This story was inspired by repeated viewings of Versaphile's wonderful video, "The World's Address." I deliberately tried to set this in the movie-verse (theatrical release version, at that) -- but the books do creep in on me, so I apologize for any inconsistencies.

 
The World's Address
by Laura Mason

There was pain, constant pain from his shoulder, but the coldness hurt most. Nothing warmed him, and he couldn't move his left arm. His throat was raw, but he cried out again as he was jostled, pulled off poor Bill by strong arms.

"Gandalf..." he whispered, his head lolling.

Gandalf abandoned you, the voices whispered. Your parents left you, Bilbo left you, Gandalf lied to you. Frodo screamed again, trying to block the murmur inside his mind, as he was lowered to the ground.

"You're hurting him." Sam's voice, but so frightened. "Here, Mr. Frodo. Lie back on this." But he couldn't feel anything, not hard ground or soft blanket. Only pain and freezing cold.

"I'll build a fire. Try to keep him warm."

"Hello, Frodo." Small hands on his face -- Pippin. "Merry, help me warm him."

There were bodies pressing against him on both sides, but he only felt colder.

"Are you awake, Frodo?" Merry whispered close to his ear. "Can you see the stone trolls?"

"Just like Bilbo's story," Pip added, his voice full of wonder. "Imagine, he saw them alive, all those years ago."

"Never thought we'd see them."

They didn't believe Bilbo's tale, came the voices. They aren't your friends.

But they're trying to help me, Frodo's own voice insisted. They love Bilbo, just as I do. But what "love" meant he no longer knew. It seemed like something remembered from very long ago.

"Try to drink some water," came Sam's voice, a brief moment of sunshine as if in answer to his question. All the voices in his head hissed in response to that light, and Frodo cried out again, writhing in pain. "He's going cold."

"Is he going to die?"

"Sam, do you know the athelas plant?"

Then Sam was gone, and he could smell the fear on Merry and Pippin as they sat beside him, too silent. He wanted their voices, something cheerful. Something besides the endless murmur in his head.

Gandalf lied to you. He wants you dead, so he can take the Ring. Aragorn will betray you to the enemy, as he did at Amon Sul, leaving you to die. He only came back to take the Ring from you.

Frodo shook his head, trying to deny the words, his thoughts spiraling into darkness without rest. He hadn't slept for days now, merely dropped into dreams of horror and pain where darkness ruled. The voices whispered and called, and he felt as if the Ring was glowing against him, fed by their fell utterances.

***

Arwen's call to the light had not stilled the mutterings, only quieted the incessant noise. Frodo clung to her horse's mane, feeling the pull of the Black Riders chasing them and hearing the noise in his own head amplified by their thoughts.

Come to us, come with us now. Surrender to us and you will have peace. They have all abandoned you. We are your people now; we are your kind.

There was splashing of icy water on his bare legs, and Frodo looked up to see Arwen's sword flashing, her face glowing with power. He watched the Riders washed away, ridden down by white horses in the midst of the flood. But even as he heard their screams of anger over the roar of the waters, the voices in his head grew louder.

Give up, Frodo. Rest now and come to us. Gandalf abandoned you; Bilbo lied to you; Aragorn sent you to die. Your friends are dead in the wilderness, struck down by the Riders, and it is your fault. Bilbo is dead. Gandalf is dead. Sam died screaming in agony, cursing your name...

Frodo fell from the horse.

***

"Where am I?"

Though he was healed, Frodo still heard distant echoes of those voices. Seeing Gandalf produced the oddest mixture of joy and suspicion, and the lack of explanation for the wizard's absence in Bree made Frodo's shoulder throb.

"Frodo!"

Then Sam came running up to him and grasped his hand, and he saw the sun shining outside and felt the peace and beauty all around him. Sam's hands were warmer than his own, though he whispered "it's warm" about Frodo's left hand with awe.

When Elrond allowed him to rise, dress and go for a walk with Sam, he saw for himself that his friends were all fine. It was such a relief to finally silence the voice that still whispered that he'd brought peril to everyone he loved.

The voices remained silent during their stay in Rivendell, until the day of the Council. Somehow, when Gimli insulted Legolas and the meeting erupted in raised voices, the whispers came back. Frodo heard them more plainly than the people around him, full of joy at the dissention and feeding on the anger. They were still within him, sibilant and victorious.

They will fail. The wizard is powerless. You cannot place trust in elves or dwarves or men. You are hopeless.

The Ring glowed with dark joy in response. Darkness is coming.

Frodo bowed his head for a moment, unsure what he believed. The voices lied, he knew that, though he also knew the world was darker than he'd ever imagined. He'd listened to Bilbo's stories of the wide world without realizing the animosity between the races. He'd heard whispers of the Dark Lord, but never thought that his power could still reach out over all Middle Earth.

He raised his head and saw a flash of color past the arguing group. Pippin, peering around a pillar, eyes like saucers.

Frodo though of the Shire and knew the voices were lying again. He rose out of his chair in his attempt to be heard, and saw Merry opposite Pip, also aghast at the shouting.

"I will take it." He heard a sob from behind him and knew Sam was there, listening, the only being who'd heard him declare that Darkness would not prevail.

"I will take it," he repeated more loudly. Sam could return home with Merry and Pippin. Knowing they were there, safe, would be enough.

Those who'd been arguing were silent now. The voices within him had ceased, as well. "I will take the Ring to Mordor. Though I do not know the way."

Only the Ring itself still hissed and whispered to him, as it seemed it always had. Somehow, Frodo knew that it would never be silenced.

 

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