In the Emyn Muil by Lbilover

A bit of book gap-filler based on this passage from ‘The Breaking of the Fellowship’: "Sam turned and bolted back down the path. He fell and cut his knees. Up he got and ran on." I always felt bad for Sam and his poor cut knees and I don't ever recall reading a story about them.

anduin sam
anduin sam

After hiding the boat, Frodo and Sam hoisted their packs and without a word set off quickly south and east, trying to put as much distance between themselves and the river as they could. They only stopped when the wan crescent moon had nearly set, and the footing become increasingly uneven and perilous. And there were other perils lurking in the dark that to both hobbits seemed worse than a twisted ankle or stubbed toe.

The land had grown increasingly desolate and rocky as the Anduin bore them swiftly down toward the falls of Rauros. Now, at the western end of the Emyn Muil, only stunted fir-trees grew among boulders and slabs of sharp-edged rock that thrust up out of the ground at odd, random angles that in the gloom gave them a menacing aspect.

As the dark deepened, they crossed a stream and came upon a place where a cluster of forlorn trees, huddled together as if for company, and several massive rocks created a roughly circular area.

Frodo halted and looked around him. 'We can make camp here,' he said. 'It seems as good a place as any and better than most. It's sheltered at any rate.'

'Safe from logs with eyes and choking fingers, you mean? Let's hope so.' With a weary sigh, Sam lowered his heavy pack to the ground. 'Shall we risk a bit of fire, Mr. Frodo? There's dead branches enough under them trees, I'll warrant.'

Frodo bit his lip, considering. A fire was risky, but Sam had got wet through taking his brave but foolish plunge into the river after the boat, and in the ensuing mad scramble to get away there had been no time to consider the drying of clothes and gear. Surely Sam deserved better than damp, clammy clothes, at least not if there was an alternative.

'Very well,' Frodo said. 'If we build it close to these rocks, it should be hidden from view and you can spread your wet things above it to dry.'

'I'll not deny I'll be glad to do so,' Sam admitted. 'This damp does go right through a body, and no mistake.'

'It's your own fault, Sam. Not the time of year I should have chosen to go for a swim', Frodo said. Then he went on with a smile, 'But I'm not being serious, and I know how vastly uncomfortable you must be. So let us remedy that as quickly as we can.'

Sam headed for the trees to gather dead wood and Frodo picked a likely spot and made a ring out of small stones. Sam soon returned with arms laden, and deposited his bundle near the stones. While he went back for more wood, Frodo arranged twigs and branches in the center of the ring.

'Reckon this will do for now,' Sam said, and added the second armload to the pile. 'The wood's dry as a bone. It should light easily enough.' He took the tinderbox from his pocket and knelt. As his knees touched the stony ground, he let out an involuntary gasp of pain and shifted back onto his haunches.

'Sam, what is it?' Frodo asked in concern.

'It's nothing,' Sam said quickly. 'I tripped and cut my knees, is all. I plumb forgot, having more important matters on my mind, as you might say.'

'You mean chasing after me,' Frodo said quietly. 'But I can at least make amends and tend to them.'

'You don't have to do that, Mr. Frodo. It's naught to fret over.'

Frodo rose to his feet. 'Don't waste time arguing, my lad, but get busy with that flint and tinder. I'm going to fetch some water to heat so I can bath those cuts.'

Recognising a lost cause when he met it, Sam gave in and got busy with the flint and tinder, expertly striking a spark that caught a strip of curling bark and set it alight. He crouched lower, feeling the sting of the cuts as he did. But he resolutely ignored the discomfort and blew on the nascent flame, coaxing it into life.

Soon the fire was merrily burning. Sam stripped off his damp clothes, draped them over the rock and wrapped himself in his blanket. It was good to be warm and dry again - at least temporarily. Who knew what the future might bring? Recalling the Midgewater Marshes, and the mention Lord Celeborn had made of other marshes that lay beyond this stony place, Sam had a feeling that many damp, miserable, cheerless days would be his and Frodo's lot, with no hope of respite. But there was no point in dwelling on future discomfort when the present had more than enough of its own to dole out.

Frodo returned from the stream bearing one of Sam's precious pans filled with water. He set it carefully down over the flames. 'Now let's have a look at those cuts, Sam,' he said in a brisk voice.

Sam pulled the blanket up far enough to bare his abused knees and Frodo bent to examine the cuts, clearly visible in the light from the fire. A soft whistle of dismay escaped him when he saw the raw scrapes, sluggishly oozing a reddish fluid. 'Oh Sam, you don't do things by half, do you? And we have no athelas, nor am I a healer like Aragorn or Elrond. The best I can do is to clean and bind them, I fear.'

'I can do that myself, Mr. Frodo,' Sam said, uncomfortable with his master caring for him. It didn't sit right, not when Frodo had such a terrible burden to bear.

'Perhaps, but you aren't going to. You're going to stay there and warm yourself. That's an order.'

The water soon heated. Sam gave to Frodo a sliver of soap - all that was left of what he'd brought from home - a small stoppered jar of herbal salve he'd gotten in Rivendell, and several cloths from his pack. Kneeling at Sam's side, Frodo wet one of the cloths and soaped it.

'This is going to sting,' he warned as he applied the soapy cloth to Sam's right knee.

It stung right enough, and the skin began to throb unpleasantly. Sam refused to let any sound escape him, however, and maintained a stoic silence as Frodo tended both knees, pausing frequently to rinse the cloth in the warm water, which was soon tinted a pale pink. He was very thorough, making sure no vestiges of dirt or grit remained in the ugly scores, but also exquisitely gentle.

Sam, looking down at his master's bent head and the frown of concentration that wrinkled his brows, felt tears prickle his eyes. Foolish, maybe, but when he thought how close Frodo had come to giving him the slip, how this night Frodo might have been camping here all alone in the wilderness, with only his fears and his burden for company, it was almost more than Sam could bear.

After drying the wounds, Frodo picked up the jar and removed the stopper. Little now was left of the salve after their arduous months on the road. Sparingly he dabbed some on his fore and middle fingers and then spread a thin layer over the cuts. Lastly, he tore the remaining cloth into two strips and wound them around Sam's knees, tying them off.

'There, all done,' Frodo said at last, and looked up. 'I hope it didn't hurt too badly.'

It had hurt, but not in the way Frodo meant. 'Not a bit of it, Mr. Frodo,' Sam lied.

'Good,' Frodo said, and smiled: almost, or so it seemed to Sam, a little shyly.

Yet in his expression Sam saw a calm, even peace, that had rarely been present since they set out from Rivendell and entirely absent since they left Lothlórien. He understood with a flash of insight that what he had thought an imposition on Frodo was in fact the opposite. Taking care of Sam had not only kept Frodo's mind off his burden for a little while, but had given him actual pleasure.

Later they sat together in silence by the fire munching on lembas, and Frodo was deep in thought. What his thoughts were Sam couldn't say, but as for himself, he was thinking that there was still much he had to learn: not only about the ways of masters and servants, but about love.