Author's Note: Well, I know it's been far too long, but here is the latest installment of this tale. I am actually in a Tolkien class this semester, and I have been re-reading The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings. It's been fun but also a lot of work; we have been flying through those books at blinding speed. That plus me working quite a lot and editing the books and essays of others has meant that I have had precious little time to write or edit my own stuff lately. But I promise that this story will not be abandoned! And your reviews will help contribute to my ability to press onward! :)
Gandalf was flown via eagle to a hospital in Lothlórien, and the remainder of the Fellowship followed from the ground. They plodded on their way in silence as their fear of the unknown now morphed into a fear of something present among them. Although none of them had been near enough to Gandalf to catch any peripheral droplets of the biohazardous spray, the fact that they one of their own was infected was a direct blow to each individual. Would Gandalf survive his battle with the virus? Did the elves have the skill to heal him?
"You don't suppose that we'll have to go on our way without him, do you?" Sam inquired of Frodo as the two of them walked near the back of the group. The Ring-bearer shrugged his shoulders.
"I don't see how we can wait around for his recovery," Frodo replied after a moment's thought. "Even if he does indeed recover, would you feel comfortable being around him after he's…been a carrier?"
Sam frowned. "But he'd have antibodies, wouldn't he?"
Frodo let out a sigh. "I don't know; it seems like the virus is quite difficult to understand and predict. In a quest as essential as ours, I'm not sure we can take that chance."
Sam pondered this statement but eventually nodded sadly. "I'm sure you're right, of course. It's just that the thought of leaving him on a respirator all alone doesn't sit right with me."
It didn't sit right with Frodo either, but that couldn't be mended in any case. There was no way that visitors would be allowed in hospital rooms during such a time as this. And at least they had the consolation of knowing that the doctors and nurses in Lothlórien were well known for their skill and kindness. Some even said that the power of Galadriel exceeded that of the strongest disinfectant, and Frodo prayed now that this rumor was true.
The Fellowship entered the Golden Wood and made themselves a socially-distant campsite on the outskirts of Caras Galadhon. The land was beautiful to behold and possessed a feeling of cleanness that Frodo could not remember feeling since his days in the Shire, before he even knew that there was any virus. The Fellowship would have loved to explore the realm around them while waiting for some word of Gandalf's condition, but even with Lothlόrien's reputation of power against germs, the inhabitants still took every precaution, and all the major attractions were closed. The Fellowship had to settle for watching a live stream of a nearby fountain (only Legolas thought that was interesting, and only for about thirty seconds) and ordering take-out.
At last news came. Frodo's tablet rang as the Lord and Lady of the Wood themselves attempted to video chat with him. The hobbit squealed and almost beckoned to all his friends before he remembered that they couldn't be within six feet of him. Swallowing a lump of anxiety in his throat, he made sure all his protective gear was straightened and in place before his shaking finger pressed on the screen to accept the call.
"Tell me how is Gandalf," Frodo blurted out, "for I much desire some news of him."
The Lord and Lady were very pixelated on the screen, but they seemed to hear his request well enough. Galadriel was having a hard time concentrating on the call because some of her luminous golden hair had become stuck in the ear loops of her mask, and she fumbled with her slim white fingers to untangle herself while Celeborn addressed the hobbit gravely.
"He still strives with failing strength against the virus. Whether he recovers or not, I do not believe he will be able to continue on the Quest." The elf let out a long sigh. "What now becomes of this Fellowship? Without Gandalf, hope is lost."
Frodo felt the weight of their loss multiplied in his heart, but finally Galadriel finished messing with her hair and tuned fully into the conversation. "The world has indeed grown full of peril, and in all lands love is now mingled with germs. Yet hope remains while disinfectant is effective."
Frodo felt the tiniest bit better, and courage and resolve returned to his heart. "I am comforted at least to be leaving Gandalf in such care as yours. And I think I know now what I must do. It's just…" he frowned, shaking his head, "I'm afraid to do it."
"This task was appointed to you," Galadriel reassured him. "And if you do not find a way, we will all get sick."
That wasn't quite as inspiring as her first comment, but Frodo nodded firmly. Celeborn, who seemed to be a bit more pragmatic than his whimsical wife, now cut in. "We will give you such supplies as are left among us. I am grieved to report that even in Lórien we have not escaped the shortages which plague the other Free Peoples during this age of the world, but perhaps something can be found in our emergency stock piles. In the morning we will send you on your way."
"For the moment, go now and rest, for you are weary with sorrow and much toil, and exhaustion does not promote the health of your immune system," Galadriel instructed.
And Frodo took her advice, he and his fellows. Though the news of Gandalf was vague and none too promising, it was encouraging to hear that he was putting up a good fight, and all the Fellowship seemed to be able to rest easier. They fell asleep that night listening to the elves of Lothlórien singing get-well-soon songs to the aged wizard in their beautiful tongue.
In the morning, Galadriel and Celeborn actually came to meeting them, though they stood as far from the company as they could, being just within earshot. Their masked and gloved servants brought bundles of supplies and laid them at a midpoint between the two parties, retreating quickly so that the Fellowship could retrieve the items. Laid out before them was a small pile of treasures, and they were quite taken aback by the generosity of the Lord and Lady. There were fresh bottles of hand sanitizer (their own stock was nearly spent), boxes of instant-dinner mixes which had not been on the shelves of the stores of mortals for months, and even a precious roll of toilet paper for each member of the company. The Fellowship bowed low before their hosts, moved greatly.
"In that bag there you will each find a hazmat suite of unique kind," Celeborn informed them. "They are one of our greatest works; never before have we clad strangers in the garb of our own people. May these cloaks shield you from unfriendly microbes."
Frodo drew out his suite, and he found that would completely seal him in, head to toe, with a light and breathable fabric. It was also a soft grey color, much less visible than his glaringly white suite. The very feel of the gift was strong and clean, and it smelled faintly of bleach. He felt his heart rest a bit easier at the thought of being able to journey in such clothes.
"And to you, Frodo Baggins," said Galadriel, her voice muffled by the distance and the mask, "I give the Lysol of Eärendil, our most beloved disinfectant." Frodo found a small package bearing his name, and when he had opened it, he drew out a small glass canister of blindingly white spray, brighter than the light of sun on snow. "May it be a cleanser to you in dirty places when all other precautions have failed."
And so the Fellowship began again the journey of their Quest; their hearts were filled with anxiety and worry for the comrade they were leaving behind, but their packs were filled with things to carry them further down their desperate road. Frodo hoped that he wouldn't run out of his precious Lysol of Eärendil before they reached the dark Mountains of Shadow.
Thanks so much for sticking with me and for reading this chapter! I'd love to know what you thought in some feedback if you have a moment.