this?

“Rosie!” she cried, grasping at Frodo with her right hand, her left still pressed hard against the wall.

Frodo spoke as calmly as he could; but it was a false calm.

“I will get Rosie, Lily. Right away. Now please let me help you to lie down--”

“No! No! I cannot! -- I cannot move--” Her eyes opened, but they were glazed with pain. Just as before, she shut them again quickly and appeared to be fighting some sort of internal battle.

The horrible thought of miscarriage took shape in his mind. No. No. He was terrified. He had to get help, but leaving her alone like this--!

“I’m going now, Lily. I shall be back quickly.” More false calm.

She nodded once, her eyes closed.

He turned and ran out of the smial. The beautiful September morning, the sun and the fresh air, mocked him.

“SAM! SAM!!”

Frodo did not care if all the world was awakened. He reached Sam’s door and pounded on it.

“SAM!!”

He tried the knob, but at that instant it turned of its own accord and the door opened so suddenly that Frodo nearly fell inside; Sam caught him.

He saw fear in Frodo’s eyes, fear and pain such as he had not seen since Mordor.

“Master Frodo, what’s the matt-”

“Get Rosie, now, Sam, please, Lily needs her; I don’t know what is wrong! I think she may be losing the child!”

“Rosie!” cried Sam sharply, running back into his kitchen.

Rosie emerged quickly from the back of the smial in her dressing gown. Elanor was in her arms.

“Rosie, please go with Frodo; it’s Lily. It’s bad; she’s asking for you.” Sam took the babe from her. “We’ll follow right behind you. Go.”

Rosie looked first at Frodo, breathless and pale, then at Sam. He seemed calm but his face gave away his concern.

She spoke evenly and calmly. “Sam -- first send Tom Cotton to fetch Mrs. Chubb over to Bag End, as fast as he can get her there.”

Then she turned and followed Frodo out the door. He took her hand, and they ran. Rosie’s heart was racing with fear. There was only one reason for Lily to ask for her help in this way. And she was in her seventh month...

They reached Lily quickly. She had moved only a little, from the wall down to the floor. She was lying on her left side, her back to the wall, and curled up like a child.

Her breathing was ragged, and without warning she screamed, tearing him apart.

“Lily!”

Frodo had known the depths of helplessness, but this felt different. He got down on the floor and took her face in his hands gently so that she could see him, his own breathing coming fast, and not only from the sprint he had made. He forced calm into his tone.

“Lily, Rosie is here. You see, darling, here she is.”

He put Rosie’s warm hand on Lily’s cold one. Rosie moved very close to her, and Frodo allowed her room.

Rosie put her hand on Lily’s upturned shoulder. “Lily, dear, this is Rosie. Now listen to me – take a deep breath for me.”

Lily tried. She opened her eyes and took fast, deep, ragged breaths. Her face was a mirror of pain.

Frodo sat against the wall, next to his young wife, and gently lifted her head into his lap. Without looking up, Lily immediately reached her right hand above her head to clutch at him. He met her right hand with his left, palm to palm, and their fingers locked. Her grip was strong and vise-like. She screamed again, and Frodo willed himself not to break down completely. Tears streamed down his cheeks. He touched her forehead gently with his right hand and leaned over, tears spilling into her hair.

“Lily -- dear, we are here. We have sent for the midwife.”

Where was the midwife?

Rosie spoke calmly and slowly, with a firm tone, into Lily’s right ear. “Lily. Hold on to Frodo’s hand and breathe more slowly, dear. Slow your breathing down. You need to calm your body as best you can.”

Lily attempted this and seemed to have some success after several moments. It seemed to require all her concentration.

When Rosie was satisfied with this, she got up and went quickly to the kitchen, found the hot water that Frodo had set on the grate for tea, and wet a small towel, allowing it to cool a little as she made her way back to the couple.

She knelt down next to Lily and gently wiped her face with the towel, then folded it and laid it on her forehead. Lily’s auburn hair lay in damp ringlets on Frodo’s lap. She closed her eyes again and took more deep breaths, more slowly now, but still ragged. Frodo saw now that her pain seemed to come in waves, like ripples in a lake, and with each wave she was fighting something.

“You are doing just as Rosie says, my love. You are doing so well.” He continued to stroke her hair.

Where was the midwife?

When the next wave came, Lily seemed more prepared for it, and she closed her eyes again as hard as she could. She pushed her hand with all her might against Frodo’s. He had to brace himself a little, to hold them steady. He looked up, toward the heavens. This could not be happening! Gandalf! Elbereth! Ilúvatar, Ilúvatar! Please, not this!

The midwife entered then, without knocking. Sam followed close behind, Elanor in his arms. He stopped when he saw the scene before him. He came no closer, but spoke quietly.

“Frodo.”

Frodo looked up at them. Rosie did not, her attention fixed upon her attempts to comfort Lily. She whispered low, reminding Lily to try to breathe slowly.

Sam’s beloved voice broke into Frodo’s tortured thoughts.

“Mrs. Chubb’s here now, sir. And I’ve sent Tom for Gandalf, Mr. Frodo. He’s not far; he’s in Bywater. And after Gandalf, he’s going on to Deephallow to fetch Daisy and Hal; I thought you’d want that. I’m going to the kitchen now... Can I fetch you anything, master, or anything for Miss Lily?”

Frodo looked up for only a moment. “No, Sam. Thank you.” Sam, dear Sam, always his strength and help...

Rosie stepped away from Lily’s side and followed her husband out of the room, stopping to take the babe from Sam’s arms on the way. Elanor began to cry a little, the sound fading to nothing as they walked down the long hall to the kitchen. When they got there, Elanor began to cry in earnest in Rosie’s arms. Sam took one of her little feet into his large brown hand, tickling it. He smiled into her face, into the large brown eyes, full of a babe’s quick tears. Elanor’s frown began to change to a smile as Sam worked his magic on her, speaking in a sing-song voice.

“Here’s our little hungry hobbit-lass, now! You’ve missed first breakfast, have you?”

Elanor giggled back at him, a smile crinkling her face, her hunger forgotten for the moment. Her tears were already gone, vanishing as fast as they had appeared. Sam found Frodo’s rocking-chair and set it next to the warm kitchen hearth. Rosie sat down and put the babe to her breast. As Elanor lapsed into contented suckling, Sam stood behind the chair, looking down on them, then put his warm hands on Rosie’s shoulders. Rosie burst into tears and cried softly, rocking Elanor. Poor Lily. Poor child. Poor Sam. Poor Frodo...

The child was soon asleep in Rosie’s arms, unaware of her mother’s distress. Sam kissed them both; first Elanor’s cheek, then Rosie’s golden hair, before leaving to see to his master.

Mrs. Chubb knelt next to Lily, and took hold of her left hand, which lay clenched into a fist on the slight swelling of her womb. Without looking up, she said to Frodo, “Please tell me all that you have seen this morning, and leave out no detail.”

Frodo told her the story in short bursts, trying to control himself. He needed to show strength for Lily, whatever was happening. Sam returned, entering silently.

Mrs. Chubb nodded as Frodo finished the story. “We must get her into the bed now.” Addressing Lily directly, her voice was firm and kind: “Lily, we are going to pick you up now, and put you into the bed. It will take only a moment.”

Lily’s only response was a whimper, her eyes still shut tightly.

Frodo and Sam gently lifted Lily onto the bed. Between the two of them they were able to support her body completely. She was still curled up, unable to relax her limbs or her body. Mrs. Chubb slowly and lightly began to rub the tense limbs, murmuring little words to help her to relax. She glanced at Frodo to do the same, and he began to assist. Sam stood by, waiting.

When they had managed to relax her somewhat, Mrs. Chubb took the bright white coverlet and pulled it over Lily to keep her warm. It was the coverlet that Lily had made for Frodo with her skilled hands, a wedding gift to them both. Frodo now saw a bright scarlet circle forming near her legs on the coverlet, very dark against the white. The circle grew in size even as he watched it. He turned away from it, getting down to his knees to put his face nearer to Lily’s. He took her left hand in both of his, kissed her hair, then lay his forehead on the bed’s edge.

Mrs. Chubb spoke, not unkindly. Her work was almost always joyful; today it would not be so. “Mr. Baggins, Mr. Gamgee, you’d best leave for a few moments. I can help her just a little now, but you shouldn’t be here. Please fetch me some hot water and have Mrs. Gamgee bring it in -- and some clean linen towels.”

Frodo did not care for the look he saw on the midwife’s face. He gently placed Lily’s hand back down on the bright white coverlet. The creeping scarlet stain was already larger. Even in his ignorance of these matters he could see what was happening.

“What can be done for her?” His voice rang hollowly in his ears.

“Mr. Baggins, I wish well and truly that I could give you good news. The child has miscarried. I’ll try to help her deliver it. It probably won’t be too very long from now. The child may take a few breaths, for a little time, but it’ll be too small to thrive. Our hope is to stop your lady’s bleeding, sir, but even now I should not like to deceive you. It’s rare indeed for this sort of bleeding to stop. We might be able to comfort some of her pain with medicinals. This is a terrible painful thing for a hobbit-lass. Oft-times ‘tis more painful than delivering a babe at the full term. I’m very sorry, sir. I so wish that I had better news for you. These things just happen sometimes, and there’s no rhyme or reason to it.”

Frodo was only able to stare at her, struck dumb as he was. Sam led him out of the room to the hall, and shut the door behind them. Frodo half-sat and half-fell to a sitting position on the floor next to the door.

“I’m gong to fetch Rosie and get Elanor down to a nap, and the hot water and towels for Mrs. Chubb, and then some athelas from the back garden, Mr. Frodo. It will refresh Miss Lily, and -- the babe too. And you. I’ll get you a chair.”

“Thank you, Sam.” Frodo was not sure what Sam had said; and Sam was already out of his sight.

His world was ending. He faintly heard the midwife speaking to Lily, softly, then heard more screaming. He could not bear it. He began to cry in earnest, but silently, his head in his hands. He thought of Mordor, but this was different. This was her misery, their misery, and there was nothing he could do to stop it.

I have killed her, he thought. I have killed the dearest person that I know, the person I love most on earth. I was the elder of us. I knew better; I knew that I would never live very much longer in Middle-Earth, and I tried to tell her. I should have turned her away before we ever started. I was the elder; I was responsible. She is dying now, and now the babe -- our own child! And it need never have been this way, if I had been stronger at the first. She would have found someone else. She would have married, and had many children; she’d have lived a long and happy. I have killed her.

The shadow crept stealthily into his soul. This is my punishment for my weakness and my lack of any bit of thought. This is my punishment for not being able to throw the Ring into the fire. If I wasn’t able to give it up, I should have thrown myself into the fires, and the Ring with me.

He was not aware of Rosie as she took hot water and linens into the room.

After a time -- how long, he could not say -- Lily screamed again, so heartrending a scream that it brought him instantly to his feet. He turned to the door like a person in a sleepwalk. Let me in! he thought. Please let me in! He stretched his arms upon the door, as if lying prone, and lay his cheek against it, closing his eyes against the sting of hot tears.

Sam appeared, with a chair hanging on one arm and a bowl of steaming water in the other. He put the chair down next to Frodo.

“Mr. Frodo, please sit down. You’re white as a sheet.” Sam put the bowl down on the floor and gently pushed Frodo into the chair. He did not resist.

“I have killed her, Sam. I have killed my beautiful Lily, my life, my love. I have killed her, and our child.” His eyes were open, but saw nothing.

“Mr. Frodo, I know what you’re thinking. It ain’t the truth... Please don’t think like that, Mr. Frodo, please. Lily loves you. She’d be hurt if she knew you were thinking such thoughts. I don’t know why this happened. It isn’t fair. I don’t understand a bit of it. But you’re not to blame, Mr. Frodo! And Miss Lily loves you with her whole heart, and you know it well.”

“I wish Gandalf were here, Sam. He would know what to do.”

“He’ll be here before you know it, Mr. Frodo.”

Sam and Frodo then heard a faint tiny sound, like that of a tiny kitten -- neither of them could place it. Mrs. Chubb quietly opened the door behind them.

“Come in now, Mr. Baggins, and Mr. Gamgee as well, if Mr. Baggins is agreeable to it.”

Frodo only had to look at Sam to invite him in. They heard a warm and old voice behind them, soft.

“I am sorry to be so late, my son.”

Frodo turned at the sound of that well-loved voice. He threw himself into Gandalf’s arms, and wept. Gandalf put his long arms around the small hobbit.

“Hush. Hush, Frodo. Let us go out for just a moment. We must not disturb their rest. Come, Sam.”

Mrs. Chubb looked more than a little angry. “There’s not much time left, Mr. Baggins,” she called after them, her voice soft, but stern.

Sam shut the door again as the three of them stood in the long hallway.

Sam looked up at the wizard, a strained note in his voice. “I wished you could’ve been here sooner, Mr. Gandalf. Maybe you could’ve saved her. And the babe.”

Frodo still stood in Gandalf’s arms, his head buried in the folds of his long white robes.

“This is her time, Sam,” said the wizard. “And the child’s.”

Sam could not hide his impatience. “How do you know that, sir?”

Frodo pulled away and looked up at the old wizard’s face. Gandalf’s eyes were kind, as ever.

“I am given the gift of sight now and then by the Valar. We can comfort her, and the sooner the better, and the child, but time is short. Compose yourself, Frodo. She will need cheer from you. There will be time for grief afterward. I am sorry.”

Without a word they returned to the room. Rosie was standing at the foot of the bed, holding a very tiny bundle of blankets in her arms. There seemed to be nothing in it. Gandalf with a look told Frodo to visit the child first.

“It is a maidchild, Frodo,” Rosie whispered, then sealed her lips tightly, and tears welled in her eyes. She handed the bundle to Frodo. He took it gingerly, so as not to hurt the child.

He heard Mrs. Chubb’s voice, very quiet in the near-silence of the room. “Only whisper soft as you can to her, sir. When they’re too small like this, it seems they can’t take in more than one thing at one time. No loud noises. Hold her close to your heart. They like the sound of it. They’re used to that, from being close to it in the womb. Hold her warm and snug, don’t be afraid... that’s right. And she might know your voice, Mr. Baggins. They do know the mother’s voice, even by this month. And the father’s, too.”

Sam was placing the hot water on the bed-stead on Lily’s side. He took athelas leaves from his rough shirt-pocket and crushed them with his fingers, the wondrous fragrance of it filling the room. Then he dropped the leaves into the steaming water, and comfort seemed to enter them.

Frodo felt that he was able to think more clearly than he had for hours. He was able to follow the midwife’s direction. He looked down into the tiniest, tiniest face. Her eyes were closed. The tips of her ears were so delicate; such beautiful tiny curves and tips! The soft blanket was wrapped very snugly around her. A tiny fist -- oh how small and how perfect! -- emerged from the blanket, waving away, the little fingers clenched. She had perfect tiny fingernails. How odd, he thought. Already to have them. So small...

He remembered to hold her close against his heart. It would not be hard for her to feel it, he thought wildly to himself. His heart was nearly racing out of his chest, pounding as it was. Perhaps it would frighten her! He held his breath, afraid to speak. What could he say to her? I love you, he thought. I love you, my own. Tears were falling on the poor babe’s head. As gently as he could, for fear of upsetting her, he touched his lips to the tears, so that they would not run into her little closed eyes. She stirred, barely, and seemed to cough, if it could be called that. She was turning blue. He could see it now. She could not breathe. He steeled himself to stay quietly with her, to make no sound, no alarm. She seemed to lay a little more peacefully. The colour became a deeper blue. No, she was turning now to white. Pale, pale white. Her life was gone. Gone.

An anguished cry, as of one being stabbed, escaped Frodo, despite his best efforts to quell it.

“Oh, Gandalf! Sam!” He held the bundle deeper into him, crying over her little body. Why, Why?

They were just behind him. Gandalf took the child from Frodo’s stricken, stiff arms. He murmured a blessing over the child and held it.

“Frodo, go to Lily now. Her time is not long.”

That was Gandalf’s voice. Frodo obeyed, like a soldier following a command, without thought. Sam was guiding him, though, with his arm. Dear Sam. Where had he come from? He fought with darkness.

Sam placed Frodo by Lily’s side. Frodo sat down on the edge of their bed, the bed in which the child had been conceived, and then took her cold hands in his and kissed them, very hard. Why, she needed warmth! That was all! Nothing more!

“She needs warmth only! Bring more blankets!” he cried aloud. Frodo’s eyes were bright. Why did no one respond?

Mrs. Chubb glided up to him. “I’m so sorry, sir. It’s too late for all that. I don’t think you have much time left, begging your pardon, sir. Your wife can still hear you, and maybe see a little. But hearing is the last to go.”

He kissed her pale cheek. It had not much warmth at all in it. Her hair was wet still, and her silken skin was damp.

“Lily. Lily.” What to say. He kissed her mouth, gently, as if to wake her. “You look so beautiful this morning. I love you so much.” He smiled for her, and his heart leapt with hope as her eyes opened a little. A tiny smile appeared. She seemed free of her earlier pain. Her eyes began to search his face, but it was clear to him that she was not able to see well.

“Frodo! How are you, my dearest? And why do you have tears? Your eyes are that other colour, you have been crying, my love... have you seen the child? Is -- is she not lovely?” She closed her eyes. Speaking took too much effort. The smile was still on her face.

His heart was breaking. He reached down close and spoke into her ear. “Yes, Lily, she is very beautiful, and these are only tears of joy, dearest. You have done so well. The child is resting now.” Lies. He hated lying to her. There had never been any need, before this, for any lies between them.

Lily shivered, her entire body suddenly trembling. “Oh, Frodo, I am so cold!” she murmured, her eyes still closed.

As quickly as he could, Frodo climbed under the coverlet and laid himself up against his wife’s trembling form. He turned her gently to him and put his arms around her, in an effort to warm her, and held her very close. She was so very cold. He struggled to maintain his composure.

He whispered in her ear, kissing her gently after he spoke. “Is it better now, Lily?”

“Yes... oh...” She could not seem to open her eyes.

He felt her begin to slip away.

“I love you so,” she said. “Thank -- thank you for our child...” She tried to form another word, but was not able to say whatever she had intended. Frodo held her more closely still, tears running down his face and onto hers.

“Lily, don’t go. I need you.”

But she seemed to have fallen asleep, still with a slight peaceful smile on her face. Sam, watching them, had seen that look of peace before, on Frodo, when the Ring had been destroyed. All burdens lifted.

Frodo sat up slowly in the bed and lifted her into his arms. She was gone. He had to hold her head against his shoulder. He rocked her body, as a mother rocks a sleeping child. Now the tears came in earnest, great crashing waves of them, so like another night long ago, when Lily had held him tightly in her arms, like an anchor in a storm.

But these were tears of great bitterness. Joy had left him.

It was three o’clock on September 2, 1421.

---------

“Frodo! Frodo?”

A soft gentle voice called him. He was being rocked, by whom? He was shaking and sobbing. How could he ever live without her?

“Frodo...”

A tender kiss at his temple. Who?

Gradually, he opened his eyes, then they flew wide. His tears turned joyful. Hoarsely he whispered, “Lily?”

“Yes, dearest,” she reassured him, her eyes searching his. “I am here. You are safe. What--”

Frodo cut off her words, covering her mouth with his. She felt the desperation in his kiss and returned the intensity until it threatened to carry them away.

Reluctantly, she broke the kiss. “Dear heart, shhh...” She caressed his cheeks with her lips, tasting his tears. “Tell me.”

Frodo shook his head and nestled his head against her, his arms wrapped around her, clutching her to himself. He was still trembling.

Lily endeavored to ease his fear with light kisses, holding him more tightly, and continuing to rock him.

“Dear one, it has been long since last your nightmares haunted us. I feel no memories from the past in this, but whatever it is, it tears at your heart. Tell me of it, my love, tell me.” She carefully kept her tone soothing to cover the growing fear in her own heart.

Her husband shuddered and whispered, “I cannot... I dare not...”

“Beloved, please; now I am frightened...”

Frodo raised his eyes to hers. “I do not wish to stir fear in your heart, but if I reveal what I dreamed--”

A loving kiss stopped his words. “Please, share it with me. Please?”

Moments passed as they searched each others’ eyes.

The tears in Lily’s eyes crept into her voice, as she pleaded once more. “Frodo, love of my life, please, let me share the burden.” A tear slipped down her cheek.

Frodo’s breath caught in his throat. “It was only a dream, dearest...”

“...that unleashed terrible fear... and sorrow... tell me of it, and we shall face it together.”

The aching terror in Frodo’s eyes ebbed away to be replaced by wondering awe. “Beloved Lily, how did I come to be so blessed with the gift that is you?” He lifted one trembling hand and caressed her cheek, wiping away the tears.

Lily smiled warmly for him. “In the same way I was gifted with you. You need not reveal every detail, if you wish, but please... tell me what could rend your heart so.”

Frodo enfolded her in his arms as he sighed, realizing she would not relent. “I -- I dreamt -- I dreamt -- I lost you.” He choked on fresh tears.

His wife tightened her arms around him. “What do you mean?”

Taking several steadying breaths, Frodo finally replied. “I dreamt the child miscarried... and both you and the child... were lost.”

Lily stared, speechless in the dark, until her voice returned, and they wept together, holding each other fast.

Finally, Lily asked, “It was only a dream, was it not?”

“Yes,” Frodo choked. “Yes, ‘twas only a dream.”

Lily tightened her hold. “But you are afraid it is more.”

Frodo did not reply.

“Frodo-love, could we pray? To ask for this dream to be only a dream, nothing more? Would Ilúvatar grant such a thing?”

“I do not know, Lily-sweet. Surely, He would not be angry at the request -- but then again, He may not grant it...”

They sat up together, clasping hands.

Frodo offered their prayer.

He did not tell Lily the events he dreamed were but a week hence; and he vowed never to tell her. Then, his heart full, he prayed again to the One who had created them both -- nay, all three here, he thought. He prayed fervently for their safety and well-being, with Lily at his side.