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The Honorary Hobbit
Never Underestimate a Hobbit
Rated G, No pairings. Features Aragorn and Frodo most prominently along with the rest of the Fellowship.
Summary: Frodo is tired of being bedridden and ill and with Aragorn’s assistance begins to get some much needed exercise and exploration around Rivendell, until the hobbits become bored leading to an out of control pranking spree.
***This first chapter will sound familiar to most of you who have read “Recovery in Rivendell” by budgielover. There are many stories out there that have the same basic scenario as what you are about to read, but I believe hers is the most memorable. I tried to think of a way to make it somewhat different, but I have not been as successful as I’d hoped. I think everyone has a different take on the same scenario and that is what I’ve done here…my take. I just wanted you to know that I am aware of the similarities, and ask her pardon.***
“Aragorn, I need your help,” Gandalf said, walking briskly down the hallway towards Frodo’s room.
Aragorn quickened his pace to match that of the Istari. “Certainly Gandalf, how can I be of assistance?” the Ranger replied, alarmed that their destination seemed to be Frodo’s room.
Gandalf stopped abruptly causing the Ranger to pass him by two paces. “Our Ringbearer seems a bit melancholy. He has not eaten in two days which is alarming in and of itself since he is a hobbit, he refuses any and all visitors, and even Sam has been tossed out followed by some rather vitriolic cursing.” Gandalf sighed. “He is restless due to being bedridden for so long from his wounding. He inquires constantly about walks and exploring Rivendell but, since he won’t eat, I doubt he could walk far in his current condition and could even suffer a relapse. I need you to convince Elrond to allow Frodo to leave his bed and explore Rivendell.”
“I have already spoken to Elrond and told him of my findings. I believe Frodo is ready to start a limited exercise program and have told him that I will release him today to venture forth. I am on my way to his room now and, providing that he starts eating on a regular basis, he will gain his freedom. Is there anything else?”
“No,” Gandalf sighed, “I am relieved you have decided to release him. He has become quite …unpleasant …to all and sundry. If you cannot convince him to eat…he can be quite stubborn.”
Aragorn laughed, “Gandalf, you are a marvel at understatement. You know that getting Frodo to do *anything* he finds contrary is a battle most men would rather die than fight.”
Gandalf smiled as he leaned forward on his staff, “I can think of no one better than you, my dear King in training to accomplish such a task.”
Aragorn smiled and sighed, “I will attempt the impossible.”
Gandalf grinned at the man, “I am confident you will succeed, my friend.” With that, Gandalf was gone, his staff clicking down the hallway and his step decidedly lighter than a few moments before.
Aragorn’s hand rested on the door knob as he took a deep breath and forced a smile to his lips, he opened the door. Frodo lay on his right side staring at the wall. He showed no sign that he had heard the door open or knew that anyone was in the room with him.
“Good morning, Frodo,” Aragorn said with more cheer than he felt.
“Unless I am mistaken, a proper gentlehobbit’s response should be, “Why good morning Aragorn, how in the devil are you?” Aragorn said with a grin.
Frodo rolled onto his back and stared up at the man. “You’ll have to forgive me, Aragorn, I don’t really care to exchange barbs with overly cheerful people, today,” Frodo said without expression.
Aragorn’s grin waned, this was going to be harder than he thought. “I saw Sam loading a tray with all of your favorite foods a moment ago and he should be here shortly.”
“I don’t give two figs, I am not hungry,” Frodo retorted.
“That may be, Ringbearer, but I know for a fact that until you start eating regular meals, you will not leave this bed as I will deem you too weak to be about,” Aragorn said, matching the retort with one of his own.
Frodo slowly sat up until he was mere inches from Aragorn’s face. “Do not call me Ringbearer,” he growled. “I loathe that appellation; it is as if by carrying the Ring it defines me.I am Frodo Baggins of the Shire,” he ground out, before laying back down.
“I am sorry, Frodo, I did not realize you found it so offensive,” the Ranger said softly.
“Better you should call me the “Wounded One” or the “Prisoner” than Ringbearer,” Frodo muttered.
“Frodo you are not a prisoner here, you are an honored guest.”
Frodo laughed harshly, “Tell me Aragorn does Elrond treat all his *guests* as he has treated me? Does he allow them freedom to move about Rivendell? Does he require someone to take an arm of his guest to use the privy? I have been constantly begged, wheedled and threatened to take medicines or to eat. I feel like I am a caged animal only to be released when it is time to carry the Ring into Mordor.”
“Someone has had much too much time to feel sorry for himself, it would seem,” Aragorn replied, immediately regretting it.
Frodo sat up suddenly, glaring blue fire into the Ranger’s grey eyes. “How dare you! I daresay if our positions were reversed you would find the situation equally intolerable. If you do not wish to hear how I am feeling then why did you ask in the first place?” he sighed and looked down. “I am weary of this, leave me in peace,” he murmured as he lay down.
Aragorn’s eyes had widened in surprise. He had never seen this side of the normally soft spoken, courteous hobbit. He was rescued from further conversation by a timid tap at the door.
“It’s jes me, Mr. Frodo, I’ve come with your breakfast, sir.” Sam said as he fairly tiptoed to the edge of the bed while balancing an overburdened tray.
“Hello Sam,” Frodo said quietly. “I am sorry you went to all that trouble, but I am not hungry.” The gardener looked as if he would have preferred anything other than being the bearer of the detested tray.
“Hello Sam,” said Aragorn cheerily.
“Mornin’ Mr. Strider,” Sam said quietly, his eyes darting towards the unmoving figure on the bed.
Aragorn had repeatedly requested that Sam drop the *Mister* when addressing him, to no avail. It was obviously too deeply ingrained in the gardener and Aragorn had finally decided to let it pass.
“What have you brought Frodo this morning,” he asked, taking the tray from Sam and removing the covers over the plates. “Hmmm, this looks delicious.” There was a small stack of sweetcakes with butter drizzling down the sides and a cup of Rivendell’s sweet maple syrup to go with them, fresh raspberries with a light sprinkle of sugar and clotted cream, three slices of crispy bacon and a mushroom omelet oozing a creamy sauce from its sides. Accompanying this was a large pot of tea, a frothy glass of milk and buttered toast squares.
“Frodo, if you will eat this delectable breakfast, I have it on good authority that you will be released from bed rest and allowed to walk as far as your endurance will allow,” Aragorn said conspiratorially.
Frodo’s ears perked up as he gave Aragorn a doubtful glance. “I will not be able to eat all of it, you realize,” he said cautiously optimistic.
“I understand, but perhaps you could make an effort to *try* to eat let’s say…half of it,” Aragorn bartered.
Frodo’s eyes swept the tray as he estimated half of its contents. “One quarter,” he countered.
Aragorn shook his head, “I know hobbits, my dear Frodo, and that isn’t enough to justify a day out and about.”
Frodo frowned, “I will try *if* you guarantee I may take a walk about Rivendell,” he challenged.
“You may only walk a small amount today. Each day, providing you begin to eat strengthening amounts of food, we will increase the length and breadth of your walks. I will be watching you to make sure the terms of our agreement are met,” Aragorn replied slowly, his eyes studying Frodo.
There was a long pause. “Very well, I will attempt to meet your criteria,” Frodo said as he sat up. He inwardly groaned as he looked at the quantity of food presented to him. Sam rushed to Frodo’s side, placing two fluffy pillows behind his back. Aragorn placed the tray over Frodo’s lap and watched as the hobbit began to timidly nibble on the toast squares.
Aragorn smiled as he looked at the tray. Exactly half of everything, except the raspberries which were all gone, had been eaten by the stubborn Ringbearer.
Frodo leaned back against the pillows obviously miserably full and stared at the smiling Ranger. “I would like to take my first walk after I have had a chance to digest the huge amount of food you have forced upon me,” he groaned.
Aragorn covered the plates, took the tray and rose, “I will be happy to oblige you, Frodo. Remember, you may continue to walk anywhere within Rivendell’s borders as long as you continue to eat your meals.” He walked to the door, letting himself out. After dropping off the tray he made his way to Elrond’s apartments.
Elrond opened the door with a smile, admitting Aragorn. “I hear that our Ringbearer is once again, refusing his meals.”
Aragorn smiled, “Frodo can be quite manipulative and stubborn when he wants to be, Ada. But I did find a weakness and shamelessly exploited it to my advantage.”
“Pray tell, Estel, it could be most useful in the future,” Elrond sat slowly in his large ornate chair and beckoned his son to join him.
“I deemed him fit enough to be released from bed rest but only on the condition that he begin to eat a suitable amount of strengthening food. This morning I told him he could walk about only if he ate half of his breakfast.”
Elrond’s elegant eyebrows rose and he sat up straighter, “And did he eat half of his breakfast?”
“He did, it was exceedingly difficult for him, but when Frodo is motivated he is usually successful. I think, in the future the meals will need to be a bit smaller and then increase in size as he becomes stronger.”
“This sounds acceptable. As he ventures about, his stamina will return and his appetite should as well. I am most impressed that you have been able to find a weakness in our Ringbearer. It seems the barter system is our best chance at reasoning with young Master Baggins.”
“He is a formidable foe, although I must admit I did enjoy the battle,” Aragorn smiled widely.
Elrond placed a hand to his forehead then raised his eyes to Aragorn’s. "I do not mind a Ringbearer who is a ‘formidable foe’ for the quest to destroy the One Ring, I *do* find it incredibly frustrating to have said hobbit adversarial in my home. Do you feel he is ready to be up from his sickbed?”
“I do. It will be wearying for him at first, but there is none more determined than our Ringbearer. He is ready for some slow walks about the premises. Perhaps Gandalf spoke with you concerning Frodo’s state of mind?”
Elrond nodded and smiled, “Since he feels he has bested you and will eat to walk, so to speak, I believe if Frodo increases his exercise and sees the sites of the Last Homely House, it will make his spirits rise and his appetite as well. His eating was the last condition to him acquiring his freedom. It may be unpleasant to have to browbeat the Ringbearer into compliance but it is good exercise for you to learn how to bargain with an adversary.”
Aragorn chuckled, “I can think of no better primer for negotiation. Anyone who can talk Frodo into something he does not wish to do would make an exemplary diplomat.”
Frodo took advantage of his new found freedom and, after a period of frustration at his inability to walk as far or as long as he wanted to, slowly built up his stamina almost to the point prior to his wounding. His melancholia all but disappeared and frequently his clear ringing laughter could be heard about the Last Homely House. In fact, Frodo had felt so good that incidents of pranks had increased exponentially. Merry and Pippen had been frequently the culprits, but now there was a certain ‘flair’ to the pranks that had been lacking prior to his constitutionals.
Aragorn found himself in Elrond’s apartments for the second time in as many weeks, having tea and talking quietly about the Fellowship’s preparations for the journey to Mordor, when the conversation turned to the four hobbits.
“Estel, have you given any thought to the hobbits going on perhaps, an extended hike?” Elrond said quietly, his eyes studying his son.
Aragorn slowly swallowed his tea and put the cup down. He grinned, “This would not have anything to do with the flurry of pranks, would it?”
Caught, Elrond’s eyes dropped to his hands, “Estel, in an age of man, I have never experienced this much chaos in Rivendell.” He looked up at Estel in frustration, “The hobbits have too much free time on their hands and are in need of diversion. I would ask you my son, to take these four…gentlemen…away from Rivendell for an extended outing, if for no other reason than to allow me some much needed rest and a chance to regain my composure. Take them … anywhere,” he waved his hand in the air making it obvious he did not care where they went especially as long as they were occupied elsewhere.
Aragorn chuckled at Elrond’s expense, “Surely it is not that bad, Ada,” he smirked.
Elrond hesitated before beginning to list the recent activities of the hobbits. “Firstly, *someone* placed grease on the interior door knobs in all of the bathing areas. After the victim found his hands covered in grease, he would go to the sinks and try to wash it off. Little did he know that the soap had been tampered with and would stain the hands blue of whoever used it…dark blue.” Estel’s smile grew.
“Glorfindel went to the stables yesterday only to discover Asfaloth wearing one of my favorite robes and Gandalf’s pointed hat was sitting on the horse’s head tied with a large pink bow. How they got that horse’s legs into those sleeves I will never know.” Aragorn was bent over laughing so hard he could not catch a breath.
“Then there was the incident with the honey…”
“Honey?” Aragorn wheezed.
“Yes, apparently Legolas enjoys communing with the ancient oaks in the courtyard. At the end of each day, he sleeps beneath the giant oak in the center of the area. Obviously, someone has seen him come there on a daily basis because *someone* suspended a burlap bag of goose feathers above the area where he usually lies. Two days ago, while Legolas slept, *someone* drizzled honey all over the elf but mostly in his hair then loosed a stone, possibly from a slingshot, into the burlap bag, covering Legolas in feathers.” Elrond’s color was very high as he stood, frowning down at his foster son who was laughing loudly and bent nearly double as he clutched his stomach.
Aragorn wiped his eyes repeatedly as he tried to regain control of himself. He held up his hand, “Stop please, I can take no more,” he gasped.
“Merry and Pippen’s pranks were more of a spur of the moment type of activity…simple and to the point. These latest antics have had more attention to detail and were done by *someone* who has patience, and cunning, a person that is clever, and mentally keen and he is wreaking havoc on my home.”
Aragorn smiled, “Frodo.”
Elrond nodded, “I believe that the normally dignified and proper Master Baggins is … repaying me, for his perceived exigency due to his illness.”
“Ada, Frodo does not seem to be a vindictive person. Are you sure you are not feeling perhaps a small amount of paranoia?”
Elrond smiled, “Perhaps I am, though it does my heart good to know that Frodo still has that playful nature within him.”
“I believe Frodo is strong enough to go on an extended outing,” Estel mused.
Levity gone, Elrond frowned. “He is not as strong as he thinks he is yet. The wound still pains him…it probably always will, however if he and his cohorts have enough energy to stir up so much trouble at this peaceful sanctuary, I believe they will all do well redirecting their focus on other pursuits.”
Aragorn smiled, “Very well, I will take them on an extended march. It will make them stronger physically to begin walking about the valley and they will need that strength and stamina for our journey. If I can teach them some basic survival skills that would be an additional boon, but I would prefer this to be a more exploratory adventure. There is so much beauty in this valley they have yet to see; perhaps this expedition should be one of discovery and enjoyment."
Elrond nodded, “They will have enough trials once they leave the protection of Rivendell.”
The Honorary Hobbit
“Where are we going, Strider?” Pippin asked for the third time.
Aragorn smiled down at the curious green eyed hobbit. “There is a place of old oak trees that lie in a valley surrounded by rock cliffs. In the cliffs, there are hundreds of caverns and caves that have been created over thousands of years, by the wind and water. It is beautiful and unique, perfect for exploring. But, be mindful, it can be dangerous as well. The caverns run many feet within the mountains and one can easily be lost if not careful. It is called the Rimrock Forest. I’m sure you will find it very interesting, Pippin.”
Frodo frowned, “Pippin, I know how much you like to explore but promise me this time, you will stay with us so you don’t get lost,” Frodo asked.
“My dear cousin, I would not get lost if there weren’t so many things distracting me,” Pippin smiled. Frodo glared at him. “Oh very well, I will *try* to stay close to you and Strider,” he said resignedly.
“You say that now, Pip, but the minute we get there and you see all the wonders to investigate, you’ll be gone in a thrice,” Merry laughed.
“Mer, give me some credit, I can restrain myself.” Everyone broke into loud laughter, except for Pippin, who just stared at them, his face beet red.
They had set out three days prior and taken a leisurely pace, camping and eating their fill of Sam’s good cooking. At night, under a star filled sky, Aragorn would tell tales that always left them wanting for more. The hobbits told their own tales mostly of Shire life or they sang songs and when they finally took their rest, their hearts were light and their dreams trouble free.
As they crested the hill Aragorn stopped and extended his arm in front of the hobbits, “Welcome, my friends, to the Rimrock Forest,” he said with a smile. Four mouths dropped open as the hobbits beheld the view. A valley filled with old growth oaks was flanked by a ridge of red rock riddled with holes.
“It looks like cheese, Mr. Frodo,” Sam exclaimed.
Frodo smiled, “It really does, doesn’t it? It’s beautiful, Strider. Thank you so much for bringing us here.”
Aragorn grinned, “I am glad you like it, Frodo, it was always one of my favorite areas within the boundaries of Rivendell. Those ‘holes’ Sam, that you can see the sky through, are called windows. There are also many rock “bridges”—narrow arches that connect one area to another—to be found. Would you like to explore before eating?” Aragorn asked, expecting all of them to choose lunch over exploring.
“I want to see the caves,” Pippin exclaimed practically vibrating in place. All present stared at the hobbit in shock.
“I am shocked, Pippin!” Frodo said eyes wide. “I have never known you to choose *anything* over food!”
Pippin squirmed. “I am just curious is all but if you, my dear cousin, need to eat, I would not say no,” he piped.
“No, I am not hungry yet, I say we go investigate these mysterious caves,” Frodo said with a smile, watching his young cousin bounce excitedly in front of him.
Except for Aragorn, who surreptitiously shouldered his expanded medical bag, they left their packs and food in the shade of a huge oak tree. Elrond had loaded the bag with tonics for Frodo and Aragorn had contributed some of his own items. He had carefully thought of any and all scenarios where his skills would be needed, from broken bones to chest colds and filled the satchel until it would hold no more. He pulled his cloak on to hide the bag and they all began to climb up the rock fall to the caves.
When they got to the top of the outcrop, Pippin was gone in a blur, with Merry close behind him. “Pippin!” Frodo shouted as he tried to catch his breath. His right hand began to reach up to his left shoulder but feeling Aragorn’s eyes on him, he stopped himself, fisting his right hand. “Sticklebacks!” he ground out.
“Mr. Frodo, yer awful pale, are you all right?”
Frodo forced a smile to his lips, “I am fine, Sam, just irritated at my impetuous cousins,” he muttered.
Aragorn frowned; perhaps exploring first had been a mistake. A meal and a bit of rest would have been far more beneficial for Frodo.
“I suppose we had better go after them,” Frodo groaned and began slowly climbing up the boulder strewn hillside towards where he had seen his cousins disappear. Sam followed him closely and Aragorn brought up the rear.
“Merry!” Pippin screamed.
Frodo’s heart lurched and he broke into a run towards the cave with Aragorn quickly passing him. Pippin appeared in front of them as they entered the cave. Merry appeared shortly from a narrow corridor connecting to another cave.
“Frodo, Sam, you *have* to see this,” Pippin gushed.
“Are you all right, Frodo?” Merry exclaimed as he grabbed his cousin’s arm.
Frodo wobbled and allowed Merry to lead him to a boulder to sit down. All of the hobbits surrounded him as he sat and Aragorn had to push his way through the throng to get to the Ringbearer. Frodo’s complexion was gray and his left arm was pulled close to his body, cradled by his right arm. His eyes had tears in them as he shouted, “I told you to stay with us Peregrin Took! I heard you scream and..well, you frightened me terribly!”
Pippin knelt by his cousin, “Frodo, I’m sorry, I was just so excited and I wanted Merry to see it. I didn’t mean to scare you,” he rubbed Frodo’s back as his frightened, earnest face took in the pale face of his eldest cousin.
“It’s alright Pip, just don’t wander off again, alright?” Frodo whispered. He wiped his eyes with his right arm. “What were you so excited about, anyway?” he asked as he tried to divert attention away from himself.
“Oh! There’s a stream and a small hot pool in that cave over there,” the tweenager pointed excitedly.
Frodo chuckled, “Well then show it to me,” he said weakly.
“Not just yet, Frodo.” Aragorn placed his hand on Frodo’s left shoulder. He could feel Frodo shaking and the hobbit flinched at his touch. Frodo rolled his eyes.
Frodo looked up at him, his eyes pleading, “Please Aragorn, don’t make a fuss. I promise to take a nap after we eat, but I don’t want this outing to be marred by me being ill.”
“Marred! Mr. Frodo, this ‘outing’ is a grand thing, it truly is, but if you’re not well none of us wants to be here. We jes want you to be better, relaxed and enjoy yerself, but if yer hurtin’…I for one, would rather we go back than you be in pain, sir,” Sam sputtered.
Merry and Pippin nodded in agreement. “Really Frodo, let Strider look you over then we’ll all take a walk around the caverns if you’re up to it. Don’t be stubborn, you silly Baggins,” Merry said with a grin.
Pippin looked anxious, “Please Frodo?” he whispered.
Frodo sighed, “Oh, very well, but make it quick, I want to see this hot pool,” he groused.
Aragorn smiled at Merry and gave him a nod. Sam slowly removed Frodo’s jacket and seeing Frodo’s grimace and how the Ringbearer’s jaw clinched, Aragorn could see how much pain Frodo was trying to conceal. The shirt was removed and Strider got a good look at the shoulder. The Morgul wound was clearly inflamed and he pulled his medicine pouch out from beneath his cloak.
Frodo frowned, “Is it my imagination or is your medicine bag much larger than before?”
Aragorn smiled, “It is larger, but there are more of us to tend as well,” he said cryptically.
Frodo sighed, “I imagine I will be your sole patient, as usual,” he groaned.
Aragorn smirked and pulled a small pot of cream from the bag. “This cream should help alleviate the pain and make the wound somewhat warmer. Once we arrive back at camp there are ‘other’ medicines that, if needed, we can employ,” he murmured. Frodo frowned, imagining all of the other items lurking in Aragorn’s medicine bag. Aragorn reached his fingers into the jar, scooping up a large dollop of cream. He curled his fist to warm it before slowly beginning to rub it into Frodo’s wound.
Frodo tensed when he felt Aragorn’s touch on the shoulder, expecting it to be painful, but he found that Strider was very gentle and the message soon began to dull the ache of the wound.
“Ahhh….that feels nice,” Frodo sighed. Sam and Merry smiled at Strider and the Ranger grinned down at his patient.
“How is the pain, Frodo?” he asked.
“It’s all but gone, Aragorn, thank you,” Frodo smiled. Sam buttoned his Master’s shirt and helped him back into his coat.
“Are we ready to proceed?” Strider asked. Frodo gave him a thankful look not only for relieving the pain but for continuing on with their expedition.
Frodo followed Pip and Merry into the cave and gasped as he beheld a shallow blue green pool bubbling in a declivity at the center of the room, looking as if it was lit from beneath the surface. He walked over and leaned down to touch the water. It was very warm and his face lit up in a smile. Pippin grabbed his hand and pulled him into another cave, “Look, Frodo!”
This cave glowed throughout with a pale blue luminescence. “How is this possible?” Frodo gasped.
“The plants that live on the rocks produce light, no one knows how it is done though,” Aragorn said as he gazed at the walls of the cave in wonder.
“Which cave will we be camping in, Strider?” Merry asked.
“I believe the one with the hot pool would be an excellent choice. Perhaps we could all take a soak later,” Strider said with a smile. Everyone’s eyes lit up and Merry and Pippin started debating as to who would get to go first.
Frodo smiled wanly, “Now look what you have started, Aragorn.”
The Ranger chuckled as he held up his hand causing Merry and Pip to quiet mid-sentence. “First, we should eat then return with our packs and supplies,” he said. Before he had even finished speaking, Merry and Pippin were running towards the cliff edge and making their way down to the copse of oak trees.
Aragorn and Frodo took a more leisurely descent while Sam hurried to catch up with the two miscreants, fearing they would eat all of the food before he could get there. As Aragorn walked slow enough to match Frodo’s pace, Frodo turned and looked up at him.
“I owe you an apology,” he said.
Aragorn looked confused, “Apology, for what, Frodo?”
“I treated you abominably before you allowed me to get up and around. I am very sorry, Strider. You are a good friend and I know you only have my best interests at heart.”
Aragorn smiled, “No apologies are necessary, my friend. You were right, if I had been in the same situation I would have found it to be intolerable.”
When they arrived back at camp Sam called to them. “I’ll have luncheon ready shortly, Strider, then we can be off,” He said as he stirred a bubbling pot. True to his word, the stew was soon done and Sam was ladling it into bowls. Bread, butter and jam were placed in the center of a large cloth Sam had set on the grass, along with apples, pears, tomatoes and carrots. Everyone sat down around the cloth and soon the conversation stopped as they dug into their meal.
“I have something for after’s,” Merry said proudly. Pippins eyes lit up as they waited, curious to see what he had brought. Merry came back to the group with a large box, four curly heads leaned over as he took the lid off. “Elrond’s cook made us some ginger hobbits for our hike,” he said with a smile.
“Oi! You’ve had those this whole time? Why didn’t you tell me?” Pippin cried.
Merry raised an eyebrow and gave him a disbelieving smile, “Because Pip, I knew you would find them and then we wouldn’t have them now, would we?”
“How did you mask that delicious smell, Mer?” Frodo asked.
“I wrapped the box in my dirty shirt,” Merry said with a grin.
Frodo and Sam hesitated mid-bite but then remembering that the cookies had been inside a box, resumed eating with gusto and complimenting him on his clever deception. Aragorn enjoyed the cookies almost as much as the hobbits and realized he was having a much more pleasant time than he had initially expected. There was tea to have with the cookies and then Merry and Pippin rose, collected the dirty dishes to wash while the others smoked and quietly conversed.
Aragorn retrieved their bedrolls and lay them down in the shade, one atop the other, until a nice soft bed formed. “Frodo, your bed awaits,” he said.
Frodo’s mouth dropped open, “I really am feeling much better, Aragorn, I don’t feel tired at all.”
“I will not argue with you on this. You are still recovering Frodo, humor me. You may either take a nap or have one of Elrond’s tonics, I will let you decide,” Aragorn whispered.
Frodo looked around and though everyone was occupied with some task, they had discretely moved away from the two expecting a battle but they shot looks towards them while trying to look busy.
“Oh very well,” Frodo muttered. “You do realize this is a total waste of time, Aragorn, I am truly not tired,” Frodo grumped as he allowed Aragorn to help him lie down.
“I know Frodo but I am grateful that you aren’t fighting me on this and that you will agree to rest if not sleep,” Aragorn smirked. Frodo lay there listening to the quiet chatter of his friends then drifted off into a deep sleep.
He awoke abruptly to Pippin’s screech. “Protect me Frodo!” Pippin howled, climbing over his cousin and hiding on the opposite side.
“I’ll get you, you little thief! Give me that cookie,” Merry shouted, vaulting over Frodo and running after Pippin.
“I’m right sorry they woke you, Mr. Frodo,” Sam said, shooting a glare at the disappearing backs of the Master’s unruly cousins.
“It is alright, Sam,” Frodo yawned. “I’ve slept too much anyway. I imagine we should be collecting our things and preparing to hike to the cave to make camp. Where’s Aragorn?”
“He’s over on that little hill looking at the horizon. There’s a storm comin’…oh, here he comes,” Sam said as he helped his Master up.
“Frodo, you look well rested,” the Ranger said with a smile.
“I concede that you were right in making me lie down, but you let me sleep too long, Aragorn.”
“It seems you needed it, Frodo.”
A scream caused them to look around as a small blur in the form of Pippin Took materialized at the trunk of the old oak and hastily began climbing until he reached a large dead branch over their heads.
“Peregrin Took, you come down this instant,” Frodo yelled.
Merry appeared at Frodo’s side, “Yes, *Peregrin* tell Frodo what you’ve been up to lad,” Merry said between gritted teeth.
Pippin jumped up, now standing on the branch, “Frodo, Merry was hiding more cookies,” he whined.
“They were for after dinner, Pippin, and now you’ve got into them and there won’t be enough,” Merry shouted.
Pippin stomped his foot and they all heard a loud crack from the dead branch.
“Pippin, get down here right now,” Frodo said, suddenly afraid for his cousin’s safety. Pippin walked to the trunk, preparing to get down, when there was another loud crack. “Hurry Pippin,” Frodo cried.
Pippin shimmied down the trunk and Frodo and Aragorn sighed in relief. “Now, no more fighting, give the cookie back to Merry.”
“I ate it.”
“Why you … “
“ENOUGH!” Frodo shouted. “If you would be good enough to collect your things perhaps we can still make it to the caves before it starts to rain,” he said, jaw clenching.
It had grown very dark and the wind had picked up, the tree branches waved about in the air giving the previously sunny area a decidedly sinister appearance.
Everyone jumped as a loud clap of thunder exploded close by, followed by a brilliant stab of lightening. They saw that the lightening had struck a tree not far away when clouds opened and released a torrent of pounding rain.
“We need to get out from under this tree and find a gully to wait out the lightening,” Aragorn shouted over the wind.
A particularly brisk gust of wind hit them, driving the rain into their faces painfully and almost knocking the hobbits from their feet. Aragorn took Frodo’s arm to steady him as a loud CRACK came from directly above them. Frodo looked up and saw the huge, dead branch that Pippin had been standing on only moments before, falling towards him then he was being thrown aside, landing awkwardly on his left side. The pain was exquisite and his world darkened as he lost consciousness.
The Honorary Hobbit
Cast of Characters: Aragorn, Frodo, Merry, Pippin, Sam and appearances from the rest of the Fellowship.
These characters and Middle Earth are the sole property of the Tolkien Estate. I have no rights, no money—nada, zip… yada, yada, yada….
This story is obviously AU.
Chapter 3 A Team Effort
He breathed in slowly through his mouth trying to quell the nausea and dizziness. He blinked. All around him lay broken branches and golden hued leaves. Water ran down his face in rivulets and rain pounded the ground around him. He could hear voices raised in fear and panic but couldn’t lift his head to see who was speaking. His head thrummed to the beat of his heart and icy stabs of pain shot up his leg. Through the fog he felt small hands, wiping his face and speaking in low reassurances. A clap of thunder, a stab of light and he smelled the acrid after odor of lightening.
“We must get away…shelter,” he mumbled.
“Shh…you are badly injured, Aragorn, and we will not leave you, no matter the danger,” a soft voice said.
Frodo awoke some fifteen feet away from the oak tree. He was sore, scraped and bruised. He was thankful that he had landed face down so that the others could not see how much pain he was in. His shoulder wound felt freshly made and he half expected to see the Pale King hovering over him, blade in hand. He tried to mask his distress, but his face was pale and he trembled wildly as they helped him to his feet.
“Master, are you injured?” Sam asked, fear in his eyes.
“No Sam, I just got the wind knocked out of me is all,” he replied softly, trying and failing, to sound convincing.
Sam watched him, never letting loose of Frodo’s right arm. He could feel Frodo trembling and knew that his Master was anything but alright. His face was ashen, his lips blue as he gave Sam a tremulous smile.
“Mr. Frodo, why don’t you sit down oer…”
“Where’s Aragorn?” Frodo said cutting the gardener off.
Sam’s eyes flicked towards the oak tree. Frodo could see only branches- the branch that had been falling towards him when something had thrown him clear. Merry and Pippin were sitting on either side of it, worried looks on their faces. Frodo walked hurriedly towards his cousins no longer aware of his own injuries. His eyes flew open and he gasped when he saw an unconscious Aragorn pinned by the limb.
“Oh no,” he groaned and knelt beside Aragorn. The Ranger’s face was very pale, his body quaked with cold and pain. Panic gripped Frodo to see someone he could never imagine sick or in need, so strong, so sure of himself, suddenly so helpless. Aragorn was the healer, the protector, the hunter, and the stalwart one who always knew what to do in any situation and now that their roles were reversed by a mere twist of fate, Frodo was terrified that he would not be up to the task. He squared his shoulders and set his jaw in a determined line, he would do whatever was necessary to help his friend.
“Sam, Merry, Pip we need to get this branch off of him,” he said suddenly. The branch was huge, by hobbit standards, and Frodo wondered if the four of them would even be able to move it. He studied the limb lying across the Ranger and had an idea.
“I’m sorry, Aragorn, but Anduril is needed,” he whispered to the Ranger. He reached under the brittle limbs of the deadwood until his hand fastened on the hilt of the sword and gave it a tug. Nothing; the sword was too heavy for him to draw from its sheath.
“Help me clear these branches so we can get at Aragorn’s sword,” he urged. The other hobbits looked confused as to why Frodo needed Anduril, but began breaking away the limbs nonetheless.
Pip scurried to pick up the twigs, noticing that they were dry and thinking that they would come in handy when they decided to build a fire. He placed them in his pack deep within his extra clothing. Finally, they could see the sword lying against Aragorn’s left side and Frodo and Merry began tugging it from its sheath. Frodo was breathing hard, struggling to free the sword with all his might, but his left arm was useless and he had not the strength to help Merry.
“Beggin’ your pardon, Mr. Frodo, but since I work with me hands all day, perhaps I could help Mr. Merry,” Sam said tentatively. Frodo thought he could hide how much his shoulder pained him but all of them could tell by the way he trembled and favored the arm that he was in agony. Sam knew there was no stopping Frodo from ignoring the pain and working to free Aragorn, so he had said nothing in order for Frodo to save face. There would be time later to tend to his Master.
Frodo looked across Aragorn’s body to Sam and gave him a small smile, “Excellent idea, Sam. Never let a bookworm do what a gardener could do ten times over.” Sam blushed as he replaced Frodo’s hands with his own on the hilt of the sword. He and Merry pulled it cleanly from the scabbard.
“How do they lift these things, let alone fight with them?” Merry gasped.
“Alright, we are going to wedge Anduril under the branch and over Aragorn’s body and roll the log off of him,” Frodo said.
“A lever, that’s a fine idea, Mr. Frodo,” Sam exclaimed. He and Merry dragged the sword around Aragorn to Frodo. Frodo lay across Aragorn as the other three hobbits maneuvered the blade under the branch, over Aragorn’s hips and into the ground opposite.
“All right, it’s clear of his body,” Frodo said. They all stood, Pippin had taken one of the blankets and wrapped the sword hoping it would keep them from being cut. They lined up along the blade, grasping as far down the blade as they could reach. “On three, One…Two…Three!” Frodo said, and they began lifting the sword with all their strength. Aragorn cried out in pain as the branch shifted and the sword pressed down on his hipbone which acted as a fulcrum, then they were all getting under the sword and the branch was rolling off of the Ranger with a crash. Anduril fell to the side as they converged at Aragorn’s side.
Frodo drew in a ragged breath when he saw what had been hidden beneath the dead branch. Aragorn’s right leg was badly broken below the knee, a jagged bone protruded through the Ranger’s leggings and a large circle of blood had pooled beneath the leg. Frodo locked frightened eyes with the other three hobbits who looked equally frightened.
“Oh Aragorn,” Frodo said quietly. He looked at the others. “Scout around and see if any of you can find any flat pieces of wood. Sam, you brought your hatchet, I hope?” Sam nodded slowly, his face blanched as he looked down at the broken leg.
“Aye, Mr. Frodo,” he whispered.
“Go with Merry and Pip and see if you can split some wood to make it flat enough to use as a splint.” The three younger hobbits ran off into the trees looking for downed branches and deadwood. Frodo tugged on Aragorn’s slicker until he was able to pull it free, he left it as he ran to the packs and untied the bedrolls then ran back to Aragorn’s side and tucked the blankets around the shivering Ranger. Through it all he murmured reassurances and promises of rescue and help to his friend. After all of the blankets were tucked in around Aragorn, he covered him with the slicker. Frodo’s eyes darted around the luncheon site searching for Aragorn’s healer’s satchel. For once he was happy that the bag was so much larger than previously. Spying it against the tree where Aragorn had left it, Frodo grabbed the bag, opened it and began to survey its contents. Frodo was impressed by how much was in the bag, enough to deal with almost any contingency. “Let’s hope there is something I can use for a man instead of a hobbit,” Frodo said as he looked at all of the cordials and miniature splints.
He pulled out containers labeled in Elvish and began searching his memory for fragments of overheard conversations by Elrond and his healers while they were caring for him. He mentally thanked Bilbo for teaching him Elvish, knowing that Aragorn’s treatment now lay completely on his shoulders and his ability to decipher the contents of the medical bag. Frodo hoped his knowledge of the language was adequate and that he didn’t accidently poison his patient. Taking Aragorn’s knife, he carefully cut away the tattered legging then, grabbing his water skin he flooded the wound with water. Aragorn cried out and tried to move away. Frodo whispered apologies to the Ranger but continued to pour all of the water onto the wound until the pouch was empty and the break was visibly clean.
His attention returned to the various containers, bags of powders, herbs and teas, feeling overwhelmed and frightened. He feared to give Aragorn anything, worrying that in his attempt to help his friend that he would inadvertently harm him. He wet a cloth and slowly washed Aragorn’s face, “But I have to do *something*,” he whispered to his friend. His eyes filled with tears as he folded the cloth and lay it on Aragorn’s forehead and again began to study the small pouches. Some had labels with names he knew and were things even used in the Shire, he decided he would try one of those first.
He opened one pouch and a flowery scent wafted up into his face. On the side, in Elvish, was written ARNICA and he knew this to be an antibiotic. He sprinkled the white powder generously over the broken bone. He was tying the thread around the bag when Merry, Pippin and Sam ran up to him. They were covered in mud and completely soaked like he was, and they had a number of pieces of wood that might be useful as splints.
Frodo smiled tremulously as he took one of the long sticks from Sam. “This might work. Thank you all so much.” Frodo looked at Aragorn’s pinched face and whispered “This is going to be the worst part I fear.” He pulled a linen shirt out of his bag and handed it to Pippin. “Pip, could you tear this into strips please?”
Pippin nodded and began tearing the shirt apart. “Mr. Frodo, that’s your best shirt,” Sam exclaimed.
Frodo smiled, “I know Sam, but I also know you have another of my shirts in your pack.”
Sam blushed “’Jes bein’ prepared, is all,” he murmured.
“And I am very grateful that you are, dear Sam,” Frodo said warmly looking up at his friend.
Pippin finished, piling the strips of linen on top of Aragorn’s chest. Frodo turned to Merry, “Merry do you remember when Pip fell out of that tree and broke his arm while we were camping near Pintuck?”
“Oi! I was trying to reach those apples. How was I to know that some bird’s nest was on the same branch?” Pippin exclaimed.
“We told you Pip, that’s how, and you went after those apples anyway. That Mother bird could have pecked your eyes out,” Merry said with a smirk.
Pip took a breath to say something back and Frodo held up his hand stopping him. “Merry, remember how we had to set Pip’s arm so we could get him back to Brandyhall?”
Merry blanched and looked down at Aragorn’s leg, “Oh Frodo,” was all he said.
“I know,” Frodo said gazing down at the break. “I hate to cause him more pain but we have to set the leg as best we can. I’m going to sit at Aragorn’s head and try to soothe him while you and Sam set the leg. Pip, when Merry and Sam get the bones lined up, we’ll need you to tie those strips across the break and around the splints to keep his leg straight.”
“Yes, Frodo,” Pip squeaked. Frodo smiled at him and gave his arm a pat.
“Mr. Frodo, I’ve never done somethin’ like this…” Sam said, fidgeting.
Frodo took a deep breath and did something he had never done, something he did not want to do, but for Aragorn’s sake he knew he had to. “Sam, my arm is injured and I need you to help Merry since I don’t have the strength to help pull the bones back into place,” he said softly.
Sam’s mouth dropped open as did Merry and Pippin’s. “Frodo, you always deny it whenever you’re in pain. I don’t think I’ve ever heard you actually *admit* you were less than healthy,” Merry said, incredulous.
Frodo sighed, “I apologize about being difficult at times, Merry, but I do so hate it when people make a fuss.” He looked at Aragorn’s face and gently moved a strand of hair out of the Ranger’s eyes, “Now is not the time to be stoic. We need to help Aragorn. He has always been there for us, now it is our turn to care for him.” All four hobbits nodded and girded themselves for what was to come. Frodo picked up the flat pieces of wood the trio had brought back and examined them finally choosing the two longest. He delved into his pack pulling out his extra cloak.
“No Frodo, you’ve already donated a shirt. I have an extra cloak we can use instead,” Merry said softly. Frodo smiled and nodded. Merry ran to his pack and returned with the cloak, handing it to Frodo.
“Could you tear it in half for me, Mer’?” Frodo asked softly.
Merry looked at Frodo who held his left arm in his lap awkwardly. “Of course, cousin.” He slashed at the edge of the garment with his knife then ripped it in half. He handed half to Frodo and took the other half for himself. They wrapped the splints, covering the rough wood and trying to pad the boards as much as possible.
“Alright,” Frodo said blowing out a breath. “Let’s get this over with.”
“Right then,” Sam said as he straddled Aragorn facing Merry over the broken leg. Merry placed his legs on either side of the injured limb and grasped the foot.
“Sam you will pull from your end as much as you can while I pull from my end, until the bones come together and go back the way they should be,” Merry said, taking Aragorn’s foot in his lap and placing one hand under the heel. Sam nodded. Frodo positioned himself at Aragorn’s head and began whispering reassurances to the unconscious man as he gently stroked the Ranger’s face. Pip gulped and turned frightened eyes on Merry. “Ready Pippin?” Merry asked softly. Pip nodded nervously.
Merry looked up at Sam who set his jaw and nodded. He began to slowly pull the leg towards him keeping the toe up, Aragorn screamed and arched his back. Pip lay across the Ranger’s chest while Frodo put his head down placing all of his weight onto Aragorn’s shoulders, still the man lifted him up as he struggled. Aragorn suddenly went perfectly still and Frodo’s head shot up. He placed a trembling hand on the Ranger’s neck and sighed in relief when he felt the beat under his fingers.
“Pippin!” Merry shouted, and Pip moved to the leg and began tying the linen strips snugly around the leg. Frodo slipped his little finger under the strips to make sure they weren’t too tight or cutting off the circulation. Merry wrapped the leg in gauze while Sam and Frodo held it up. Finally, the padded boards were placed to immobilize the leg.
Frodo slumped down in exhaustion and was soon joined by Sam and Pippin. They leaned heavily against each other while Merry tucked the blankets and slicker securely around Aragorn. Pippin was quietly crying, tears running down his face as he leaned his head back against Frodo whose eyes were closed.
“All right, Pip?” Frodo asked quietly, pulling the tweenager to him.
“Is he going to be alright, Frodo?” Pip whispered.
“I hope so, Pippin.”
“I just hate seeing him so hurt, Frodo,” Pippin swiped at his nose with his arm.
“I know lad, but we had to do it or his leg would have got infected.” Pippin nodded against his chest. “We have one more duty to Aragorn,” Frodo said tiredly. They all looked at him. “We have to get him out of this rain and someplace warm and dry,” Frodo said. The thunder and lightning had long since moved on, but the rain had not lessoned in its intensity.
“How are we to do that? He is a BIG man, Frodo, we can’t carry him or even drag him. Do you have any ideas?” Merry asked as he stared down at Aragorn’s tall body.
Frodo sighed, “I think we should try to fashion a travois and make for the caves. They all stared at him blankly then one by one, looked up at the rim rock. Merry rose and began looking for long sticks he could use as a support frame.
“I brought rope, Mr. Frodo,” Sam said with a smile.
“Good Sam, we can lash the sides together and tie Aragorn to the litter,” Frodo smiled back at the gardener. Frodo began to paw through Aragorn’s things until he came upon a well-worn oiled leather cloak stuffed deep within the man’s bag. He lay out the cloak and stared at it as Sam watched him and wondered what his Master was thinking. “Aragorn is going to be very upset with me, Sam,” Frodo murmured. Using Merry’s knife he began cutting thick strips off of the edge of the cloak, leaving the large center piece to use for the cradle portion of the travois. After he had cut fifteen or twenty strips he laid the knife down and shook out his right hand which was cramping.
Merry returned from his search for materials and sat down by Frodo. “You alright, Cousin?” he asked. Sam and Pip looked up, waiting for Frodo’s reaction.
“I am fine, Merry, just a little tired is all. Hand me those sticks and I’ll lash them to the side pieces,” he said softly.
“I don’t think so, Frodo.” Frodo looked at him, incredulous. “I’m sorry cousin, but they need to be tied very tight to the frame and with your left arm frozen and hurting you, you just don’t have the strength to pull the lashings tight,” Merry said quietly, pity in his eyes.
Frodo flushed and looked down. “There will be time to tend to my wound later. Aragorn must come first,” he murmured.
“We knew you would say that and that is why no one has stopped you yet,” Merry said pulling a lashing tight around one of the poles. “Aragorn is trembling terribly. It’s probably shock, but he’s probably also cold. Why don’t you go and curl up next to him and keep him warm?” Merry said as his deft fingers wound the leather around another juncture of the litter.
“Come on, Mr. Frodo, I’ll cover you both up,” Sam said, helping his Master to his feet.
Frodo looked at each of their faces. “Did I ever fool *any* of you?”
Pippin laughed, “Of course not, you silly Baggins. We knew you were hurt probably before you did. We know you and how you would do anything for any one of us anytime regardless of what it does to yourself.”
Frodo blushed again, “I really *am* much better,” he tried. They all rolled their eyes at once. “Come get me then when you’re done with the travois,” he murmured, smiling.
“Rest well, cousin, it will be some time before we get everything done,” Merry said with a smile.
Sam raised the corner of the blankets and Frodo settled over Aragorn’s chest, tucking his head under the man’s chin and legs on either side of the man’s torso. “Night sir,” Sam said. He lowered the blankets over Frodo’s head then covered them both with the slicker, tenting it to allow air in. It was surprisingly warm and soon Aragorn’s shaking all but stopped and Frodo slipped into slumber.
The Honorary Hobbit
Cast of Characters: Aragorn, Frodo, Merry, Pippin, Sam and appearances from the rest of the Fellowship.
These characters and Middle Earth are the sole property of the Tolkien Estate. I have no rights, no money—nada, zip… yada, yada, yada….
Aragorn’s eyes slowly crept open. He lay perfectly still, relying on his long time experience as a Ranger to assess where he was. It was raining but he was warm, snuggly ensconced in layers of blankets and covered in something that caught the majority of the rain. He was damp but the rain currently feel on a slicker that lay over him, with a tap, tap, tap drumming. His head pounded, and his right leg was in agony. He could hear quiet conversation— chatter between hobbits, he realized. There was a comfortable weight on his chest and he canted his head to look down, seeing only dark chestnut curls. Frodo, he thought. Aragorn wondered if the Ringbearer were injured. He studied the way Frodo laid across his chest but could not discern whether he was well or not. The hobbit slept, his breathes coming in the slow, regular inhalations of one asleep. He thought Frodo might be feverish as Aragorn felt unusually warm with the hobbit lying on his chest. He shifted, trying to stretch out muscles that had tightened from lying too long in the same position. He couldn’t help the cry that escaped his lips. Instantly, he was surrounded by a band of concerned hobbits. Frodo’s head looked into his face, large worried blue eyes staring up at him. The blankets and slicker had been pulled back and Pippin’s green eyes hovered over his face.
“Get back, Pip. He doesn’t need to see your pinched up face so close as to give him nightmares,” Merry said.
“I’ll have you know that I am considered quite becoming for a Took,” Pippin snorted.
“Well, that’s a frightening thought,” Merry said.
“Hust you two,” Frodo scolded. “How do you feel, Aragorn?”
“You took a branch in the head, Strider. You jes lie still and we’ll take care of you, sir,” Sam said. Frodo moved carefully from Aragorn’s chest up to his head and looked down at him. He laid Aragorn’s hand down on the man’s chest as he shifted off of the Ranger to the right side.
“My right leg…”
“I am afraid it is badly broken, Aragorn, we set it as best we could,” Frodo said softly.
“Let me see,” Aragorn said, trying to sit up. Four pairs of hands gently pushed him back down as his world whirled and spun around him. He hurriedly rolled to the left and emptied his stomach, narrowly missing Sam’s lap. He was instantly on his side, surrounded by hobbits stroking his forehead, whispering reassurances, and wiping his face and mouth. Sam had jumped back just in time. He pulled his water bag from behind him and gave Aragorn a drink.
“Thank you, Sam.” Slowly they lowered him back onto his back. Aragorn could think of no better care givers that a band of hobbits with their nurturing nature. He hadn’t had a chance to get to know them as well as he wished, yet their love and concern for his well-being was as if he were an honorary hobbit. The empathy and caring that their race automatically dispensed towards anything injured was so unlike the race of men who held themselves apart from others, suspicious and untrusting.
“Let that be a lesson to you, Aragorn. You need to lie still and let us take care of you,” Frodo said as if from a distance.
“Where are we?” Aragorn whispered his eyes closed.
“Not far from where we had luncheon,” Frodo answered.
“Frodo, are you all right? Did you get hurt?” Aragorn asked softly. There was a long pause and Aragorn slowly opened his eyes. Three hobbits were staring at an obstinate Frodo. The Ringbearer gave them a warning glare and looked down at Aragorn with a quavering smile. Aragorn’s eyebrows moved upward, letting Frodo know that he had seen the silent conversation.
Aragorn smirked up at the Ringbearer, “I hadn’t put much thought into it, I admit. I shall try to plan accordingly should there be a next time.” The Ranger’s smile slowly faded as he studied Frodo’s face and posture. He could see that the hobbit was favoring his left arm, mostly because Frodo held the arm close to his chest and perfectly still. ‘I may be injured but I am far from blind, Frodo Baggins’ he thought. His energy exhausted, his eyes slowly closed.
Frodo sighed and looked up at three pairs of incriminating eyes. “Merry, is the travois ready?” he asked.
“Yes Frodo, I was just about to wake you when Aragorn cried out.” They all rose, Frodo slower than the others. Merry frowned, “Perhaps we should build a second travois,” he said evenly.
Frodo gave him a warning glare as Sam and Pippin stepped back a pace, trying to distance themselves from the battle that was sure to follow.
“How are we to get Strider onto the travois, Frodo? AND how are we supposed to get him up to the caves? It’s obvious to anyone you’re not at full health, and I don’t believe three of us can carry Aragorn on flat land, let alone uphill and over boulders to the caves.”
Frodo gave Merry a withering look as he squared his shoulders and ground his teeth together. There was a bright flush on his cheeks as he whipped around, facing Merry. “I think you go too far, Meriadoc Brandybuck,” he bit out. “I am not so injured that I cannot give you a healthy shiner, cousin, so mind your mouth.” Frodo’s stance and appearance was of pure rage and Merry recognized the cousin who had frequently been forced to be his childhood disciplinarian. He realized he had gone too far, but was equally as stubborn as Frodo Baggins.
“You are injured, Frodo. You will not be able to help us in this. Perhaps you should go up to the caves and build a fire so that the cave will be warm when we get there,” Merry pressed.
Sam’s eyes widened and he grabbed Pippin’s arm, taking a few more steps back and dragging the open mouthed Took with him.
If it had been possible Sam was sure he would have seen steam coming from Mr. Frodo’s ears. He knew that his Master was normally a calm, reserved and diplomatic hobbit, but Frodo had a large stubborn streak and, when pushed, could be a formidable enemy. Although his temperament was usually genial it only served to mask the steel of Frodo’s mettle. He had a horrid temper, seldom seen, but once triggered, a frightening thing to behold. Everyone in Hobbiton knew that the normally placid hobbit could become a force to be reckoned with if pushed too far. Sam was absolutely sure that Merry had just pushed Frodo too far.
“I am not helpless, Meriadoc. My left arm pains me, yes, but I can carry my share of Aragorn’s litter quite easily on my right shoulder, which is what we will all be doing since it will make the litter stronger and more stable than simply using two hands. I am fine, cousin, but you…you soon will not be if you continue to bait me,” Frodo said in a low threatening voice.
“I appreciate that, Merry.” Sam didn’t think it really sounded much like Mr. Frodo *preciated* anything at that moment. His Master’s fists flexed open and closed, his voice was barely civil and his body was taut as a bowstring. “However, *I* am not the one you should be concerned for. Aragorn is burning with fever, he will not survive if we do not get him to the caves in all due haste. We will need to send for help after we get something warm to eat and some rest. So if you would please stay focused on the task before us, namely saving Aragorn’s life, then all will be well,” Frodo turned back towards Aragorn, kneeling down. He grabbed a man sized blanket off the unconscious man. “Help me, Sam,” he said, calmly. Sam rushed to the opposite side of the Ranger and knelt down. “Sit him up slowly,” Frodo said. Frodo easily slipped into the leadership role, his quiet power emanating from him. It wasn’t ego; it was an expected role for Frodo as the oldest and wisest of the four of them. Had anyone else taken the lead it would have felt wrong. He would see that Aragorn *was* saved and *would* be made well, if only by the sheer will of Frodo Baggins. They slowly sat the Ranger up, his head lolling forward. Pip moved to Aragorn’s front, supporting the man’s head.
Frodo rolled out the blanket, bunching most of it at the base of Aragorn’s back. They then slowly lowered their friend back down. “Sam you will lift Aragorn’s left side, Pip you’re going to pull the blanket down under Aragorn’s hips so that he is lying on top of it.” Pip nodded. Sam grunted as he lifted Aragorn mere inches from the cold ground while Pip’s deft fingers pulled as much of the bunched blanket under the left hip. Merry stood quietly staring down at the them, still stunned silent by the tongue lashing his angry older cousin had given him. “Are you going to help us Merry, or just watch?” Frodo asked evenly.
Merry nodded dumbly and knelt down next to Frodo on Aragorn’s right side. While he copied Sam’s actions, Frodo reached under Aragorn’s hip, pulling as much of the blanket down as possible. Frodo and Pippin continued to pull the blanket down under the Ranger’s legs, while Merry and Sam lifted the legs out of the way. Finally, the blanket was in place beneath Aragorn, leaving a sizeable border around the man. Frodo sighed heavily and sank back on his haunches. “We are going to lift Aragorn onto the travois by grabbing the blanket and pulling him.” Merry’s mouth opened as if to say something but Pip shot him a glare and he closed it with a snap.
Merry retrieved the travois and laid it at Aragorn’s left side. Frodo ran a hand over the tightly woven leather and wood. He smiled over at Merry, “You did an amazing job on this, Mer’,” he said.
Merry smiled back, feeling the angry tension of moments before, ease. “Thanks, Frodo. One of my *elderly* cousins taught me how to do it,” he chuckled.
Frodo harrumphed before becoming serious again. “All right, we’ll each grasp a corner of the blanket and lift Aragorn towards the litter. On three…one, two, three,” all of them lifted, sliding and moving Aragorn a few inches towards the travois.
“He don’t look that heavy, does he Mr. Frodo? But he surely is,” Sam panted.
“Dead weight, Sam, although I am sure, being as Aragorn is all muscle, he weighs more than he looks too,” Frodo grunted.
On the next lift they were able to tug and pull Aragorn over the edge of the travois then on the third and fourth lift, had him situated in the middle. They sat back, breathing heavy. Frodo’s left hand had been useless so he had wound the corner of the blanket around his right wrist in order to do his share. The right arm now had a nasty welt from the blanket, but otherwise he was rather proud of himself.
Sam spread the blankets over Aragorn, tucking them in then covered him in the slicker. Frodo and Merry then lashed the Ranger down with the rope Sam had had the foresight to bring. When they were done all that could be seen was the Ranger’s face.
“Now, we need to lift him,” Frodo said, looking down at Aragorn and wondering if such a thing were even possible.
“If each of us gets as far under him as we can, then we just stand with the travois edges on our shoulders,” Pip said. As if to demonstrate he crouched down on one side, then he frowned, “Well, how about if we lift Aragorn up like we’re going to stand him up, then move underneath him?” Pip grinned hopefully. Sam, Merry and Frodo stared at him, unsure.
They all gathered at the top of the travois near Aragorn’s head. They counted out loud to three and amidst loud groans tilted the travois enough for Merry to dart under the right edge while Sam moved under the left of the litter. With their shoulders doing the work they slowly rose from a crouch, Frodo and Pip darted under the back edge, Frodo’s right shoulder and Pip’s left under the weight of the travois.
“We stand on three,” Frodo panted. They counted to three together and lifted, resting the travois firmly on their shoulders, their backs straining. Pip was a little shorter so his end of the travois dipped a bit, but all in all, Frodo was surprised and pleased that their team work had been successful.
“Frodo, I hope we can make it to the caves. Strider is pretty heavy even with the four of us,” Merry panted.
“There is no other way Merry, Aragorn will die if we don’t do this. We *have to* get him to shelter. Whatever happens, we have to try and stay in position. If we step out of line, the litter will tip and Aragorn will fall. If one of us should slip or fall it could be disastrous so we need to move slow and steady,” Frodo gasped.
“You alright, Mr. Frodo?” Sam asked. He couldn’t look back since Frodo was behind him and their right shoulders were struggling to hold up the length of the left side of the travois.
“Fine Sam, let’s go,” Frodo said, dodging the question. There were more immediate concerns than his own comfort. “Count off your steps…one…two…one…two, in that way we will step at the same time,” Frodo called.
Very slowly they made their way across the plateau and under the trees to the Rimrock. When they got to the rock fall it was more of a scramble to move around and over the rocks and Pippin and Frodo soon devised a way to get around the rocks. They would lay their end of the travois on a boulder, run around and then get back underneath the travois again. Using the same technique, Sam and Merry would place the travois above the ground on the Rimrock, then skirt around the obstacle and return under the edges of the travois to continue on. After a while the four had developed a rudimentary system, but it was slow going and exhausting work. Frequently, one of them would slip, the travois dipping precariously as the other three hobbits struggled to counter balance and avert disaster. It was full dark when they at last, were able to maneuver their fallen friend over the top most edge of the Rimrock.
“Now we just need to retrieve our packs,” Frodo said tiredly.
They all groaned, but still didn’t move. Finally Frodo rolled to his right side with a groan. “First a fire, I think,” he said.
“I saved the broken branches,” Pippin exclaimed, as he jumped up then his face fell. “They’re in my pack,” he said dejectedly. He pulled Merry then Sam up to their feet.
Frodo smiled widely, “That’s all right, Pip, there’s a lot of wood lying around,” he gave Pip a loving squeeze.
“Frodo, Pip and I are going back for the packs,” Merry said, crouching down next to his cousin.
“Take Sam with you, you two can’t carry five packs,” Frodo said.
“Master, I should stay and get a meal started and you might need my help,” Sam said.
“No Sam, I will stay with Aragorn. There will be time to eat later. Besides,” he looked up at Sam, a knowing look and a twinkle in his eye, “all of our food along with your pots and pans are in the packs.”
Sam blushed furiously, “I didn’t want you to be left alone, is all,” he muttered.
Sam nodded, “You won’t be wanderin’ around or anything, will you Master?”
Frodo grinned widely, squelching the desire to burst into laughter, “Oh Sam…no, I plan not to move from Aragorn’s side.”
Sam blushed again then joined Merry and Pip at the cave entrance. “We’ll be back soon, Master,” Sam said with an anxious look.
He set the pouch aside and began removing the blankets from his friend. Aragorn groaned and Frodo was immediately at his shoulder, looking down into the face of the Ranger.
“Aragorn?” he whispered. He re-wet the cloth and washed Aragorn’s brow and face.
“Thirsty,” the Ranger mumbled.
Frodo forced his left arm to work, slipping it behind his friend’s shoulders and raising the man’s head. He could not help the whimper that escaped his lips. He held the water bag shakily to Aragorn’s lips as the man drank deeply. Then he slowly lowered the Ranger back down with a sigh.
Aragorn’s eyes cracked open, “Are you all right, Frodo?” The man asked, concerned.
“I am all right, Aragorn, just a little…sore,” Frodo said wearily. “Aragorn, you have a fever, I have your medical bag, what should I do?” Frodo asked.
“Am I bleeding?” Aragorn asked. Frodo lifted the blankets off of the leg and looked at the wrappings. There was a large spot of blood on the gauze at the break, but the rest of the bandages were relatively clean.
“I see some, but not a large amount,” Frodo said uncertainly.
Aragorn nodded, wincing, “Willow bark tea will help with the fever and pain. I also have some powdered yarrow root in my bag that you can sprinkle on the break to help with infection,” he murmured.
Frodo’s eyes lit up, “I found that, but had only heard of using yarrow as a tea,” he exclaimed.
“It can be used both ways. The roots are more concentrated and when dried and ground into a powder, can be sprinkled directly onto the source of the infection,” Aragorn whispered.
“Are you in pain?”
“I am unfortunately, in a great deal of pain, my friend,” Aragorn replied.
“Is it safe to give you poppy, Aragorn or should I give you something else?” Frodo asked feeling completely overwhelmed.
“Poppy is safe in people with head wounds only if the patient knows his name or the name of the person taking care of him.”
Frodo leaned over Aragorn’s face and looked into his eyes, “Who am I?” he asked.
Aragorn smiled, “You are Frodo Baggins of the Shire and my good friend,” he said, remembering what Frodo had said to him when he had called Frodo ‘Ringbearer’.
Frodo’s smile wavered as tears began to run down his cheeks. “I treated you abominably. How can you ever forgive me for my outburst?”
Aragorn raised his hand to Frodo’s face and thumbed a tear away. “There is nothing to forgive, Frodo, I took no offense.”
Frodo wiped his face with his sleeve, “How much poppy should I give you?” He asked as he retrieved the jar from the bag.
Aragorn took the jar from Frodo’s trembling hands and opened it, taking a large dollop on his finger he slipped it under his tongue. “You would give a hobbit about a third as much,” he murmured.
Frodo retrieved the jar, capped it and placed it back in the bag. He turned back to Aragorn, “Would you like more water?” But the Ranger’s eyes had closed and the man now breathed slow and rhythmically, obviously asleep.
Frodo held the water bag in his lap as he watched the Ranger sleep. He suddenly felt terribly alone, and he began to cry. After a few moments, he laid the water bottle down and slowly began to unwind the wrapped leg. He hissed in empathy once it was laid bare. Angry shades of black and blue ran the entire length of the leg. The area of the break was swollen but not extremely so. He picked up the pouch of yarrow root powder and sprinkled it liberally over the wound. He tested the straps to make sure they were not too tight and loosened a few. He rewrapped the leg in clean gauze, then wrapped Merry’s tattered cloak around the limb. Next, he placed a small flat rock under the heel of Aragorn’s foot and pushed some of the leaves into a pile under the knee to keep it elevated then he pulled the blankets back over his friend.
He rose, fed the fire again, then returned to the Ranger, wetting a cloth and leaving it on Aragorn’s forehead. He sat holding Aragorn’s hand and speaking softly to the man. His eyes began to droop and he curled up next to the Ranger, crawling under the edge of the blanket and lying against Aragorn’s chest. He drifted into a restless doze.
The Honorary Hobbit Chapter 5
Frodo was awoken by Merry gently shaking him and calling his name. He looked up at his cousin.
“Back so soon?” he asked with a yawn. “I must have dozed off.”
“More than a doze, I think. I’ve been trying to wake you for five minutes, cousin. Sam near went crazy looking about the caves when he saw you were gone.”
“Poor Sam, I didn’t mean to frighten him so—I was just so tired,” Frodo said drowsily. He looked around the camp seeing that Sam was busy at the fire fixing a quick meal for all of them. With satisfaction he saw two pots of boiling water sitting in the coals at the side. Pippin was forming a mat of dried leaves into beds close to the fire.
“Pip, could you put those leaves on both sides of Aragorn? I think he will need us to help keep him warm tonight.”
Pippin brightened and began hauling the make shift beds to either side of the Ranger. “Sam is almost ready for us to eat, Frodo, how is Aragorn?”
Frodo gulped at the idea of food but knew he was being watched closely by his companions and would have to make a best effort to at least *appear* hungry. He looked at Aragorn, running a hand over the man’s sweaty forehead. “He’s in much pain and feverish,” he said worriedly. He looked up at Merry and Pip, “I am truly worried for him. He woke briefly and I had him tell me what to do. I sprinkled some of the powdered Yarrow root over the break and gave him some poppy, but if we don’t get him some help I fear his condition could become most dire.” Frodo poured some water on a cloth, wrung it out and dabbed at the man’s face and neck before leaving the fresh cloth on Aragorn’s forehead.
“Let’s eat and rest then we can discuss what we should do next, all right?” Merry said trying to allay Frodo’s fears. Frodo nodded and Merry gave him a hand up. Pippin had finished laying out the remainder of the blankets on the piles of leaves, hoping it would be enough to keep them warm, then walked with Merry and Frodo back to the fire. Sam was just serving up the meal—bacon and tomatoes served on toasted bread with apple slices and cheese rounding out the meal. A cup of tea accompanied each plate.
“It’s not much, Mr. Frodo, but it’ll do for a quick snack,” Sam said apologetically.
“It’s perfect, Sam, thank you so much,” Frodo smiled and took his plate. Sam sat the mug of tea on the ground next to where Frodo sat, not wanting Frodo to have to try and use his left arm.
“The tea will be a treasure,” Frodo said with a smile.
The others sat down after taking their plates and mugs, and for a moment there was peace as they focused on the meal. Frodo found he was actually hungry after smelling the sizzling bacon and seeing the filled plates. He applied himself to his food with gusto and Sam sighed in relief as he watched his Master out of the corner of his eye. Throughout the meal, Frodo cast worried glances towards their fallen comrade. After they ate their fill they sat companionably drinking their tea, Merry passed around the last of the ginger hobbits as Frodo began to speak.
“We have to discuss what our next actions will be,” he said softly. Pippin dunked a cookie in the tea and took a large bite, his eyes, along with Merry’s and Sam’s, fixed on his cousin. “I think after eating, we should sleep for a bit then Merry and Pippin I would like to send you back to Rivendell for help,” Frodo said, sipping his tea and studying the two over the top of his cup.
Merry looked at Pippin with a frown, “Do you think that’s wise, Frodo? I mean you and Sam would be all alone. What if someone or something should come upon you? You would need all of us to defend you,” Merry said worriedly.
Frodo smiled, “Firstly, if someone came upon us I would welcome their help.” Merry and Pippin looked surprised. “Remember Merry that we are still within the protected borders of Rivendell. I feel perfectly safe here. Secondly, we have to send for help or I fear Aragorn will die,” he said looking over at the bundled form of their friend. Three gasps drew his gaze back to his companions.
“Do you think he’s really that bad off, Mr. Frodo?” Sam asked staring over at Aragorn.
“I do, Sam. His fever is very high and I fear he has an infection. We’ve all seen what happens when a bone grows infected.”
Pippin gulped, feeling as if his supper might make a sudden reappearance. “My cousin Addy had to have his arm removed,” he whispered.
“Exactly, Pip. Imagine if Aragorn were to lose his leg or worse. At the least he would be unable to accompany us on our journey. If he died, there would be no return of the King, a return Middle Earth needs to restore peace and help vanquish the evil in the East. Also, we would lose not only a good man, but a good friend. We cannot allow this to happen. I feel that Aragorn’s destiny is linked to all of us. I do not know how I know this just that I do. Besides, we cannot carry him back to Rivendell on our own, we must get help for him. I am a poor substitute for a healer, I fear,” Frodo said with feeling.
Merry nodded, looking over at Pip who sat up straighter, a determined look on his face. He gave a decisive nod back to Merry.
“Right,” Merry said firmly. “Well, I suppose we should turn in then.”
Frodo looked at each of his friends. ‘They look exhausted,’ he thought. ‘I probably look even worse,’ he mused, a grim smirk touched his lips. He pulled Aragorn’s medical bag to him. “I need your help before we rest. I need to make a tea to give to Aragorn. Sam, could you make a thin broth? He has to eat something before we let him rest,”
“Already done, Mr. Frodo,” Sam said with a smile.
Frodo grinned over at Sam as his friend rose. “Sam, I must say it makes me just a bit nervous that you can read minds,” he chuckled.
Sam blushed furiously, “I just thought as he’d be hungry seeing as he hasn’t eaten since luncheon.”
Pippin’s eyes widened in shock, “I hadn’t thought of that! He must be famished, poor man,” he exclaimed.
Frodo smiled to himself, “Perhaps, but men are an odd lot, Pip, and he may not be hungry at all.”
Well this was just too much to comprehend for Peregrine Took and his face registered that. He sputtered in astonishment until finally finding his voice, “However will he even open his eyes on such skimpy rations?” He blurted.
Frodo got a cold chill hearing that, ‘how indeed’, he thought to himself. He felt an overwhelming need to check on the man and rose and went to Aragorn’s side.
Aragorn was breathing deeply, obviously asleep. His face was sweaty and an occasional moan escaped his lips.
“He will be all right, Pip,” he said more to reassure himself than his green eyed cousin. “He is made of sterner stuff than most, remember.” He mopped Aragorn’s face and neck, needing to touch the Ranger to reinforce this belief.
He returned to Aragorn’s medical bag, reading each packet as he removed it from the pouch. “Echinacea, Yarrow, Boneset and Peppermint,” he muttered. He looked up at the others. “I can’t make it taste too awful or he’ll never swallow it,” he said.
Sam smiled, “I dunno, Mr. Frodo, it seems to me I remember him forcing enough awful stuff on you,” he grinned.
Merry grinned mischievously, “Perhaps it’s time for a little pay back, cousin.”
Frodo grinned, “Normally I would be happy to do just that if his injuries were minor, but under the circumstances I believe I’ll just file that away for later. Here Sam, steep some of these for me. We can always mix his tea with the broth and try to mask the taste, I suppose,” he said uncertainly. He handed Sam the four packets.
“I dunno, Mr. Frodo, peppermint in stew sounds mighty unappetizing to me,” Sam said with a grimace.
“Ick, I’m glad it’s not me you’re trying to heal. I’d vomit for sure,” Pippin said with a shudder.
Frodo smiled, “Good point, Sam. Let’s make the Peppermint as a separate tea then mix the other herbs with the broth.”
Sam nodded and began putting the leaves, twigs and powders into the boiling water to steep. He thought it looked awful and watched as the water turned a sickening green. “Ugh,” he exclaimed, “How much of each, Mr. Frodo?” Sam asked, holding up the pouches.
Frodo frowned, “Well, he *is* very ill,” he mused, “I think half of each ought to be good,” he decided.
Sam did as he was told and watched the water turn an even darker green, looking more like pond scum than tea. “I dunno how we’re goin’ ta make him swallow this,” he groaned.
Frodo crossed to the fire and stared down into the pot. Merry and Pippin joined him standing on either side of their cousin. All three faces blanched as the aroma wafted up at them.
“On the other hand, Sam, you probably should make that broth really strong. Add some garlic and onions, perhaps.” Frodo said unconvinced that the concoction would be any more palatable no matter what they did.
Sam nodded then retrieved a packet of dried deer broth, turning it upside down and adding almost all of it to the ‘tea’. He added in some chopped onion and garlic and gave it a stir. He frowned, ‘perhaps some meat would help,’ he thought to himself. He reached into his bag and pulled out some strips of jerky, tore them into small pieces and put them in the pot. He covered the pot to let it simmer. “It needs to bubble a bit, Mr. Frodo.” He glanced over at the hot pool, “I’m thinking that a soak in that there hot water might be jes’ the thing for a tired and achy body, don’t you think, Mr. Frodo?”
Frodo smiled, “I can watch the soup while you take a bath, if you’d like, Sam.”
Sam blushed, “No sir, I meant you and yer cousins, sir,” he mumbled.
“There’s hardly room for the three of us, Sam. I know you Sam, what are you hinting at?” Frodo asked thinking he already knew the answer.
“I think that that hot pool might be jes’ the thing for an aching arm, is all,” Sam said squaring his jaw.
“Why I think that’s a marvelous idea, Sam. Frodo and I will take a soak then you and Pip can soak after us. What do you say, Frodo?” Merry asked.
Frodo knew he had been herded into a trap by his well-meaning cousins and loyal friend. “What about Aragorn?” he asked.
“Frodo he’s hardly in the condition for a soak,” Pip said with a snort.
Frodo grinned widely, “No, I meant who will watch him, Pip?”
“Oh…well…we will, of course. We’re not completely helpless without you, cousin,” Pippin replied cheerfully.
“Very well, all of you, it *does* sound lovely.” The three remaining hobbits were stunned silent. They had expected their older, more stubborn cousin to put up more of an argument. Frodo stripped, and then lowered himself into the low pool with a sigh. He closed his eyes in bliss, letting the tension slowly leave his body as he leaned his head back against the edge. He slipped down even lower until the left shoulder was completely immersed. “Oh…” he sighed.
Sam grinned over at Merry and Pippin who were smiling widely. They let Frodo stay thus for half an hour until Merry went to get him out and dressed. He stopped, seeing that Frodo had fallen asleep. He sighed; it was perhaps the first time since the wounding that his cousin looked truly pain free. He decided to leave his cousin in peace for a moment more and silently withdrew. He smiled at Pip and Sam, “We can’t do much for that stubborn Baggins in easing his pain but perhaps we can let him enjoy whatever pleasure we happen upon.” Sam and Pip nodded and smiled widely. Sam poured them all another cup of tea and they chatted quietly as Frodo reveled in the warm embrace of the water.
Merry lightly touched Frodo’s shoulder causing his cousin’s eyes to snap open.
“Oh, sorry Merry, I must have dozed off,” Frodo said, startled.
“I hated to bother you, Frodo, but it’s almost time to give Aragorn his ‘dinner’. I think we’ll have better results if you feed him.”
“Why is that, Mer?” Frodo asked as he stood, dried and redressed.
Merry thought for a moment before replying. “I think Aragorn will want to appear more compliant with you, Frodo. He respects you…you and your endurance after your wounding. I think he would do anything to not let you down or think him not worthy of *your* respect.
Frodo stared at Merry, “That’s ridiculous, Merry, I already respect him immensely. I cannot imagine why he should want or care about my feelings towards him.”
“Oh cousin, that is where you are wrong,” Merry said as they walked over to the fire. “You are too modest and self-effacing to notice the admiring looks from all around you. You endured, my ancient cousin, for fourteen days longer than anyone should have endured. You are considered stubborn, of course, but that stubbornness saved you, made you strong. All of Rivendell, Aragorn included, respects you more than you will ever know. It’s almost like hero worship, now that I think of it,” Merry said with a smile.
Frodo blushed, “I hardly think that I am a hero of any kind, Merry, and as to my being so strong or perhaps stubborn, you will never know how close I was to giving in…I simply did not want the Dark Lord to succeed.” He hesitated, “But mostly I didn’t want to disappoint Aragorn, Gandalf, Bilbo and all of you by succumbing,” he whispered, his eyes damp.
Merry pulled Frodo to him, “You could never disappoint any of us, Frodo,” he whispered. “Let’s get that Ranger fed, what do you say?” They both discretely wiped their eyes and walked over to Sam who was pouring the concoction into a mug.
Frodo wrinkled his nose and turned away, “Well, it smells a *little* better, I suppose,” he said dubiously. He, Merry and Pip congregated about the sleeping Ranger while Sam built up the fire and set out towels for himself and Frodo’s cousins by the hot pool. He was grateful that he was excluded from the group trying to give Aragorn the medicine.
Frodo gently shook Aragorn’s shoulder and the Ranger’s eyes slowly cracked open. He moaned softly, reached up and touched his forehead and a large bandage before lowering his hand to his chest. “How are you feeling, Aragorn? Did the poppy help?” Frodo asked, nervously smoothing the man’s blankets.
“Some, the pain is tolerable.” Frodo smiled, he could not think of much that the Ranger could not tolerate except perhaps unruly hobbits. Pippin was gently dabbing the man’s face and holding a cool cloth at Aragorn’s forehead while Merry slipped behind the Ranger’s back, gradually tilting the man forward to give him a drink of water. “Erm ... might I have a word in private with Frodo, gentlemen?” Aragorn mumbled. If Pippin hadn’t known better he would have thought the Ranger was blushing. ‘Just the fever’, he thought. Merry frowned. Aragorn seemed decidedly uncomfortable. He slowly slipped from behind the man, lowering him back down to the blankets. He rose with Pip and they walked to the fire to join Sam. Frodo waited, looking questioningly at his friend.
Aragorn slowly moved his head to watch the other three hobbits. When at last he heard them quietly conversing, he turned his eyes back to Frodo, wincing at the movement. Frodo had a small grin on his lips, obviously entertained by the normal stoic Ranger’s flustered demeanor.
“Aragorn, what is it? Are you in pain? Can I somehow make you more comfortable?” Frodo asked unable to wait any longer.
Aragorn’s eyes closed as he took a deep breath, apparently bracing himself. “Frodo, yes I am uncomfortable and I hope you *can* help,” he whispered.
“But of course, Aragorn, anything at all,” Frodo said. He pulled the medical bag closer expecting Aragorn to instruct him on some medicinal remedy for what ailed him.
“Frodo…I…er…need to use the privy,” Aragorn murmured blushing deeply and grinding his teeth together.
Frodo’s eyes widened, “Oh…well…hmmm … how do we go about doing this? You cannot rise, in fact you can move very little,” Frodo said looking at the man’s supine figure. “I suppose a cup would do the trick easily enough,” he babbled.
Aragorn interrupted, “It is not a liquid, Frodo.” The man’s humiliation was complete as he turned his face away.
“Oh…OH…but, however…how are we to…?” Frodo blushed looking completely befuddled and confused. “Is it urgent? Let me talk to Sam,” he rushed.
“NO…er, I don’t want anyone else knowing,” Aragorn exclaimed.
The others around the fire looked over towards the huddled duo at the sound of raised voices. Frodo smiled and gave them a nod and seeing that they were not required, they turned back towards the fire and resumed their chatter.
Frodo turned back to Aragorn, “I will need help, Aragorn. And some sort of er…vessel, so I will need to tell the others,” Frodo said in a rushed whisper.
Aragorn groaned and blushed even more than before, “Would that it were not so,” he muttered. “Perhaps if I push myself up on my forearms we could avoid needing assistance,” he begged.
Frodo looked at him in quiet disbelief, “You are very weak, I doubt you can lift yourself.”
“I will try, if I cannot, we will tell the others,” Aragorn said desperately.
“Very well, but let me just say one thing before I fetch whatever we are to use.” Aragorn nodded. “It is nice, for a change, to have you at *my* mercy, Aragorn.” The Ranger blushed while giving Frodo a slow smile.
Frodo untucked most of the blankets then moved back to watch Aragorn’s effort. The man tried, struggled, desperately strained but could not raise himself up on his forearms. He sighed and lay back --then, straining once again, put all his might into pushing himself up, ‘I will not be at the mercy of four smirking hobbits,’ he vowed as he mentally panicked.
Finally, Frodo put a hand on his chest and easily pushed him back down. He could not help but grin at the Ranger as Aragorn locked pleading eyes with his own. “No more, you are wasting energy better left for getting well, Aragorn. It would appear you truly *are* at our mercy.” Frodo’s smile faded, “Be at peace, Aragorn, we are your friends and gladly will we tend to your needs. There is no reason for you to be embarrassed, you took care of me when I needed it most,” Frodo said softly. “I am honored to return the favor in any small way.” Aragorn looked doubtful as he slumped down, defeated, onto his nest of leaves and blankets.
After giving the man a reassuring pat on the arm Frodo rose and walked slowly over to the fire. Sam, Merry and Pippin turned curious faces towards him. Aragorn watched as Frodo quietly spoke to the other three hobbits then saw three sets of eyes widen and look surreptitiously over at him. He winced, wanting to be *anywhere* other than in his current situation. Frodo was having an animated conversation with Sam, Aragorn saw. ‘I wonder what that’s all about,’ he thought to himself. There was much hand waving and gesturing until finally Sam’s shoulders slumped and he dropped his head. Aragorn could almost hear the usual ‘Yes, Mr. Frodo,’ as Sam gave in to whatever it was his Master asked of him. Then the four of them were approaching and Aragorn tensed. They had various supplies in their hands and instead of grins and giggles, their faces were serene and focused. Still the Ranger was mortified at having the four tending to his most intimate needs. He sighed, there was very little he could do about it so he tried to talk his brain into simply accepting the inevitable.
Frodo knelt beside him. “Just close your eyes and let us do all…er…most of the work, Aragorn,” he said softly. Aragorn groaned in humiliation. Pippin’s mouth opened as if he was about to say something, but the other three hobbits each fixed him with thunderous glares and he closed his mouth, recoiling slightly.
Merry and Sam moved to either side of his hips preparing to lift him when needed. He felt small hands slowly unlacing his leggings and pulling them down. “Which is more urgent, Aragorn?” Frodo softly whispered in his ear, before leaning over the man’s mouth to hear the response.
“Sam, give me that cup first,” Frodo said quietly. Aragorn again felt the small hands take his organ and direct it towards the cup. It took a few minutes for his stream to come, not being used to the extra scrutiny, but finally he was done and Frodo disappeared with the cup. Soon he was back at his side giving him an encouraging smile.
“Almost done, Aragorn, now we’ve warmed the pan and we’re just going to raise your hips and slip it underneath you. Nod when it feels like it’s in the right place, all right?” Frodo whispered in his ear. He gave the Ringbearer a nod of understanding. Sam and Merry grunted as they slowly lifted his hips while Frodo slid the pan under the man’s backside. Aragorn gave Frodo a nod. “Are you steady enough that we could move away a little and give you some privacy?” Aragorn nodded again and they moved a few feet away, their backs turned. It suddenly occurred to Aragorn what Sam and Frodo had been talking so animatedly about. He blushed and groaned to himself aware that, right at that moment, his derriere was perched on the edge of one of Sam’s treasured cook pots. ‘Poor Sam,’ he thought knowing how the gardener felt about his pans.
Finally he was done relieving himself and called Frodo’s name quietly. The hobbit turned back to him bringing a wet cloth with him. Sam and Merry again lifted him while Pippin extracted the pot and Frodo washed his backside. Two sets of hands were then pulling his leggings back into place and resituating the blankets around him. The pot had been whisked away to be dumped outside as Frodo and the others washed their hands with cooled water from the fire. Soon they returned and Frodo slowly sat back down at Aragorn’s shoulder while Sam stood behind him.
“Yes, thank you. Sam, I appreciate your sacrifice and have found that a thorough scrubbing with lye soap then boiling water in the pot will make the pot good as new.”
“Thank you, Mr. Strider, I’ll do that,” Sam said, not mentioning that he doubted anyone would want anything he cooked in that particular pot ever again. ‘Perhaps I could use it to plant a Geranium,’ the gardener mused.
“That wasn’t so bad now, was it Aragorn?” Frodo murmured.
The Ranger smiled, “You and your kin were very kind to treat me with such dignity, Frodo. That being said, it was one of the most humiliating yet humbling things I have ever done.”
Frodo nodded, “Yes, it is indeed. One is laid bare, vulnerable to his care giver yet treated with tenderness, respect and such empathy. It still makes me feel quite embarrassed even after so many times.” Aragorn studied the Ringbearer, finally understanding how Frodo’s every need had been met by so many people and how frustrating, seeing as Frodo was a very private hobbit at heart, he had been unable to do for himself.
Frodo nodded at Sam and Merry as they slowly slipped behind Aragorn raising him forward into a semi-upright position. They moved deliberately but Aragorn still had to close his eyes and grit his teeth as dizziness assailed him. He forced himself to take deep breaths as he grasped the edges of the blanket hoping it would somehow keep him grounded. Unfortunately, it was not to be as Frodo saw the Ranger’s face blanch and the man’s eyes widen. Sam quickly shifted to the right as Frodo moved to the man’s side and they smoothly leaned him over none too soon. Liquid gushed forward, hitting Frodo in the chest with a splat then trickling down to the rocks. Aragorn continued to retch, hanging limply over Sam’s arm, until he could bring forth no more. Completely unfazed, Frodo smoothed the man’s hair back as he whispered reassurances. He wiped Aragorn’s mouth and retrieved Sam’s water skin then had Aragorn rinse, spit then take an additional swallow to clear his mouth.
“Frodo, forgive me,” Aragorn croaked, shakily.
“There is nothing to forgive, Aragorn. I have been in the same situation with you on the receiving end countless times. It is nice to be able to help *you* for a change,” Frodo said with a smile.
“Could I have more water please?” Strider asked eyeing the water skin.
“Of course, but only if you drink slowly.” Frodo held the bag to his mouth and the Ranger drank deeply. The water felt delightful on his parched throat and lips. He had never tasted anything so wonderful.
After he had had his fill, Frodo situated himself more comfortably next to the man, carefully removing his jacket and laying it to the side. The hobbit shivered, being only in his shirt sleeves and somewhat exposed to the cool breeze. Aragorn frowned before he saw that Pippin was returning with his cloak and draping it about Frodo’s shoulders. Frodo gave him a grateful smile. Frodo smiled at Aragorn and suddenly the Ranger was absolutely certain that the hobbit could read his mind.
Frodo glanced over Aragorn’s shoulder at Sam, quirking his brows. “Strider, we have prepared some medicine and broth for you, do you feel up to taking some?” he asked, knowing that should Aragorn decline they would still have to force it on him.
Aragorn blanched, his stomach flipping uneasily. “I think perhaps just water until my stomach settles,” he replied.
Frodo frowned, “I seem to recall using that excuse a few times to no avail, my friend. I do not think I should allow you a concession either,” Frodo said with a determined look and smiling slightly.
Aragorn tensed, looked up and locked eyes with Frodo. They sat thusly for some time and Sam’s head swiveled nervously between the two. He sensed he was about to witness a great battle of wills. ‘Mr. Frodo’ll win, hands down. Ain’t no one more stubborn, I’d swear,’ he thought. He wished he was anywhere but here at that moment. Frodo broke eye contact first, bending to pick up the cup and spoon of Aragorn’s ‘dinner’.
“Now Strider, what is it you always say to me?” “This will make you better, Frodo, you must take it in order to regain your strength, or help with the pain, or sleep or stop the infection or…”
“I get the point, Frodo,” Aragorn said, his voice heavy with sarcasm. Frodo’s eyes narrowed as he slipped a glance towards his patient.
“I expect you will make a far better patient than I since you are aware of all the benefits the tonics and curatives have in store for you,” Frodo went on, feeling a rush of satisfaction at being able to turn the tables on Aragorn.
Merry and Pippin walked over having just come from a soak in the hot pool. They had heard everything and they both smiled mischievously. Merry was still rubbing his hair dry as he grinned down at the Ranger and his cousin.
Strider cringed, knowing he had been trapped by his own words and he looked down. The cup had something pink floating on the surface and he swallowed thickly. His eyes lit up as he suddenly remembered something. Seeing this, Frodo’s smile immediately vanished from his face and his eyes narrowed in suspicion. Sam looked questioningly at Merry and Pip who both shrugged their shoulders.
“I would be delighted to take my medicine and eat some of Sam’s delicious broth under one condition,” the Ranger said slowly.
Immediately on his guard, Frodo edged slightly away from Aragorn, studying the man and waiting for the conditions. “And what would that be?” the hobbit asked cautiously.
“Pippin, could you hand me my medical bag please?” Aragorn asked quietly. Frodo tensed, ‘if this Ranger thinks he can blackmail a Baggins, he is sorely mistaken,’ he thought.
Strider opened the bag, dropping his hand inside while Frodo nervously watched him. He withdrew a small glass vial; a greenish liquid moved innocuously within the cut glass. “Elrond wanted you to remember that you are still weakened from your stabbing and gave me a number of cordials to help you regain your strength,” Aragorn said calmly. “I will agree to eating my soup and taking my medicine if you will join me in drinking your cordial.” He locked eyes with Frodo and smiled slightly. ‘Got you,’ he thought. Then as he watched, Frodo’s eyes took on a familiar glint—a glint that had been known to make grown men quake in fear, and Aragorn groaned inwardly while keeping his face utterly expressionless. Sam’s head swiveled back to Mr. Frodo.
“I would be more than happy to take one of Elrond’s ‘delicious’ and nourishing elixirs, Aragorn, but alas, I am in perfect health. In fact, I have never felt better, isn’t that so, Sam?”
Sam’s head jerked up so fast Pippin half expected to hear the gardener’s neck pop. Not expecting to take part in this epic battle of wills, Sam’s eyes widened as he accidently let out a little “huh?” before he could catch himself. Frodo’s eyes shot daggers into Sam’s and the gardener gulped. “Uh…well…aye, Mr. Frodo, yer fit as a fiddle, sir,” Sam lied unconvincingly, narrowly escaping weeks of uncomfortable silence and rebuke from his Master. He could massage that shoulder later, he thought to himself. Merry groaned and he and Pip rolled their eyes.
Frodo gave him a warning look. “It appears there is some dissention within the group,” Aragorn said, his voice the same as when they first met-- dangerous and low.
“Not at all,” Frodo replied with a smile. “Merry has always been one to over dramatize situations.” Merry turned scarlet and prepared to launch a retort, but Frodo easily stilled him with an apologetic glance.
Aragorn smiled, ‘So that is how you are going to play it, Ringbearer,’ he thought. ‘Well, two can play at that game,’ he grinned.
“Then I am sorry, but I must refuse, Frodo. I can see for myself that you are not at your best. Unless you agree to the terms I must refuse,” Aragorn said, closing his eyes and laying back down. The debate had sapped his strength and all he wanted now was to sleep.
“Aragorn, you cannot refuse. You are already feverish—you must take the medicine,” Frodo cried, his voice cracking. Aragorn opened his eyes and looked up into tear filled blues. “I fear for you, Strider,” Frodo whispered.
“Then you will join me?”
Frodo hesitated a heartbeat and Aragorn could clearly see the battle being waged between Frodo’s stubbornness and his worry over a scruffy Ranger.
“I will,” Frodo said quietly.
Aragorn knew it would be thus. Frodo had already shown his willingness to sacrifice his own needs for others. Sam sighed audibly and handed the cooled cup of broth to Frodo who spooned a measure into Aragorn’s mouth.
“Aggh…Frodo whatever did you put in this?” Aragorn coughed and looked as if he was going to turn aside to be sick or spit the ‘broth’ out. “If not for the slight taste of broth it would be completely undrinkable.” Frodo gave him another mug and Aragorn hastily gulped it down, thankful that it was only peppermint tea and not another disgusting brew.
Frodo smiled, “A taste of your own medicine, Ranger?”
Aragorn frowned, “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”
“I have to admit, I am and if you weren’t so ill I would rub it in a bit,” Frodo chuckled. “As to what is in it, Sam made a delicious broth to which I added Echinacea, Boneset, and Yarrow. And, of course, we have some nice peppermint tea to wash away the aftertaste,” Frodo fairly chirped.
Aragorn scowled at the hobbit who seemed to be enjoying the Ranger’s predicament more than expedient. “Perhaps I should just drink it down,” the Ranger said evenly. Frodo nodded, shifting so that he could hold the cup to Aragorn’s mouth and tipping it up.
Aragorn swallowed quickly. Once gone, a line of expletives poured from Aragorn’s lips along with gagging sounds. Frodo quickly grabbed the cup of peppermint tea and Aragorn drank it greedily. When the tea was gone, Frodo sat back on his haunches, a satisfied smile on his face. The smile faded as Aragorn’s face turned decidedly green and the Ranger’s eyes flew open wide.
“No…no…you can’t, you must keep it down, Aragorn,” Frodo begged. Aragorn closed his eyes, reaching out for Frodo’s hands and squeezed them tightly. The man took slow deep breaths and gradually the color began to return to his face.
Sighs were heard from all around the man and Frodo closed his eyes in relief.
Frodo opened his eyes and saw a spent Aragorn smiling weakly up at him. Frodo shuddered but took the small vial and, before he could think about it, he downed it. He gasped and lunged for the leftover peppermint tea which he chugged. When he looked back at the Ranger, the man’s eyes were closed in sleep, a small smile on his lips.
Merry grinned at Pip and Sam, who returned the smile before ducking down behind Aragorn’s back to avoid Frodo’s lethal glare.
“All right, that’s quite enough,” Frodo grumbled. Sam and he slowly lowered Aragorn down onto his bed. “It’s time we slept, I think. Sam, go take a soak,” Frodo said.
“I don’t need to, Mr. Frodo, I’m all right---just need some sleep,” Sam said bashfully.
“Nonsense, it’s lovely and you have more than earned a moment to yourself,” Frodo urged. Sam started to object but was unceremoniously escorted by Merry and Pip to the pool. He stripped and lowered himself into the hot, clear water. He sighed, admitting that it did feel wonderful.
Merry banked the fire while Pip covered Frodo with a blanket, after making his cousin lie down next to Aragorn. Pip curled up on the other side, edging himself under the blankets and up against the man’s torso. They were soon joined by Merry and a relaxed Sam, but they took no notice as they were already deeply asleep. Merry pulled his cloak over himself and Sam did the same after assuring himself that Mr. Frodo was tucked in warmly.
“G’night Sam,” Merry yawned.
“’Night, Mr. Merry,” Sam whispered. Soon all that could be heard was the pop of wood as the low fire licked along the edge of a log and the continued rhythmic dripping of falling rain.
The Honorary Hobbit Chapter 7
Frodo awoke to the smell of bacon cooking. He felt abominable; his body ached all over, his shoulder worst of all. He must have slept at an odd angle at Aragorn’s side. His head felt heavy as if he was coming down with a cold. He groaned inwardly, thinking of how Sam would react if he became sick. He was dripping with sweat and wondered if he had a fever but as he wiped his face he looked over at Aragorn and discovered the real source of the perspiration. He felt Aragorn’s forehead and jerked his hand back. The Ranger was burning up. Frodo sat up suddenly and instantly regretted it as he placed all his weight on his left arm. He ground his teeth together to keep from crying out.
“Looks like someone’s finally awake!” Pippin exclaimed cheerfully.
“You should have woke me,” Frodo grumbled.
“Ooooh, someone’s a cranky old dodger,” Pippin chuckled.
Frodo clamped his jaw shut on a biting retort and began moving the blankets and coverings off of Aragorn’s leg. He carefully began unwrapping the bandage from around the wound. Before he had even revealed the break he knew his worst fears were confirmed. Bloody pus was draining from the area of the wound making the gauze damp and sticky and he could smell the odor of infection. He had failed—failed to stop Aragorn’s wounds from festering. He covered his face, feeling tears of frustration filling his eyes as his shoulders slumped in weariness. ‘Get ahold of yourself, Frodo’ he mentally scolded himself.
“Merry, could you come here, please?” he asked quietly. His back was turned to the others but he heard the rustle of someone rising and walking towards him, then he heard a hissed intake of breath. “I know... I don’t know what else to do, Merry. Aragorn is going to die because of me and my lack of knowledge,” Frodo murmured.
A hand was instantly on his shoulder and then a much loved face filled Frodo’s vision. “No Frodo, you have given him a fighting chance, not hindered him. He would have surely died by now without your care. You have done all you could have to help him and he won’t die because of your efforts.”
Frodo smiled wanly, “Yes, but he needs someone more knowledgeable than I now. I feel lost, if only those silly medical bags came with instructions.”
Merry almost laughed at the thought but reconsidered it. “Frodo, you know how much I love herb lore?” he asked sitting down next to Frodo.
“Well, I’ve been trying to learn more about some of the more common herbs---how they can be used for food or as medicine. So far all of the herbs we’ve used for Strider have been ones we knew from the Shire. What if we try some of those from around Rivendell?”
“But how will we know what the herbs are for? We could end up making things worse, Merry,” Frodo sighed.
“What about Athelas? Does Strider have any in his bag?”
Frodo’s eyes shot up at Merry, “I don’t know, I don’t even know what it looks like,” he said excitedly. “Do you?”
‘Of course Frodo wouldn’t know what the plant looked like. Last time it was used he was in no condition to notice something so minor.’ Merry thought with a shuddered. “I think so, after it worked so well for you and your wound, I started reading up on it. It seems that if we could somehow get Strider to *breath* on it, its healing powers are increased somehow. It’s almost as if it recognizes him as the King, we’ll have to wake Strider and find out I imagine,” Merry said hopefully.
“Merry, you’re brilliant! Here, look through these packets and see if any of these herbs looks like Athelas,” Frodo pushed the medical bag into Merry’s lap.
Merry began to paw through the satchel removing pouches and setting them aside as he quietly mumbled to himself. He frowned, none of the packets were Athelas.
“Nothing?” Frodo asked, sounding panicked.
“Not these. Frodo, Aragorn kept the Kingsfoil wrapped carefully, almost reverently, in a white cloth. Are there any pockets on this bag that you haven’t gone through?”
Frodo’s eyes widened, “There is a buckled pouch…yes, here on the outside of the bag.” His fingers clawed at the clasp until it gave way and they looked inside the pocket. A carefully folded white handkerchief lay within. Frodo gave a small cry and his eyes lit up. Merry smiled as he slowly withdrew the cloth and deliberately spread the handkerchief open on his lap. Four long leaves of Athelas lay within the folds.
Frodo sighed in relief, ‘This has to work’ he thought to himself. He looked over at Aragorn and wondered what the healer would do were he in Frodo’s place. He fervently wished with all his heart that it was he lying injured and feverish on the pallet and that the capable hands of the Ranger were healing him instead. ‘Little chance of that’ he thought.
Frodo inched his way up to Aragorn’s head and gently began tapping the Ranger on the face, but received no response. “Merry, he’s so hot—can you get me some cool water so we can sponge him down? Oh, and the water skin as well, I imagine he’ll be thirsty.”
Merry retrieved the requested items and handed them to Frodo. After dipping a cloth in the water and wringing it out, Frodo began to wash Aragorn’s face and neck. Aragorn moaned and licked at his lips and Merry carefully lifted the man’s shoulders while Frodo gave Aragorn a trickle of water to drink. The Ranger’s eyes crept open and seeing the offered water, he drank greedily, locking eyes with Frodo.
“Aragorn, your leg is badly infected could we use the Athelas in some way to stop the infection?” Frodo’s voice shook.
Aragorn studied Frodo’s face and could see how frightened the hobbit was. “Yes”, he croaked. “You could make a poultice and lay it over the bone to draw out the infection,” he said slowly. His eyes started to close and Frodo tapped his face lightly to keep the man awake.
“Could you…er…*breathe* on it for us?” At first Aragorn looked confused but then his face broke into a broad grin.
“Yes, I could, it might help. Afterwards you’ll need to crumble the leaves in a basin of warm water. Then dip a cloth in the basin, wring it out very well, then fold it and lay it over the break. You will need to do this at least once every hour to see if it helps,” Aragorn murmured.
Frodo nodded then opened the handkerchief and held the leaves under Aragorn’s mouth. Aragorn closed his eyes and whispered something under his breath, and then he exhaled on the leaves. He sighed, his head dipping forward, clearly exhausted by even that small effort, and Merry slowly lowered him back down to the pallet.
“Sam, do you have any warm water?” Frodo called.
“Aye, Mr. Frodo, I was going to make tea with it, sir.” The gardener poured some of the water into another pan and brought it over to Frodo.
“Thank you, Sam,” Frodo said absently. He separated two of the leaves from the cloth, crushed them and dropped them into the water. A clean, sharp scent rose up towards them and all, including Aragorn, visibly relaxed.
“Wondrous stuff, that. Won’t never call it a weed again, and that’s a fact,” Sam said.
Frodo dipped the cloth in the water and struggled to wring it out. Finally, he handed the cloth to Merry, who looked at him questioningly. “I can’t wring it out thoroughly, Merry, it needs to be just damp,” Frodo said looking down.
“Oh…no problem, Frodo.” Merry wrung out the rest of the liquid into the pan and handed it back to Frodo. Frodo folded it and laid it over the area of the broken bone. He stared at it, as if willing it to magically cure the wound.
“He’s filthy and if he’s anything like me, he must be miserably uncomfortable in all that sweat,” Frodo said to know one in particular. He rose, went to the fire, and soon returned with another small pan with hot water, a towel and some cool water to mix with the hot. As Merry watched, Frodo carefully exposed Aragorn’s right arm, washed it, dried it and then recovered it so the Ranger wouldn’t become chilled. He repeated this with the left arm and then, after Merry unlaced the man’s shirt, he washed Aragorn’s chest and torso, then dried the area and re-laced the shirt. He pulled the covers back up to the man’s chin. Frodo looked at the broken leg. It was covered in bloody exudate and grime; blood had dried in the hair. They had cut the leggings up to the thigh and Frodo began washing there, working his way down the leg, repeatedly rinsing the cloth and having Merry wring it out. He was careful not to get the Athelas poultice wet. When he finished the water was almost black and he rose, walked to the mouth of the cave and dumped it. He refilled the pan with warm water and washed Aragorn’s face, neck and hands before setting the rag aside. Merry spread a clean towel lightly over the leg and pulled the blankets over their friend. Aragorn frowned in his sleep, even the slightest pressure on the wound was painful.
“I need to feed and dose him then I’ll let him rest,” Frodo murmured then looked over at Merry. “Thank you, Merry for your quick thinking and for just being there for me,” he said with a small smile.
Merry smiled and patted Frodo on the shoulder as he stood,” You would have thought of it yourself eventually, but I’m glad to be of any help I can, cousin.”
Frodo slowly rose, feeling every ache and pain in his body screaming for attention. He schooled his features and gave Aragorn one last glance. He jumped, startled to see the Ranger’s eyes open and fixed on him. Frodo attempted a smile but Aragorn did not smile back.
“You fool me not, Frodo Baggins, I can see you are unwell, perhaps Master Gamgee would care to be let in on your little secret,” Aragorn whispered with a glint in his eye.
“Sam and all are well aware of my trifling aches and pains, Aragorn, and I’ll have you know that I am perfectly capable of telling them should I need assistance. I am not a child and hobbits are sturdier than you give them credit,” Frodo said archly.
“That may be, my friend, but if you do not tell Sam, I will,” Aragorn said threateningly before his eyes slowly closed.
The stubbornness in Frodo reared its ugly head and he straightened his shoulders and gave the Ranger a disparaging look. ‘We shall just see about that, Aragorn’ he thought.
He turned and walked the few steps to the fire and sat down next to Pippin.
“I’ve kept your breakfast warm, Mr. Frodo,” Sam said cheerfully as he handed a plate to his Master. Frodo took it with a smile and looked down at the contents. His stomach rolled as he told Sam how delicious it smelled. Sam beamed a grateful smile at him. Bacon, eggs…’now however did Sam manage to bring eggs?’ Frodo mused, tomatoes and sliced peaches with tea to round out the meal. He sipped his tea as he nibbled on a piece of bacon. He managed to finish half of the meal under Sam’s watchful gaze, before he gave up any pretense of hunger and set the plate aside. Sam scowled at the offending plate, but said nothing.
“We need to talk about our plans for the day,” Frodo said softly. Pippin and Merry looked up from their meal expectantly; Sam was still scowling at Frodo’s discarded plate.
“Merry, Pip, do you think you can find your way back to the Last Homely House?”
Pip looked at Merry who nodded to Frodo. “Without any trouble,” Merry said around a mouth full of tomato.
Frodo nodded, “Good, we’ll split the supplies and you’ll need your blankets,” he glanced over at Aragorn.
Merry looked at Aragorn, “Strider needs them more than we do, we can share one, and with the heavy cloaks that Elrond gave us and a fire, we’ll be fine, Frodo.”
Frodo hesitated then gave Merry a nod. “I don’t want you trying to make it back in one day or some such nonsense, Merry, rest at night, promise me,” Frodo fixed a stare on his two cousins.
“Don’t be concerned, Frodo, we’ll rest but we can travel more than ten miles a day which is what Aragorn had us doing. That was a leisurely pace at best,” Merry didn’t add that the pace had obviously been set with Frodo in mind as Elrond and Strider hadn’t wanted to tax his cousin’s strength.
Frodo frowned, “That sounds acceptable as long as you stop, camp and rest,” he murmured.
“Little chance of us going full on, Cousin, after all we *do* need to eat,” Pippin harrumphed. Frodo, Merry and Sam smiled. Leave it to Pip to think of food.
“Sam, I’ll need some tea and broth for Aragorn.” He winced, “Let’s make the tea a bit weaker this time. I do want him to drink it after all. Add some of that willow, maybe we can bring his fever down some. If you have any honey you might want to add a large dollop.”
Sam smiled, “Aye, sir, I’ve got the broth warming, I’ll jes’ see to the tea now.” Sam retrieved a pot, added water and set it on the coals. When the water was hot, Sam added the herbs that they’d used the night before plus some willow leaves, and then he covered the pot to let it steep.
Once the broth and tea were ready they all settled at Aragorn’s side. Merry slipped behind the man and very slowly, raised the Ranger to a near sitting position. Aragorn groaned as he slowly opened his eyes.
Frodo leaned forward, “We need to feed you and give you some medicine, Aragorn.” Aragorn’s stomach lurched at the thought of the previous night’s vile tea. Frodo smiled, seeing the Ranger’s grimace. “Sam has made the tea less potent this time, so don’t be concerned. I wondered…can Athelas be used as a tea? Can it be swallowed or is it only for topical use?”
Aragorn nodded, “It is bitter but as long as it is diluted and drinkable,” he gave Frodo a pointed glare and Frodo grinned back at him, “it can be a powerful medicine.”
Frodo nodded, he tested the temperature of the tea and then added some of the diluted Athelas water to it until it was cool enough to drink. He began to slowly spoon the tea into Aragorn’s mouth who grimaced but swallowed dutifully. Finally Aragorn reached up, took the cup, and drank the medicine down in one gulp. He shuddered. Frodo smiled, and then taking the broth, began to feed it to the Ranger. Aragorn was grateful for Sam’s cooking skills as he drank the rich broth by spoonfuls. “Very good, Sam,” he murmured.
Sam smiled from where he was washing the dishes by the fire and gave Aragorn a nod. “Thank’ee kindly, Mr. Strider,” he said quietly.
“Sam, I think you and I need to have a chat,” Aragorn whispered. Frodo tensed knowing what the ‘chat’ would entail.
“Pardon me, Mr. Strider?” Sam hadn’t been able to hear the whispered request.
“I think some poppy would be a good idea now, don’t you Merry?” Merry frowned and looked between the Ranger and his cousin. There was obviously something going on between the two that he didn’t know about.
Frodo quickly found the jar and when Aragorn opened his mouth to object, slipped a finger-full under the Man’s tongue. Aragorn gave him a thunderous glare as Frodo smiled smugly. “Let’s change that bandage on your head, Aragorn,” Frodo said sweetly. He carefully unwound the bandage and studied the purple knot and gash. He wrung out a cloth and washed the wound, then patted it dry before re-bandaging it.
Aragorn’s eyes were beginning to close, “Sam,” he called. Sam walked over to his side as Frodo rose nervously.
“Yes Mr. Strider?” Sam asked, curious. He knelt down next to the Ranger and leaned closely over the man’s face to hear him better.
“Frodo…you need to watch…he’s...” then Strider’s eyes closed against his will.
Sam smiled and leaned over the man, whispering in his ear, “I know, Mr. Strider, I’ll take care of him, sir.” Aragorn smiled slowly as he slipped into a dreamless sleep. Frodo’s expression was livid, but he turned, pulled his cloak tightly around himself and pretended he hadn’t heard the traitorous Ranger as he crossed to the fire. He poured himself a cup of tea and sat calmly down to watch the blaze. Sam joined him and Merry slowly lowered the man back down, covered him and then he and Pip joined the two.
“What was that all about?” Pippin asked.
“Nothing, I think Aragorn’s slightly delirious,” Frodo said flatly. Sam’s eyebrows shot up as he busied his hands with drying the dishes.
“Well, we should be off,” Merry said abruptly. He and Pip rose and began to gather their belongings. Sam separated enough of the food stuffs to keep even Pippin content and divided it equally between Merry and Pippin’s packs. Next, Sam rolled one of the heavier blankets up and lashed it to the bottom of Merry’s pack. Merry and Pip donned their cloaks and Frodo and Sam helped them into their packs. They walked as a group to the mouth of the cave. Frodo’s face was worried, “Be careful. It will be slippery going and stay to the trees and make sure to dry out your cloaks by the fire before you sleep and…”
“Yes cousin,” Merry said with a grin, “you needn’t worry Frodo, truly. It’s no further than Buckland is from Hobbiton, if that. We’ll be fine, you just take care of each other,” Merry gave Sam a look that spoke volumes and Sam gave him a quick nod in return. “And take care of Strider,” he added. He and Pip turned and walked out of the cave into the pouring rain. Sam and Frodo watched them carefully climb down the rock rim and before they headed into the trees, the two raised their hands in farewell. Frodo hesitantly waved back, the worry and concern for his cousins warring with the need to get help for Aragorn clearly etched on his face. Then they were gone and he and Sam turned and went back into the cave.
The Honorary Hobbit Chapter 8
Elrond stood on the ornate balcony and looked off towards the road that rose from his valley. The timeless beauty of the vast expanse of trees and water escaped him as he gazed southward. He closed his eyes, concentrating as Vilya flared briefly on his finger.
"What has your mind so intensely fixated on, my friend?" Gandalf had approached so quietly that the elf Lord startled. He must have been completely focused in order to have been so surprised by the Maia. Vilya's light fluttered then quieted, once again becoming all but invisible to any who would have looked, save the Maia and the Elf. Gandalf ignored the startled jump of his friend at his approach, the anxiety in Elrond quelled any jest on his part.
"It has been three days, yet my riders have seen no signs of Aragorn and the hobbits south of here. I do not know what it is but something has caused a great unease within my being. Something is amiss," Elrond said quietly, his eyes still studying the horizon. Gandalf's gaze also shifted to the South.
"Are you certain that they headed South? Perhaps Aragorn decided on a second route instead. Aragorn mentioned they would be gone 3-4 days? It is still early to have caused you to feel pensive."
I am certain Aragorn headed South. He had a destination In mind before he departed and told me of it." Elrond smiled, "The Rimrock was always his favorite place to explore when he was a child and he knew the hobbits would enjoy it as much as he." He waved his hand dismissively, "From the first day I have felt a foreboding, a sense of urgency in regards to this hobbit walking party." He turned his gaze to Gandalf. "It is most probably, nothing. Vilya has sensed no dangers, save the prowling of animal life and weather, within my borders. Still…" He gave the Maia a small smile, "Perhaps the only danger is from the hobbits themselves as they test the patience of my son."
Gandalf smiled, "I can well imagine Aragorn has about reached the end of his tolerance after three days with four energetic hobbits. I shudder to think of what it will be like to travel the many leagues of our own journey with such a rambunctious quartet. If I may?" Gandalf asked with a small smile. Elrond's worry being infectious he moved to the edge of the balcony as the elf Lord gave him a nod. He held his staff forward, bent over it as he closed his eyes. Yes, he could sense them but one of the usually bright lights that were the fea of mortals wavered. He tensed and reached out again, two of the sparks of light, one thrumming faster and brighter than the other, were separated by some distance from the other three…Merry and Pippin he surmised. Two of the three remaining sparks were subdued and stationary, one burnt steady but not as brilliantly as Merry and Pippin's life force, one was a steady strong glow and the third…the third was quite dim, occasionally fluttering. He opened his eyes with a start, "You were correct in your worry, my friend. Something *is* amiss but I am unable to tell you with whom, only that someone is in dire straits. We need to go to them as fast as we may," Gandalf urged, grasping the elf Lord's arm in desperation.
It was enough to stir Elrond to action. He trusted the wizard with his life and had experienced the same fears. He turned quickly, silken robes swirled as he flew to the door, yanking it open. He strode down the hallway as Gandalf struggled to keep up. Elrond reached the balustrade overlooking the main hall. The normally soft spoken elf, with little effort, called on the voice he was known for as the herald of Gil-Galad. All stopped within the valley surrounding the Last Homely House and listened to he whose name meant Star Dome.
"Muster a riding party of twenty elves and join me in the courtyard with all due haste," he called then turned without further instruction. None was necessary as Elrond's word was law and all in Rivendell accepted and obeyed without question all that he asked. Within a few moments twenty elves sat astride twenty steeds, lined up perfectly in the courtyard. They were dressed in riding clothes and light armor, carrying the shields with the mark of Elrond HalfElven with them. Equally equipped, Elrond joined them carrying a large medical bag and mounted his horse. Without a word, they turned to the South road and passed as the wind through the branches of the waning trees.
Merry and Pippin walked in silence for the first hour after parting from Frodo, Sam and Aragorn. The rain pounded down on them, striking their poncho's with loud plops. They were soaked from the wind blowing the deluge into their faces and down their fronts no matter how tightly they held the edges of the garments together. When thunder rolled over them, Pippin quickened his pace to get closer to Merry.
"Merry, I'm hungry. Couldn't we stop for elevenses?" he whined.
Merry rolled his eyes and looked at Pippin's pinched face. "Why Pip? So we can sit in the rain?" He turned Pippin around, rummaged through his pack until he found an apple. "Here, Pip, this will have to do. We can't stop until well after sunset, Frodo and Strider are counting on us."
"How will we know when it's sunset with all this rain?" Pippin said plaintively, wiping his face.
Merry groaned inwardly. Pip hated thunder and lightning and Merry knew that until the storm passed he would be subjected to unending questions about everything trivial in order to keep Pip's mind occupied. "It will get very dark, Pip," Merry growled. Pip gave him a wilting look. "Come on, let's get into the pinewoods so we can get some cover. Why don't we have a marching song to make the time go faster?" Merry suggested hopefully. Pippin turned frightened green eyes on Merry as thunder boomed unexpectedly.
"All right," Pip's voice quavered. In a tremulous voice he began to sing.
"Farewell we call to hearth and hall!
Though wind may blow and rain may fall,
We must away ere break of day
Far over wood and mountain tall.
To Rivendell where Elves yet dwell
In glades beneath the…"*
Merry's eyes flew open and he grabbed Pip, placing a hand over his mouth. Pippin stopped singing and looked up at Merry. "Wha…?" He started after pulling Merry's hand away.
Merry pointed and Pip's eyes followed his finger. Two rabbits were huddled beneath a bush trying to escape the rain. "Pip, get your sling; if we're lucky we'll have roast rabbit for dinner tonight!" Merry whispered eyes bright.
Pip smiled as he slowly unslung his pack and retrieved his sling. Merry did the same and they knelt, swept up some pebbles and, in a blur, loosed their shots. The two hapless coney's never knew what hit them and the hobbits danced about the bush holding the rabbits out like a prize. Merry stopped first, pulling his knife out and springing the blade.
"Let's get this done Pip, and be off," he said with a grin.
"Will you do mine too?" Pip asked quietly.
Pip hated cleaning his game but Merry didn't mind, "Sure Pip, give me a towel to wrap them in."
By the time Pippin had the towel out, Merry had gutted the first coney and was working on the second. He pulled the skins off, washed the rabbits down and wrapped them in the towel. He washed his hands in a puddle, cleaned his knife and shouldered his pack. He put the coneys in Pip's pack and helped his cousin into it. He gave Pip a slap on the shoulder and they grinned at each other. "Shall we, Pip?"
"After you, dear cousin," Pip bowed and swept his hand forward.
They increased their pace to make up for the time lost and Pippin resumed his song. They could be heard for a league as Merry joined in. A pair of eyes watched them leave then she turned her concentration on the refuse left by the two small animals. She slowly crept forward, settling beside the entrails and began to eat. Finished too soon with the paltry snack, she turned her attention towards the distant sound of hobbits singing. She sniffed the air, yes those two beings had the smell of blood and meat on them. Perhaps her next meal would be more substantial after all.
"But you *must* drink it, Aragorn," Frodo cried. His voice cracked in desperation. The Ranger's fever had continued to rise resulting in delirium and now Aragorn was fighting Frodo at every turn. Frantic, Frodo had strengthened the medicinal tea and begun dosing Aragorn every hour trying desperately to stop the infection that was ravaging his friend's body. He and Sam had sluiced the man's body with cold water, Frodo had given him willow bark tea, athelas tea and yarrow tea, but nothing had broken the relentless fever. Finally Frodo had unwrapped the broken leg, thoroughly rinsed the break with the athelas water then laid the last two leaves of the curative directly on the oozing wound. He had re-wrapped the appendage and hoped it would be enough.
Frodo sighed, falling back on his haunches, the cooling cup of tea still in his hand. An idea came to him and with a quirk of his lips, he decided he had nothing to lose by trying it. He looked at Sam who was holding the Ranger up, frightened eyes looking at the twisting and sweating patient.
Aragorn mumbled something and opened his eyes, staring at Frodo.
Frodo swallowed tightly, "Your Majesty," he said, leaning low as if to bow. Sam's eyes moved from Aragorn to Frodo and, if possible, he looked even more frightened than before. Aragorn watched Frodo in confusion. Frodo sat back up and locked eyes with the Ranger. "You do us a great honor attending our table and we wish to honor you in return, my Lord. I have prepared a rare treat, a tea that is reserved for only the most sacred of occasions. The flowers come from a unique plant that only blooms once every ten years. It takes many hours to prepare it correctly, and you would honor me greatly by sharing a cup of it with me," Frodo bowed again.
"I…I do not remember…" Aragorn's voice drifted off. "I would be honored to share this drink with you, Frodo Baggins of the Shire," he finally replied in a husky voice.
Frodo smiled and a dumbfounded Sam tilted Aragorn's head and shoulders forward. Frodo held the cup to the man's lips and he drank deeply until it was all gone. Aragorn winced, it was more than just a little bitter, but he would not insult Frodo, who had obviously gone to great lengths to prepare the beverage.
"It is delicious," Aragorn whispered. Despite the seriousness of the situation it took all of Frodo's abilities to keep a straight face.
"I am humbled by your praise," was all he said, bowing again.
"Is there anything else I can do, my Liege, to make you more comfortable?"
Aragorn stared at him then closed his eyes briefly, "I have need of the privy, Frodo, might you show me where it is?"
Frodo's eyes widened, this was *not* what he had expected the Ranger to ask for. "Of course, my Lord. We would be greatly humbled if you would allow us to see to your needs," Frodo murmured. Aragorn stared at the hobbit, was this what it was to be King? To have all of your subjects see to even the most personal of your needs? He did not know if he really liked this part of being King. 'I mean, after all, I am not helpless and *some* things should be taken care of by one's self,' he mused to himself. 'I must come up with an edict doing away with this practice,' he decided.
"Very well," Aragorn said slowly. Frodo smiled, bowed, and then retrieved both the pan and the cup.
"My Lord, which is your desire?" Frodo asked, holding up the cup and the pot.
"Oh…uh the cup, please," Aragorn said feeling most uneasy.
Frodo moved the blankets aside and he and Sam slowly tipped the man to his left. Frodo held the cup under the man and after a few moments, Aragorn's stream began. Once finished, Frodo sat the cup aside while he straightened Aragorn's clothing, re-covered him and slowly laid him back down. Frodo rose, picking up the cup and discarded the contents outside of the cave. He washed his hands and settled once again beside Aragorn.
"Yes, your Highness?"
"Where are we? This room does not look familiar to me. Are Merry and Pippin here with you and Sam?" Aragorn asked slowly.
"Er…this is a great palace that the hobbits of the Shire have built for you to stay in whenever you visit us here in Hobbiton, my Lord," Frodo lied easily.
Sam smiled to himself, 'Mr. Frodo is becoming very good at lying and tale spinning…perhaps too good.' The smile became a frown and his eyes narrowed, he hoped he could still tell when Mr. Frodo was lying about hisself. Someone who cared for him needed to know after all, what was *really* going on in his Master's mind.
"It is very spacious but seems a bit warm, don't you think, Frodo?"
Frodo's smile fled, "It is probably only the tea, my Lord," he said quietly, worried anew about the persistent fever. "Perhaps you would afford Sam and I the privilege of cooling you off, my King," Frodo asked.
Aragorn frowned," I am uncomfortable with all of the subservience that my close friends shower upon me. I want to be only Aragorn—friend, companion, trusted ally, not gentry that knows nothing except obsequiousness.
Frodo gave him a slow smile as he handed a cloth to Sam and wrung out his own in the athelas water. While he and Aragorn spoke, the two hobbits began to wash down the man's burning body.
"King Aragorn, you would never treat any as subservient. You are a working King, my Lord, uncomfortable with fawning and the pretentious. You have great empathy and compassion for all who have the honor of knowing you and all who wish to. You should not be concerned with how we tend to you, we are simply thankful that the King has returned to us, and that he is a truly *good* man." Frodo and Sam finished and Aragorn stared up at Frodo with a strange distant look.
"Thank you, Frodo, I am relieved that I am a good King," the Ranger whispered.
Frodo smiled into the gray eyes, "You could be no other, Aragorn," he murmured. "I think you should eat and then rest, your Highness, you have had a busy day."
Sam wiped his hands, rose and retrieved the stew, handing it to Frodo. Frodo began spooning it into Aragorn's mouth until it was gone. Then he put a dollop of Poppy paste under the man's tongue and settled him down into his blankets.
Aragorn smiled gratefully up at him as his eyes slowly closed in sleep. Frodo's head dropped to his chest as he let out an exhausted sigh.
Sam clapped his hands and Frodo looked up. "Now that was one of the most amazin' things I ever did see, Mr. Frodo, a true performance for Mr. Bilbo's tales, it was," Sam beamed at Frodo worshipfully.
Frodo blushed and gave Sam a small smile. "Really Sam, you're too nice, it was all I could think of. I thought that perhaps, with the delirium, he wouldn't know that he was yet to be King, is all."
"Ahh…you're much too humble, Master," Sam said admiringly.
Frodo's eyes darted to the cave entrance watching the deluge outside. "If we do not get help soon, Sam, I fear it may be his last memory on this plain of existence."
Sam's eyes followed his Master's, "Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin will get help, you'll see, Mr. Frodo. Then Lord Elrond will get Strider fixed up like new."
Frodo smiled at his friend, "I wish I were as optimistic as you, Sam, you always put a positive spin on everything." Sam blushed. "I need some air, Sam, I think I'll go for a little walk, perhaps get some more firewood," Frodo said as he rose.
Sam looked at his Master in horror, "You can't be goin' out in the rain, Mr. Frodo, let me go….I could…"
"No Sam, let me do something, I won't break you know, and I truly do need a sniff of fresh air." Frodo said as he pulled his slicker over his cloak.
Sam looked positively panicked, "But…"
Frodo put a hand on Sam's shoulder, "You worry too much, Sam. I am grateful for you always being there for me, but I'll be back soon. I won't go far, I promise." With that Frodo left the cave, walking out into the pouring rain and into the gathering dusk. Sam stood at the mouth of the cave, his hands balling nervously as his Master disappeared from view.
*Fellowship of the Ring, A Conspiracy Unmasked.
The Honorary Hobbit Chapter 9
He walked for some time inhaling the wet air and savoring the feel of the cold rain on his face. He hadn’t lied when he had told Sam that he needed a breath of air. The cave had become close and confining while his worry over Aragorn had begun to test his sanity. He pulled up his hood covering his already drenched body and stopped, looking down over the trees below that had been their lunch site three days prior. Had it really only been three days? It seemed a week or more had passed since Aragorn’s accident. Low lying clouds had socked in the vale leaving only tree tops peeking through appearing like so many islands adrift in a sea of cotton.
He sighed as a slow tear eased its way down his cheek. Aragorn was going to die and he knew he was to blame. If only he had listened more to his Aunt Zelpha as she had prattled on about the various plants and how they could be prepared to bring out their healing characteristics. He could think of nothing else that could be done to save his friend. He was, by nature, a hobbit that took charge and generally was successful in most of his endeavors. To fail so spectacularly, causing the death or at the very least, exacerbation of Aragorn’s condition, was frustrating beyond belief and a bitter pill to swallow.
A noise startled him from his reverie and he swung his head around seeing a lone rabbit watching him intently. He slowly crouched, picking up a stone, rose and let it fly before the coney had any chance of springing away. The stone collided with the rabbit’s temple, killing it instantly. Frodo walked over and stared down at the small ball of fur, overcome with revulsion for what he had just done. He picked the rabbit up by its ears and resumed his slow stroll. Aragorn had planned on hunting and providing for them no doubt, and obviously could not do so now. Frodo decided fresh meat would go a long way towards appeasing an unhappy Samwise Gamgee and would provide a pleasant addition to their supper. He continued to walk along the rim of rocks, long lost from sight of the cave. His foot slipped a little and he chided himself to be more careful. Another noise and again, he whipped his head around. Another rabbit sitting upright on its haunches and sniffing the air was some twenty feet away. Frodo was sheltered behind some low brush and the rabbit had not seen him as he bent and scooped up another rock. As he turned to throw his left foot slipped out from under him and with a small cry, he lost his balance and fell, sliding over the huge rock face and down into a boulder strewn gully. He lay there a long time, assessing his condition. Thankfully, nothing seemed to be broken although he had numerous scrapes on his legs and a particularly nasty, raw patch on his forehead. ‘Wonderful,’ he thought imagining the hovering and clucking this would induce in Sam. He rolled to his right and attempted to stand, crying out before he could stop himself. He covered his mouth as tears of pain rolled down his cheeks. He had landed harder than he thought apparently, jarring his wounded left shoulder. The wound throbbed with the beat of his heart as he took in deep breathes attempting to control the pain. After some time he stood slowly, taking an unsteady step as his head swam. The arm hurt abominably and he slowly moved his forearm to his chest to take off the weight. He gradually regained his composure and as the vertigo eased he decided it was time to head back to the cave. He had promised Sam wood for the fire so he began to accumulate various branches and tender as he walked. His left arm useless and his right arm overburdened, he finally stopped, laid the wood aside and removed his cloak, fashioning it into a make shift sling. He piled the wood on top of it, throwing the rabbit in last, gathered up the sides and began moving towards Sam, Aragorn and the fire. He was soaked through in a matter of moments but paid it no mind. He continued to gather pieces of wood as he looked around hoping to see another rabbit. Not seeing any, he finally arrived back at the cave.
As he approached the mouth of the cave he saw a pale and worried Samwise scowling at him. Sighing wearily, he braced himself for the tongue lashing he knew was to come.
“Hullo Sam,” he said lamely.
“Come inside and sit by the fire, Mr. Frodo, and I’ll see to your scrapes,” Sam said angrily.
Frodo did as he was told knowing that any argument would be futile and unwise. As he sat on the ground Sam rummaged in Frodo’s pack withdrawing a pair of dry breaches, undershorts, and a shirt. He then pulled his own pack over and retrieved a large flannel shirt from its endless depths.
“Here, change into these sir,” the gardener said softly and leaving no room for argument.
Shivering, Frodo changed his clothes and sat back down as Sam pushed a hot mug of tea into his hand.
“Really Sam, I am fine. I just slipped a little. I did get some wood and even a coney for supper,” Frodo tried.
“I think it would be best, sir, if we didn’t speak because I’m that angry with you, I am,” Sam said evenly.
Frodo opened his mouth to make another attempt at explanation then closed it with a snap. It was no use, it would only irritate Sam all the more if he acted like a plaintive child. So he sat there, sipping his tea as Sam dabbed at and finally bandaged his forehead. Frodo didn’t make a sound even though the cleaning and bandaging hurt terribly, knowing it would only make Sam fuss more.
“How is Aragorn?” Frodo asked quietly.
“While you were gone” (gone being emphasized) “he had a bit of a fit.”
Frodo’s eyes darted up at him, “What do you mean ‘a fit’, Sam?” He asked panicked.
“He had a con-vul-tion, Mr. Frodo—I think that’s what they call it. I turned him on his side after and he threw up. I been cooling him off ever since. He seems a bit outta his head, talking’ about you and how we need to hurry to Rivendell, then changing to mumbles about something in Elvish. He seems to be settlin’ down some since I put those cool cloths all over him,” Sam said matter of factly.
“Oh Sam, I am so sorry. I didn’t mean for you to have to be alone in what must have been a truly frightening situation. I should have come back sooner,” Frodo said earnestly.
Sam dropped his head, “You shouldn’t have gone at all, Mr. Frodo, but what’s done is done. As for Mr. Strider, I’ve helped tend Marigold and Daisy when they was sick and can hold my own with high fevers and such.” He rose without waiting for a response and went to Aragorn’s side.
Frodo hung his head in defeat. Sam was angrier than he had at first thought and it would take time for that anger to dissipate. “We should try and get him to take some medicine and food,” Frodo said softly.
Sam only nodded then slowly raised Aragorn to almost sitting and slipped behind him to support the man. Frodo moved to the fire and retrieved the tea and stew that had been sitting to the side being kept warm. He knelt beside Aragorn, setting the cups aside and leaned forward, gently tapping the Ranger’s face. Aragorn’s eyes flew open and he grabbed Frodo roughly by the arms. Frodo cried out in surprise and pain as the man gave him a vicious shake.
“Are you mad? They will come now, you have drawn them to you, you fool!” Aragorn shouted.
“Aragorn, please,” Frodo whispered.
Hearing the pain in Frodo’s voice, Aragorn loosed his grip and Frodo fell forward onto the Ranger’s chest panting heavily. “I meant no harm, Master Baggins, I apologize. But your situation is most dire now,” Aragorn mumbled.
Frodo slowly eased himself up and Sam could see that all color had fled his Master’s face leaving him a ghastly gray. Sam looked at him wide eyed and Frodo attempted a smile to reassure the gardener that he was all right, which failed miserably. Aragorn’s eyes had closed again and he was moving his head back and forth while he mumbled to himself in Elvish.
“Aragorn,” Frodo called softly.
The Ranger’s eyes cracked open and he slowly looked around the cave. “Where are we?” his voice cracked.
“We are camped by the Bruinen,” Frodo lied easily.
Aragorn’s eyes settled on Frodo. “Are you well?”
“I am, but we need to eat and drink something warming so that we may journey on to Rivendell.”
“I need nothing, we can leave at once. We must hurry! He is passing into the shadow world!” Aragorn yelled to Sam.
A shiver crawled up Frodo’s spine and the hair rose on his neck, “No Aragorn, we are all weary and you must eat as well as the others. I won’t eat unless you do,” Frodo added knowing it would have the desired effect. It had been difficult to take any nourishment during the desperate race to Elrond, without immediately ejecting it.
“Very well,” the Ranger sighed. Before Aragorn could change his mind, Frodo spooned the tea between his lips, followed by the soup.
“Do you need the privy, Aragorn?”
Aragorn gave him a queer look, “I don’t see as that’s any of your concern, Mr. Baggins,” he said sharply wondering at such an odd question.
Frodo couldn’t help smiling. It *was* an odd thing to ask since the Ranger was picturing himself in good health camped with four hobbits, one deathly ill. “I only ask because the sound of the water makes me want to go,” Frodo whispered. “I won’t be gone long,” Frodo added.
“No, you must not go alone,” Aragorn said, grabbing Frodo’s left arm and causing the hobbit to yelp in pain.
“Very well, why don’t you come with me then,” Frodo whispered shakily.
Aragorn released Frodo and Frodo retrieved the cup being used as a urinal. He tugged down the Ranger’s leggings and positioned the cup so that it would catch the man’s stream. It was some moments before Aragorn relaxed enough to void. Once he was finished, Frodo sat the cup aside and redressed him, and then rose slowly. He staggered as vertigo assailed him before straightening and marching resolutely to the cave mouth to dump the contents in the rain. He walked slowly back to Aragorn’s side and knelt down. Sam studied his Master worriedly.
“All right, Sam, lower him down slowly please,” Frodo whispered wearily.
When Sam looked into the face of the Ranger he saw that the man’s eyes were open and staring up at him. There were tears pooled in the gray depths. “Sam,” Aragorn said softly, reaching up and grasping the front of Sam’s shirt with surprising strength. “Forgive me, please,” he said.
“Now, forgive you for what, Mr. Strider. You haven’t done ought to be sorry for, sir,” Sam said soothingly as he tucked the blankets about the man’s shoulders. He looked over at Frodo and saw his Master watching and waiting for Aragorn to finish.
“I had to. He would have taken It to Sauron, he would have become a wraith like them, and Sauron would have tortured him—forever he would have been under the Dark Lord’s influence. He would have experienced agony beyond the comprehension of any living thing in Middle Earth, suffering beyond belief. I had to do it, had to…make it quick, had to end his suffering to save him.” The man’s strength failed him and he fell back onto the blankets, his eyes closing. “Forgive me, I did not want to do it,” he whispered.
Sam sat stunned, moving slowly back from the Ranger. He looked quickly over at Frodo *hoping*, by some miracle, that his Master hadn’t heard.
Frodo’s face had become ashen and he was visibly shaking. He stared at Aragorn as he reached up and took the Ring in his right hand, covering it in a white knuckled fist.
“Come rest by the fire, Master,” Sam whispered, helping Frodo up and walking the few paces to the blaze, settling Frodo on the ground. He laid a blanket over Frodo’s shoulders as his Master stared blankly into the dancing flames.
Sam wrung out some cloths in a pot of lukewarm water and carried them to Aragorn’s side. He peeled back the blankets and removed the rags he had covered the man in earlier. He noted that they had dried, so great was the heat coming off of the Ranger. He felt Strider’s forehead and thought that the man was slightly cooler. Encouraged, he spread the new cloths over the man’s torso and laid one on the broad forehead. Strider sighed, feeling the coolness even in his delirium. Sam knew that above all else, Frodo would want to be left alone to think on all that Aragorn had said, so Sam busied himself about the camp, never letting Frodo or Aragorn out of his sight. He walked to where Frodo had dropped the wood, picked up the rabbit and quickly skinned off the soft fur and gutted it. He went outside briefly to bury the entrails some distance from the cave. He quickly returned, quartered the rabbit and skewered it onto long sticks which he balanced over the coals. He went back to the pile of wood and began moving it to the fire, stacking it neatly. Finally, he retrieved Frodo’s cloak and wet clothing and laid it over rocks near the fire to dry. He ground his teeth together as he wrung each item out, irritated anew at his Master’s foolhardiness. ‘Probably get a nasty cold for it,’ he thought. He went back to the fire, picked up a frying pan and began slicing up potatoes and onions. He set them in the skillet which he placed to the side, waiting for the rabbit to be done. Through all his deliberations he thought of all that Strider had said. ‘He wouldn’ta done it,’ he thought to himself. ‘Ain’t no way he’d a hurt Mr. Frodo.’ Still, even the thought of it brought tears to Sam’s eyes and he swiped unobtrusively at his face to erase any evidence of his crying.
Once the rabbit was done, Sam fried up the potatoes and funneled a healthy portion onto a plate for Frodo. Frodo automatically took the plate but did not eat.
“Come, Mr. Frodo, won’t you eat a bite?” Sam watched his Master tearfully. Frodo didn’t seem to hear him, continuing to stare into the fire. Sam pushed another mug of tea into Frodo’s hand and was gratified to see his Master drink it. Finally, he rose and helped the dazed hobbit to his feet. “Come, sir, you’ve had a shock to be sure and need a bit of rest,” Sam murmured. Frodo obediently allowed himself to be settled on Aragorn’s right side. Sam gently covered him with a blanket then went back to the fire, removed some of the hot rocks surrounding the blaze and wrapped them in cloth. He laid the hot rocks around his Master’s left side then stood back, staring down at his beloved Master whose eyes were now closed in sleep. It was only then that Sam walked from the area into the adjoining cave and wept in grief.
“Merry, I’m hungry and tired. When can we stop?” Pippin whined.
Merry looked about them noting the indigo night sky and decided they had walked enough for the day. “Let’s camp over there Pip, under those boughs. The campsite in question was all but dry as the pine boughs bent low to the ground, creating a small shelter underneath.
Pip smiled, “I’ll go get some firewood then we can eat,” he said, bouncing away.
Too late Merry realized that Pip still had the rabbits in his pack. “I’ll just have to wait till he gets back to get supper started, it seems,” he groused to himself.
Pippin happily filled his arms with wood, some of it too wet to use until later, thinking of roast rabbit for dinner and how terribly hungry he was. Hearing a noise behind him and assuming it was Merry he said “Silly Brandybuck, I can do this while you spread out our bedding,” he chortled. He looked around but instead of seeing Merry he saw a huge cat silhouetted by starlight, perched on a large boulder, some 20 feet away. He gasped in fear as the wood fell unheeded from his arms, “What the?” he said as he began backing away towards the campsite. The mountain lion crouched and slowly began moving towards him. Pippin had never seen anything like the huge cat. Starlight glimmered off of sharp teeth as the cat growled low in its throat, preparing to pounce.
Pip realized that he still carried the rabbits on his back and that the scent had likely drawn the huntress to him, placing him in mortal danger. He opened his mouth and screamed as loud as he could before turning and racing back towards Merry and the relative safety of their camp.
Merry almost dropped his pipe which he had just pulled from his pack, when he heard Pippin’s terse scream. “MERRY!” The hair rose on the back of his neck as he recognized this scream to be one of terror unlike his cousin’s usual screams of delighted discovery or play.
He grabbed his slingshot and rocks and made a hasty bee line towards where he had seen Pip leave the campsite. He hadn’t gone far before hearing and seeing a blur sprinting down the hill towards him. Behind Pip, Merry saw something that caused his blood to run cold and it was gaining ground quickly on his cousin. He fitted a rock into the sling and let it fly. It struck the huge cat on the forehead and she staggered a step, confused as to what had hit her. But just as quickly she resumed her pursuit, increasing her speed to catch up with Pip. Merry loosed another rock, striking her on the flank, then another made contact with her nose. Merry pulled rocks one after another quickly from his pouch as he continued to pepper the animal with hits. Abruptly the cat stopped, obviously in pain and wracked with indecision. She had, apparently, not planned on any kind of defense from these creatures and decided it was time to retreat. With a spine tingling roar of anger she turned and began running in the opposite direction. Rabbits were easy fare and defenseless compared to these small beings she decided.
Pippin was sobbing with great gulping gasps as he reached Merry. He quickly hid behind his cousin seeing the look of determination and the set of Merry’s jaw as he continued to pelt the receding hind quarters of the cat.
They stood in silence except for the heavy pants wrought by the fight or flight response, looking where the huge cat had been only moments before.
“Perhaps we should keep going, Merry. I don’t want to camp here,” Pippin said frightened.
Merry looked at his cousin and pulled him into a tight embrace, “No, Pip, I don’t think she’ll be back. Like as not she’s never seen hobbits before and didn’t know how well they would do with a sling and bag of rocks. We’re both tired and hungry. Let’s eat and rest, I’ll keep watch tonight,” he said softly. Pippin looked like he would object but Merry pulled him into a walk and they began collecting wood closer to the campsite, their eyes constantly darting about them all the while. Merry soon had a large fire blazing as he speared the rabbits for roasting, his slingshot never far from his side. After they ate, he tucked Pip into the blankets and settled himself next to him, his back against the tree. He laid his arm protectively over Pip, gently finger combing the ringlets, until his cousin fell asleep. He sat awake all night, his senses heightened as he watched the darkness.
The Honorary Hobbit
Cast of Characters: Aragorn, Frodo,Merry, Sam and Pippin, so far
Rated:PG for grossness and the occasional bare Ranger bottom
“Nothing. She is gone, don’t worry Pip,” Merry said, ruffling his cousin’s hair as he gave him his best, albeit exhausted, smile.
Pippin felt a pang of guilt looking at Merry’s glassy eyes and noting the slump of his shoulders. “You need to sleep, Mer’, I can stand watch for a while,” Pip said softly.
“No, we must continue on, Pip. Frodo and Aragorn need help and they are counting on us.” He looked around at their campsite. It had poured down rain all night and their fire was a mere puddle of partially burnt wood and ash. He sighed, “No fire this morning, Pip, let’s have a quick cold breakfast and hurry on. Pip would have objected normally but Merry had sacrificed his own comfort for him. Daylight, or what passed for daylight, was slipping away from them, so he chose to rummage through his pack, pulling forth a small wedge of cheese, a loaf of hard bread and some apple slices instead. They ate in silence then packed up their remaining supplies and bedrolls and resumed their trek towards Rivendell.
They hiked for some three or four hours, Merry trudging in a habituated march while Pip scanned the countryside for any signs of trouble. Merry stopped suddenly causing Pip to crash into him. “Merry what…?” Pip started to say, but stopped himself as he heard the unmistakable sound of hoof beats. “Should we hide, Mer’?” Pippin asked, looking about in a panic.
Merry smiled, “No, I don’t imagine Elrond would allow dangerous ruffians into his lands.”
Pippen looked skeptical as he thought of the Big Cat from the night before.
Seeing the hobbits, Elrond kneed his steed and raced towards them. He stopped just short of the hobbits, quickly dismounted and knelt before the bedraggled duo. Soon he was joined by the others who also dismounted and stood at Elrond’s side.
“Are you well little Masters? Are you injured?” Elrond spoke hurriedly. This gave Pippin his chance to tell of the Big Cat and all that had occurred the night before. He rushed over the words as Elrond marveled at how long the hobbit could talk without taking a breath. A small smile touched Gandalf’s lips and he began to chuckle. Pippin slowed his speech when he came to how Merry had chased the foe off and had sat watch over him as he slept.
Merry smiled then his eyes widened and he exclaimed “Frodo!” It was then his turn to breathlessly tell of all that had transpired with Aragorn and his cousin. He had taken Elrond’s hand and begun to pull the elf towards his horse as he spoke, conveying the urgency of returning to the caves. Elrond allowed Merry to urge him into action; the hobbit’s anxiety was palpable and contagious. He mounted quickly, pulling Merry up in one motion across the saddle.
“You will rest now, Meriadoc,” he said simply as he spurred his mount into a run. The others had quickly remounted, Gandalf placing Pippin in front of him, as the whole host broke into a gallop after Elrond’s mount.
A gentle prodding brought Frodo awake and he swatted impatiently at the hand. “Leave me be, Sam, I am not hungry. ‘Tired though, so very tired,” he mumbled sleepily.
“That may be, my dear hobbit, but you *will* eat nonetheless,” a much loved voice grumbled.
Frodo’s eyes flew open and he saw Gandalf hovering over him. “Gandalf!” Frodo exclaimed grasping the Istari’s arm in jubilation. “Thank the stars that you are here!” he smiled joyfully.
Gandalf smiled as he studied Frodo’s face, noting the weariness and how Frodo held his left arm close to his body. The hobbit’s face was pale save for two ruddy spots on his cheeks and the Maia knew that worry over Aragorn and being responsible for the others had taken a grave toll on the frail hobbit. Frodo had neglected his health despite Sam’s best efforts to compensate for his Master’s actions. Gandalf rose, thumped his staff on the rock, causing the cave to ignite in brilliant light and warmth. “It is far too cold in here and hard on my old bones,” he mumbled.
Frodo’s attentions had turned to Elrond as he examined Aragorn and his injuries. Elrond looked up at Frodo, “Master Baggins,” he said in greeting.
“On the contrary, Ringbearer, you have most probably saved his life. Under the circumstances it is a miracle that he yet lives and only by your efforts does he still draw breath,” Elrond said, raising an eyebrow.
“Still, I feel my efforts were lacking. I have no healing skills. We made him a medicinal tea,” Frodo rose quickly to cross to the fire and staggered as vertigo assailed him. Elrond reached out and steadied the hobbit, knowing that he most probably had two patients, instead of one.
“Steady Frodo, do not over exert yourself,” he cautioned.
“I must have stood up to fast,” Frodo stated flatly. “I am fine.”
“You are many admirable things, Master Baggins, but *fine* is not one of them,” Elrond responded.
Frodo gently pulled from Elrond’s grasp, “I do not wish to appear ungrateful, my Lord, but it is Aragorn who needs your full attention currently. I am well enough,” Frodo said stubbornly.
Elrond gave him a small smile, content for the moment to concentrate his efforts on the Ranger. There would be time later to deal with Mr. Baggins. “Please, bring me the tea you prepared,” he said. Frodo retrieved the tea, handing it to the elf.
Elrond sniffed the tea then dipped his finger in it, tasting the concoction. He grimaced, but nodded, “I see you have learned much while you were ill, Frodo. I can taste all of the ingredients in addition to athelas and I approve of your choices. It is a bit strong… however did you get Aragorn to take it?” he asked.
Frodo smiled, “I used manipulation.”
Elrond raised his eyebrows and smiled, “You must tell me more about this later.” Frodo giggled, relaxing upon hearing that his herbal choices had been good ones. “Nonetheless, I have brought my own elixirs to speed Aragorn’s recovery,” the elf Lord added. He pulled a light green vial from his bag and Frodo winced in empathy for the Ranger.
Frodo knelt down at Aragorn’s side, “What is in that one, if I may ask?” Since trying to treat Aragorn he had become increasingly aware of his own lack of knowledge about such things and now found he had a genuine interest in knowing more about what things in nature could be used to create curatives for the ill. Merry crowded closer to Frodo, also wanting to know more. Sam already sat on the Ranger’s left, watching all that Elrond did and Pippin heard everything even when he wasn’t supposed to. Merry locked eyes with Sam and a silent agreement passed between them that they would learn all they could should Frodo have need of it on their journey. Merry hoped the knowledge would go unused.
Sam seemed to file all of this away as did Merry, while Frodo nodded in understanding. With a nod from Elrond, Elladan slipped behind the Ranger, propping him up into a sitting position. Elrond unwrapped the bandage around Aragorn’s head and examined the concussion. “You did well in cleaning and bandaging the wound. Has he been conscious since the accident?” Elrond asked quietly.
“Yes, although the last two times he was awake he was a bit outta his head, sir. Talkin’ nonsense,” Sam said. Frodo shuddered, remembering what Aragorn had spoken of and decided he would ask Gandalf about it later.
“What did he say?” Frodo looked towards the voice. Pip was sitting in Gandalf’s lap watching and listening to all that took place.
“We’ll discuss it later, Pip,” Frodo said. Both Merry and Pip looked even more curious and would have pushed the issue further but saw that Elrond had begun to tap Aragorn’s face in an attempt to wake him.
“Ada?” Aragorn whispered, seeing who had waked him.
“Yes, my son. I am here. You have been very ill and I have prepared a cordial to help you mend. Will you drink it for me?” Aragorn nodded slowly, not really caring one way or the other. Frodo knew from past experience that had Strider refused the cordial, it would have been forced on the Ranger anyway. The twins moved closer to their adopted brother, tightening their hold on him in preparation for the ordeal. Without hesitating, Elrond poured a large portion of the vial into Aragorn’s mouth then held the man’s jaw closed. He blew into Aragorn’s face, causing the man to swallow reflexively.
After much swearing and many sips of water to wash away the taste, Aragorn settled. Elrond nodded to the twins and they braced themselves. The elf Lord upended the vial depositing the remaining liquid onto the unsuspecting Ranger’s tongue. As Elrond held the man’s jaw tightly closed and blew into Aragorn’s face, the Ranger struggled, but he was weakened from his illness and quickly gave up, swallowing the elixir. Colorful curses and other promised threats and expletives poured from the man and even Elrond looked shocked at some of the more creative ones, wondering from whom he had learned such words. He looked over at Frodo who was blushing furiously while his cousins and Sam gaped at the young Master of Bag End.
“I’ve heard some of those but only from Bilbo!” Pippin squealed in shock.
“It seems, dear cousin, that some of our more colorful curses have been taught to our dear Strider,” Merry said matter-of-factly.
“They are meant to heal a body, not taste good, Master Baggins,” Elrond said archly.
Elrond paused, staring at the Ringbearer, “I will experiment with the ingredients once we return and see what can be done,” Elrond said flatly. Frodo could tell that the elf Lord’s feelings had been bruised although Elrond would have never admitted to such a thing.
Aragorn’s eyes had settled on Frodo and he stared long and hard at the hobbit. Frodo smiled at Aragorn, a little bashful under the man’s intense scrutiny. He pulled his water pouch to him, “Would you like more water, Aragorn?” he asked quietly. Aragorn only continued to stare at the hobbit. Frodo brought the canteen to the man’s lips and Aragorn drank deeply. “That cordial was a little nasty, wasn’t it? I have found that a long drink of water goes a long way towards washing the taste from one’s mouth. That and a spoonful of honey, but since we don’t have any left,” he looked up at Sam and Sam shook his head indicating that the honey was all gone, “we’ll have to do with just water, I’m afraid,” Frodo murmured softly while dabbing at the Ranger’s face with a cool cloth. Elrond could not resist a small smile watching the hobbit caring for the man so tenderly.
Aragorn had finished drinking and lunged forward grasping Frodo’s left arm tightly. Frodo yelped in surprise and pain as Elrond leaped forward, grasping the man’s wrist and disengaging his hold on Frodo.
“Frodo?” Aragorn whispered as Elrond placed himself between the two. Sam moved to support his Master’s shuddering body and saw that Frodo’s eyes were squeezed tightly shut as he fought for some semblance of control over the pain. Frodo leaned to the left and retched, unable to stop the overwhelming nausea that washed over him. His arm hung limply at his side and Gandalf eased Pippin out of his lap, picking Frodo up off the rock, pulling him into his chest and engulfing him in the voluminous folds of his robe. Frodo offered no resistance; he hadn’t even realized he had been moved. A persistent buzzing sound seemed to fill the air around him and after three days of falling, bumping and struggling against the pain he realized he had finally reached the limits of his control over his body. He lay quiescent in Gandalf’s arms and the wizard saw that the hobbit had lost consciousness.
“Elrond, you need to see to Frodo as soon as you may,” Gandalf whispered worriedly.
“He will have my uninterrupted attentions as soon as possible, Mithrandir,” Elrond said as he reached into the hobbit’s shirt, laying his hand over Frodo’s wound. It was ice cold. He lifted one eyelid and gazed into the blue iris. “Samwise, bring some hot rocks wrapped in cloth and place it beside your Master’s wound.”
Sam jumped up to do as requested while Elrond turned his attentions back to Aragorn. As he cared for the Ranger, he shot worried glances over his shoulder at the Ringbearer.
Aragorn had become highly agitated, calling for Frodo and struggling against Elrond. The elf Lord spoke softly to the Ranger and Merry saw Strider’s movements still. When Elrond rose he could see that the Ranger was once again asleep. He watched as Elrond began to carefully unwrap Strider’s leg. Elrond examined the splint and nodded in satisfaction. “You did an excellent job splinting the break, Master Brandybuck. The bones are aligned precisely as they should be,” Elrond said with a small smile.
“Thank you, my Lord. We all worked together to help Frodo as much as we could,” Merry replied.
“I am curious, is it always the eldest that is placed in charge of a situation?”
“Of course, the eldest is always thought of to be the wisest and most experienced. Except of course for my cousin Tan,” all the hobbits nodded and chorused their agreement on this, “he’s never the one to go to for assistance,” Merry said solemnly.
Sam’s eyes flew open that someone would be so hair-brained to do such a thing while Merry nodded, “Couldn’t see why it took so long to grow vegetables, he said.”
“I woulda’ skinned him alive,” Sam said then looked down shamefacedly at voicing his opinion and about a gentlehobbit at that.
Merry smiled, “Old Dodadoc almost did that very thing, Sam!” Pippin giggled. Elrond merely shook his head and smiled.
Merry looked worriedly at Strider, “Will he be all right? I worry for his leg and I can’t even imagine what Frodo would do if Strider lost his life. He would blame himself I know. He thinks very highly of Aragorn.”
“I noticed that you usually call him ‘Strider’,” Elrond’s eyes twinkled as he turned the conversation.
Elrond studied the Brandybuck as he worked on the leg. He had unwrapped all of the bandages and saw the athelas leaves lying across the break. His eyebrows rose, “Whose idea was it to place the leaves on the wound?”
Merry looked worriedly at the leg, “Frodo decided that the tea wasn’t working fast enough. Strider had two leaves left that he had blown on,” Elrond’s eyebrows rose even higher on hearing this, “so Frodo decided that the leaves would be more useful placed directly on the wound. Is it wrong? He was only trying to help.”
Elrond smiled, “No, not wrong, only interesting that Master Baggins should do it. Be at peace, Merry, Frodo did very well. The leaves are a potent cure for inflammation and infection. Frodo’s instincts were correct in placing the leaves thusly; it was the best possible thing to do. I believe hobbits know more about healing than they say.”
“It *does* look a little better, I suppose, at least those red lines are gone,” Merry said looking at the black and blue leg.
“Red lines? Where were they, Merry?”
Merry pointed above the break on the inside of the leg. “That would indicate a life threatening infection, Merry, little surprise considering the conditions you were forced to care for him under,” Elrond murmured. “I am still stymied by how you managed to move him from the tree up to this cave,” he continued.
Sam smiled, “It weren’t easy, sir. It was a bit like how ants will carry grains of sand so much bigger than them, if you take my meaning?”
“I do indeed, Master Gamgee. I have learned much from ants while watching them on a sunny day,” Elrond said conversationally. “Your Master saved Aragorn’s life. Had he not set the break correctly, made the medicinal tea and ‘lied’ to get him to drink it,” the elf Lord smiled, “and used the athelas leaves on the wound, Aragorn would have died not long after you saw the red lines on his leg.”
Merry, Sam and Pip all grinned proudly. “Frodo’s hurt too, Mr. Elrond, sir. Could you see to him as well?”
“I intend to, I assure you, Samwise,” Elrond said firmly.
Elrond washed the leg with warm athelas water and rewrapped it in clean gauze. He looked up at two tall elves and gave them a nod. Sam wondered if elves were able to talk in their heads as he watched the silent communication. The elves easily moved Aragorn onto his left hip while supporting the leg. The tunic the Ranger wore was in tatters, torn open by the hobbits so they could cool the man. Elrond cut the remaining cloth from Aragorn’s body. Sam looked at the Ranger’s back and paled.
Merry walked around and knelt beside Aragorn’s back. “No Sam, but these are what my mother called bed sores. You get them from lying in one place for too long.” He wrinkled his nose, “They smell bad too.”
Elrond studied the oozing wounds. Bone was visible on two of the wounds. “You could not have moved him, gentlemen, without causing great pain or further injury. You did all you could under the circumstances.” He gestured to the two elves, speaking in rapid elvish. The two elves nodded, bowed and left quickly. Sam looked at Elrond in awe.
“Where are they going?” Pip whispered in Merry’s ear. Merry shrugged. Pip startled when it was not Merry who answered.
“They are retrieving some things I need to keep Aragorn remain propped on his left side, Master Took,” Elrond said as he washed the sores tenderly with the athelas water and placed a large padded cloth on the Ranger’s back.
Elrond studied the hobbit’s face. “He is very ill, Meriadoc, but I will do all in my power to see him back to health. He has multiple areas of infection and he is very weak, but thanks to your cousin, he has a good chance of recovery.”
Elrond looked over at Gandalf and the hobbit that lay within the folds of the wizard’s robes. “I hope he did not sacrifice his own health too greatly to accomplish this. I will need to examine him thoroughly, his wound has obviously been exacerbated by all that has occurred, and he appears thinner, almost frail, from worry over Aragorn.
The Honorary Hobbit
"The Care and Feeding of Rangers"
Elrond decided that before he would allow Aragorn to rest, he would give him some of Frodo’s medicinal tea and perhaps some broth. As if they had read the Elf Lord’s mind, two Elves entered through the mouth of the cave carrying a small buck. The deer had been field dressed and all that needed to be done was for the meat to be cut from the bone and cooked. Sam smiled broadly, “It’ll be a treat to have some fresh meat, it will!” he exclaimed. The Elves placed the buck on a blanket near the fire and an awed Sam crouched down beside them as they began to section and cut the meat from the carcass. He smiled bashfully, “Thank you kindly, Mr. Elves, sirs.” The Elves smiled and nodded to him and Sam realized that they probably didn’t understand him. He held out a cook pot and after glancing questioningly at the hobbit and speaking something in rushed elvish, they placed a portion of shank inside of it.
Sam scurried to the fire and added water, carrots, onions, and potatoes to the pot as he quietly hummed to himself.
“Do you have more of Frodo’s tea, Master Gamgee?”
“Aye, I do have some though it’s about all gone, sir,” Sam replied.
“Never fear, I have something to contribute to it that has an appealing flavor,” Elrond said. Sam grimaced, somehow doubting that was true. Elrond upended a vial into the pot of tea and the liquid turned a dark purple.
“Just let it warm, Sam,” Elrond said softly.
“Aye sir,” Sam stirred the tea curiously before catching the aroma of black berries steaming up from the pot. Perhaps it would taste better after all, he thought with a smile. Once it was warm, Elrond took a cup of the drink and sat down at Aragorn’s side.
“Wake, my son,” he said quietly as he gently tapped Aragorn’s face. The Ranger’s eyes slowly opened and he stared up at Elrond. “You need to take some medicine before you sleep, Aragorn.”
“I do not want any, Ada.”
“You must in order to regain your health, Aragorn. It tastes quiet pleasant.”
Aragorn grimaced, also doubting Elrond’s words. “No thank you, Ada. Please let me sleep…I am so tired,” Aragorn whispered, closing his eyes.
“Let me try, my Lord,” croaked a small voice.
Elrond turned and saw Frodo was trying to right himself. Gandalf slowly placed the hobbit on his feet, holding his hands out in case Frodo swayed. Frodo *did* sway and Elrond noticed the pallor of the Ringbearer’s face and how his legs shook to support his weight. “Very well,” Elrond said, wanting only for Frodo to settle on the ground beside Aragorn before he fell into a faint.
Frodo walked wobbly over to Aragorn taking the cup from the Elf Lord’s hands as he passed. He knelt down in front of the Ranger, finally settling into a crossed leg position. He tapped Aragorn’s face lightly and the Ranger frowned.
“No, Ada, let me sleep,” the Ranger groused.
Frodo smiled, “It is Frodo, Aragorn,” he whispered. Unbeknownst to Frodo everyone surrounding the two had tensed, ready to stop Aragorn should he reach out for the Ringbearer. Sam crossed to the two, placing himself at Frodo’s left nearest to Aragorn and between the Ranger and his Master.
Aragorn’s eyes had opened upon hearing Frodo’s voice and he stared up into the blue eyes. “You are injured,” he said simply.
“Yes, but I am better thanks to Elrond. I feel fit as a fiddle, Strider, so you need not worry on my behalf,” Frodo said, forcing a smile to his face. Elrond watched one eyebrow arched at the easily executed lie.
“But, y…your arm,” Aragorn whispered, eyes slipping closed.
“Much better, thanks to you, my friend,” Frodo said smoothly.
“My friend…are we friends, Frodo?”
“I consider us to be very dear friends,” Frodo responded warmly. “But we need to get you fed, Aragorn. I have made more of my rare and special tea, your Majesty. Please do me the honor of joining me in a cup.” Frodo lied as he slipped into his earlier subterfuge.
At the words “Your Majesty” there was a collective gasp from all but the hobbits. Elrond’s mouth had dropped open in surprise and Gandalf chuckled at the rare reaction from the normally stoic elf.
Aragorn grimaced at the mention of the “special tea” and Frodo grinned. “My last batch was somewhat bitter but I have added something I think you’ll find most agreeable,” Frodo continued. “I made it especially for you, Aragorn, I hope you will drink it and feel the honor which I have endeavored to bestow upon you.” Gandalf and Elrond smiled, impressed by the manipulative skills of the Ringbearer.
Aragorn shifted uncomfortably, “I am honored, of course, Frodo. His expression was comical…a mixture of dread and courtesy, and it took all of Frodo’s considerable control to not giggle at the grimace on the man’s face. “I…I need to use the privy first, though,” the Ranger whispered conspiratorially, thinking it their secret alone.
“Of course,” Frodo whispered back. “I regret my privy is under repair currently but if you will allow me?” Aragorn nodded. Elrond pulled the man’s leggings down low as Frodo reached for the cup that was being used as the urinal. Aragorn filled the cup and sighed. Frodo handed it off to Merry who went to the mouth of the cave and dumped it. On his way back he retrieved Sam’s desecrated cook pot in case it was needed and set it by the fire to warm. “Are you ready for your tea now, Aragorn?” Frodo asked.
“I…I need to move my bowels, Frodo, give me a moment and I will join you soon.” Frodo did not know where the Ranger *thought* he was but it was obvious that Aragorn was straining. Frodo darted a look at Merry and the pot magically appeared. He placed it behind the man’s backside.
After a few moments the Ranger sighed in defeat, unable to void. Elrond reached into his bag and pulled out a reed, funnel and long piece of casing. All of the hobbits blanched at the implications of what was about to take place. With a nod to Gandalf, Elrond, along with two of the Elves who had helped before, eased Aragorn onto his right side. Aragorn cried out as he was moved but soon the blankets and toweling were situated so that the injured leg was supported and he was in a more comfortable position.
“Bend his left knee, Gandalf,” Elrond murmured. Gandalf bent the knee slightly, exposing Aragorn’s backside fully. The hobbits turned away to give the man some privacy although Aragorn was barely aware of what was taking place. Frodo had not turned away instead rising and crossing slowly to the Ranger’s other side. His eyes fell on Aragorn’s back and the now exposed sores and he gasped.
“How did this happen?” Frodo cried, he reached out as if to touch the sores and Elrond stopped him.
“Ringbearer! Do not touch the wounds. I will explain shortly but now we need your expertise to calm my son,” Elrond said firmly.
Frodo nodded, unable to drag his eyes from the weeping sores. He forced himself from his reverie and sat down at Aragorn’s head. Sam handed him a cool cloth and he began to whisper lowly to the Ranger as he mopped the sweat from the man’s brow.
“What is happening?” Aragorn whispered. Frodo shifted, uncertain as to what to say then decided on the truth.
“You cannot move your bowels, Aragorn, so Elrond is going to er…help you. You will feel much better once he is done, my friend.”
Aragorn looked confused but as Elrond inserted the reed into the man’s opening, understanding mixed with surprise caused the man’s eyes to fly open. “No…” he said trying to struggle free but in his weakened state his efforts were futile.
Frodo shushed him quietly and began to slowly comb his fingers through the Ranger’s dirty hair. “It will be over soon, and then you can have some tea. Sam has made a lovely dinner for you as well. Frodo pitched his voice evenly and the Ranger’s eyes began to creep closed as Frodo began to hum a song his mother had always sung to him whenever he had been ill. Frodo glanced up and saw that Elrond had attached the casing to the reed and the funnel to the other end. He slowly began pouring warm water into the funnel as Gandalf held the reed in place.
Aragorn’s eyes opened briefly but closed slowly as Frodo continued to sing in a slow hypnotic cadence. Suddenly, water and stool poured out of the man and into Sam’s defiled cook pot and Aragorn sighed in relief as the reed was withdrawn. Elrond handed the pot to the awaiting Elf who took it to be dumped. The reed was wrapped in toweling along with the other implements and placed back into the healer’s bag. Elrond then pulled Aragorn’s leggings up and re-covered the Ranger. He nodded to Frodo and the hobbit ceased singing. Aragorn’s eyes opened at the sudden quiet and Frodo smiled down at him.
“There now, I believe it’s time for our tea, your Majesty,” Frodo said cheerfully. Aragorn was smoothly moved onto his back and placed in a semi-upright position by the Elves who then slipped behind him for support.
Frodo retrieved the tea and he and Sam settled beside the Ranger. He spooned some of the medicine into Aragorn’s mouth and the man’s eyes snapped open in surprised delight. “Why Frodo, this is delicious,” he exclaimed.
“Thank you, Aragorn, I do believe it is one of my best batches yet,” Frodo said with a grin. The man finished his tea and Sam brought over a cup of the stew. Elrond took the cup and examined the contents under Sam’s watchful gaze.
“I fished out the meat, sir, and mashed up the vegetables, I hope that’s all right.”
“Excellent, Sam,” Elrond said with a smile. “It smells delicious.” Sam beamed in appreciation and took the cup to his Master. Frodo slowly fed the thick broth to Aragorn who seemed to be quite enjoying his meal.
“My compliments, Samwise, that was delicious,” Aragorn said after eating about three quarters of the cups contents.
“Thankee sir,” Sam said blushing.
“Could I have some more of your tea, Frodo?” Frodo glanced at Elrond who gave him a nod.
“Of course, Aragorn, as much as you wish.” Another cup of tea was placed in Frodo’s hand and he slowly spooned it into the Ranger’s mouth. Aragorn drank the tea automatically as he stared up at Frodo over the rim of the cup. Suddenly, his hand shot out to grab Frodo. Frodo had seen the movement but there was little time to react except to brace himself for the expected explosion of pain. Frodo had closed his eyes expecting the worst but when it didn’t come he slowly opened his eyes to see Sam holding the man’s wrist firmly within his grasp. Aragorn was staring up at Sam in confusion.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Strider, but I can’t let you touch my Master’s arm, sir. It’s still mighty sore, if you take my meaning,” Sam said firmly.
“Of course, Sam, how stupid of me. Is he well?”
“Yes sir, he’s on the mend,” Sam whispered, hoping fervently that his words held a flicker of the truth.
Aragorn’s eyes began to slip closed as he mumbled, “That is good…” Sam placed the man’s wrist gently on Aragorn’s chest and pulled up the covers. The two Elves easily maneuvered Aragorn back onto his left side as Elrond supported his broken leg.
Elrond turned and smiled at the two hobbits, “I am most impressed, gentlemen,” he said quietly. “Master Samwise, your reflexes are quite fast, I do not believe I even saw your hand reach out.” Sam blushed. “And Frodo, I am astounded at how easily you wield deception to get what you want,” the Elf Lord said with a smirk, emphasizing the word “deception”. “He seems to be quite susceptible to pleasing you. It does not surprise me over much since he admires you greatly.”
Frodo looked confused, “I do not know why that is, my Lord, I have done nothing worthy of his admiration.”
Merry shook his head, “We’ve had this discussion, my daft cousin. You may not see your qualities in yourself but others do.” Frodo smiled but continued to look confused.
He looked anxiously up at Elrond, “What are those sores on his back?”
Elrond had hoped Frodo had forgotten about the wounds but seeing as it wasn’t so, he sighed. “They are bedsores, Frodo.”
Frodo’s eyes flew open, “I..I didn’t know. Oh, I am so stupid not to remember that he would need to be turned. Poor Aragorn.”
“It’s my fault, Mr. Frodo, I should’a remembered,” Sam said sadly.
“You could have done little to make him more comfortable, my dear hobbits,” Gandalf said slowly. “Aragorn would have been too heavy for you to move without risking further pain and injury. Aragorn will recover, Frodo, do not worry,” the Istari reassured.
“Will he, Gandalf? Really? Can you *promise* me that, Gandalf? He would have been better off had I done nothing …all of his injuries were my fault. If he hadn’t shoved me aside he wouldn’t have been injured at all. But no, I caused his injuries and then, because I was too busy reading books all of my life instead of listening to my Aunt Zelpha go on about her medicinal plants, I was *completely* ignorant of how to care for him,” Frodo ranted, rising and pacing in front of a dumbfounded Gandalf and Elrond. The cave was completely silent accept for the heavy breathing of the irate Ringbearer. He wiped his forehead and stopped in front of Elrond.
Elrond stared at Frodo for a long time noting his pallor and flushed cheeks, the shaking hands and the wheezing breaths. “Frodo, you must calm yourself.” Frodo looked as if he was going to explode. “You did well, you saved his life! Without you, he would have perished. You could have done no more,” he added quietly. “Now, I believe you are in need of my attentions,” he reached out for the Ringbearer but Frodo took a step backwards, easily dodging the Elf Lord.
“I am perfectly all right, Lord Elrond, I assure you,” Frodo huffed, straightening his shoulders.
Elrond frowned, “I am afraid you have no choice, Master Baggins,” he said firmly.
Merry, Pip and Sam all rolled their eyes skyward at the Elf Lord. Obviously, Elrond had no idea what he had just set in motion. Frodo was by nature, a stubborn hobbit and Elrond’s declaration had left no room for argument which of course, meant Frodo *had* to argue.
“I appreciate your concern, my Lord, but I have no need for an examination and would prefer you use your skills on Aragorn instead.”
“Aragorn will not want for medical care, I assure you. You are obviously in pain and I believe you are coming down with a cold or perhaps something more serious. You are not that long from your own sickbed and more susceptible to illness.”
Frodo stood firm, blue eyes locked with gray, in the battle of wills. In the end neither hobbit nor elf gave way. Sam stepped up behind Frodo and placed his hands gently on his Master’s shoulders. “You’ve been right strong, Mr. Frodo, but now it’s time to make *you* comfortable, sir. Let’s get this done so we can eat and get you a good night’s sleep,” he said practically.
Frodo looked around at Sam, suddenly feeling foolish at acting so childishly. Merry and Pippin watched anxiously from behind Sam. “Yes, yes of course Sam, I don’t know what came over me,” he mumbled. He straightened in front of Lord Elrond, “What do you wish of me, my Lord?”
Elrond smiled in wonder at Sam then Frodo. “Here, sit Frodo, let me examine you,” he said softly. Frodo nodded nervously as he sat down on the ground next to Gandalf. The wizard squeezed Frodo’s right shoulder in reassurance.
Normally medical examinations were merely annoying to Frodo. He had endured them for years for Bilbo’s sake and found they were usually over and done with quickly. But since he had been wounded by the Witch King, examinations had taken on a whole different context. His shoulder and left side hurt abominably, his head felt heavy and fuzzy and he thought he might have a fever as well. As Elrond unfastened his cloak his stomach twisted nervously knowing that despite the Elf Lord’s best efforts to be gentle, this was going to be painful.
Elrond removed Frodo’s cloak very slowly and Frodo shivered violently. Gandalf’s staff flared, filling the surrounding area with warmth as Sam slowly removed the flannel shirt he had clothed Frodo in earlier. Frodo’s eyes were squeezed tightly shut but as his left arm came out of the sleeve, he could not hold back a whimper. Sam spoke softly to him as he spread a blanket about his Master’s shoulders. He looked worriedly over at Elrond before leaving his Master in their care.
Elrond bent to exam Frodo’s left side as Gandalf moved to shed more light over the elf’s shoulder. Frodo tensed, waiting for the touch he knew was coming. “Try to relax, Frodo,” Elrond whispered. He gently took the slim arm and pressed two fingers along the hobbit’s frigid shoulder. “Take a deep breath, Frodo and release it slowly,” Elrond said quietly.
Frodo did as instructed but could not keep his body from shaking. He squeezed his eyes closed as Elrond palpated the wound area. Tears slowly leaked from beneath his lids and coursed down his cheeks splashing on Elrond’s arm. The Elf Lord looked into Frodo’s face in empathy. “I am very sorry to have caused you additional pain, Frodo, we are done for now,” Elrond whispered apologetically. Frodo merely nodded and Gandalf reached out and pulled him onto his lap, covering him with his robe. “I would like to listen to your chest now.”
Frodo sat shivering and listless and Elrond looked at him in concern before placed his ear to Frodo’s chest. After a few moments he withdrew and motioned for Sam to join them. “His chest is congested…”
“It is only a cold,” Frodo mumbled.
“That may be, Ringbearer, but we do not wish it to worsen. You need rest in a soft bed, but since that is not currently possible, I believe an extended soak in the hot pool, a serving of Master Gamgee’s delicious stew and a good night’s sleep will have to suffice. Sam, please help your Master into the pool and join him so he can relax without drowning,” Elrond said lightly.
“Yes sir.” Sam walked Frodo slowly to the hot pool followed closely by Merry and Pippin who retrieved towels, a change of clothing and blankets. Frodo was eased into the pool and Sam settled beside him as his Master sighed in complete bliss. He talked quietly to Frodo for some time but, receiving no response, glanced over at his Master and saw that Frodo had fallen asleep. He pulled Frodo’s head up against his shoulder after checking that his Master’s shoulder was still completely immersed.
Some half hour later Elrond knelt beside the pool. Sam’s eyes were closed in slumber and Elrond shook his head. He motioned for Gandalf who chuckled at the sight of the two hobbits before carefully extracting Frodo and lifting him from the pool, wrapping him warmly in blankets. Elrond retrieved Sam, who woke with a jerk looking about for Frodo. “He is with Gandalf, Sam. Once you are dressed, please attend to your Master, and then we shall eat and rest for the night.”
“Yessir, Mr. Elrond.” Sam, Merry and Pippin gathered Frodo’s clothing and the three painstakingly dressed the groggy Ringbearer. Elrond watched them, noting how tenderly they handled their cousin. By the time Frodo was dressed in warm clothing he was awake and his eyes clear. Elrond concluded that the pain had abated somewhat gaging by the hobbit’s interactions with his cousins and the gentle laughter (followed by a prolonged, wet sounding cough from the Ringbearer) that the four shared.
The three bustled Frodo to a place close to the fire where Sam put a cup of steaming stew in his hand. Frodo ate slowly, listening to the Elves as they told stories and sang songs. The hobbits were mesmerized and transfixed by the strange but wonderful tales spun in the soft lilting voices. Elrond smiled over at Frodo and the Ringbearer smiled in return, thankful he had let the Elf Lord help him. After the meal was finished, Gandalf declared that they would all be leaving in the morning for Rivendell and that they should all get some rest. Sam steered Frodo towards a huge nest of leaves and blankets. Frodo gaped at the bed, “I don’t need…”
“Yes, you do, Frodo. Allow us to make you comfortable for once, cousin,” Pippin said. “There’s even enough room for all of us!” He chirped. The all settled down and were soon lost to exhausted slumber.
Elrond checked on Aragorn one last time before joining Gandalf at the foot of the makeshift bed. Frodo was in the center with Sam next to him, one arm draped protectively over his Master. Pippin was on the other side with Merry on the outside.
Gandalf lit his pipe and looked at Elrond, “Hobbits!” he said gruffly,he shook his head and chuckled as he walked over to his own bedroll.
My apologies for this being a bit late. I've been trying to update once a week, but well...who knows what's going on, my muse basically gave me the finger and disappeared.
The next morning, as the elves moved silently about the cave gathering their provisions and readying for departure, Elrond softly touched Frodo on the shoulder. Frodo startled in alarm and Elrond stilled him with a touch, reassuring him that nothing was amiss.
“Good marrow, Frodo. We are preparing to depart but before we do I would have you soak in the hot pool.”
Frodo began to object, but with a glance at Elrond’s expression, decided to relent. He rose slowly and Elrond reached out to steady him. He straightened and walked carefully to the hot pool. He undressed and slipped into the warm water, instantly thankful he had foregone the argument. As Elrond stood beside the pool he inquired as to how Frodo was feeling.
“I am still a bit stiff and sore but the warm water will help with that, I should imagine,” he said drowsily.
“It will be some time before we reach Rivendell so you need to take advantage of this opportunity while it is available. I will tend to Aragorn while you soak. Please try not to drown while I am thus occupied,” Elrond said softly.
Frodo smiled as he slipped deeper into the water. He did feel sleepy, lulled by the warmth, but did not see how it would be possible to drown in one’s own bath. He looked over towards the fire. Sam was working hard, using the larger pots and pans that the elves had brought with them, preparing a mountain of food for the group’s breakfast. Frodo wondered at what time Sam had awoken in order to start the morning meal as he sniffed appreciatively at the aromas filling the cave. Frodo then looked over towards Aragorn and saw Gandalf sitting close to the Ranger, talking quietly. He saw the two elves smoothly move the Ranger onto his back, slip behind him and raise him into a semi-sitting position. Elrond tapped the Ranger’s face gently until Aragorn’s eyes opened. Elrond said something Frodo could not hear, before beginning to feed the medicinal tea to his foster son. All the while Gandalf talked softly and Aragorn would turn his head occasionally and stare at the Istari in interest. Frodo then glanced towards the nest of blankets where his cousins still slept. All he could see was one furry foot protruding out from the covers that marked where they lay. Frodo smiled knowing that soon the scents emanating from Sam’s cook pots would bring them to full wakefulness. He closed his eyes and leaned back against the rim of the pool, satisfied that all was as it should be and dozed as his aching body began to relax.
A splash of water in his face jarred Frodo fully awake and he looked around irritably. “Pippin, whatever are you doing?” He growled.
“Saving your life, my elderly cousin,” Pippin giggled. “You fell asleep you silly Baggins, and slipped down to your chin into this lovely hot pool. Sam has a delicious breakfast waiting, but you had better hurry or Merry will have eaten it all,” Pip continued. Frodo groaned as he stood and shivered violently in the cold cave air. Pip was instantly at his side helping him from the pool and briskly rubbing him with warmed towels.
Frodo smiled, “Ah, warm towels too, I could get used to this, but I am quite capable of drying myself, Pippin!”
“I warmed them by the fire,” Pip said with a grin. Frodo was touched by the gesture. “If we don’t get you dried and dressed we’ll miss out on breakfast,” Pip murmured trying to explain what he was doing. Secretly, Pippin worried Frodo would get chilled and that the chest cold that had taken hold of his cousin, could turn into something far more serious. He couldn’t help noticing how frail and thin Frodo looked as he worriedly dressed his cousin into as many layers of clothing that he had been able to scrounged together.
Frodo smiled at his cousin, not fooled for one moment as to why Pip was fawning over him. “Thank you, Pip, I feel quite relaxed and warm now. Let’s go eat before Merry goes back for seconds, shall we?” Pippin beamed at him as they found seats around the fire and Sam placed steaming plates of eggs, bacon and fruit in their laps.
He added cups of tea with a smile, “Mornin’, Mr. Frodo,” he said cheerily.
“Good morning, Sam, this looks delicious, thank you,” Frodo said with a warm smile as Sam blushed at the praise. “Are we the last to eat?” Frodo asked, looking around. The elves had stacked the dirty plates by the fire and were talking quietly amongst themselves as they continued to organize their belongings.
“Yessir, even Mr. Merry’s eaten. Lord Elrond said we could feed Mr. Strider a bit of runny oatmeal this morning” he frowned, “but he won’t let me add any dried fruit to it.”
“That’s wonderful, Sam!” Frodo exclaimed. “I am sure it will taste delicious even without the fruit and at least it’s not stew,” Frodo smiled. He looked over towards Aragorn and saw Gandalf slowly feeding his friend the gruel. Merry was rolling up their blankets and gathering up their few belongings. Frodo ate with gusto, feeling as if he hadn’t eaten in days then realized he really hadn’t eaten that much since the accident.
“No, give me some privacy for Eru’s sake!” Frodo heard as he turned and saw Aragorn trying to feebly bat away Elrond and Gandalf. Both the elf Lord and Maia were unsuccessfully trying to talk the Ranger into something, it appeared.
Frodo sat his plate down and walked over to Aragorn’s side, kneeling down near the man’s head. “What is it, Aragorn?” he whispered.
Aragorn looked up at Elrond and Gandalf then at Frodo, “I was going to use the privy but they insist on watching me, Frodo. I think that you should go with me … I do not wish to leave you unprotected,” Aragorn said seriously, shooting a suspicious look at the Maia and the elf.
Were it any other time, Frodo would have laughed but he schooled his face to reflect concern. “I *would* feel safer with you, Aragorn.” He waved Elrond and Gandalf away and motioned to Sam and Merry. Merry brought the pan and Sam some hot water and a cloth. Aragorn had been repositioned on his other side so there was no need to move him.
Aragorn looked around then motioned to Frodo who leaned over the Ranger’s face and listened, “Are they gone, Frodo?” whispered the Ranger.
Frodo grinned widely, “It’s just us hobbits, Aragorn.… which do you need to do first?” Frodo giggled.
“Why would they want to watch? It is completely unseemly,” Aragorn whispered.
Frodo could not control his laughter, imagining what Aragorn must have *thought* he was seeing, “Mr. Strider’s not never goin’ to live this one down,” Sam snickered. Frodo wiped his eyes and looked up seeing the other hobbits grinning above them.
Frodo situated the pan and said with a grin “We’re ready, my friend”. Aragorn smiled up at him when he heard the endearment. Thankfully, Elrond had insured that there would not be a repeat of Aragorn’s previous problems and had given him a tonic along with sips of water whenever he was awake. Frodo was relieved that the Ranger had no problems relieving himself this time. Merry took the pan and left to dump it outside. Sam handed his Master a warm, wrung out cloth and Frodo washed Aragorn’s backside gently. Frodo handed the rag back to Sam as Sam handed him the cup which Frodo then held for Aragorn. “Go ahead, Aragorn,” he whispered.
After Aragorn had finished he reached up and touched Frodo’s face, “Thank you Frodo for your understanding and for making those other two men leave,” the Ranger said seriously before closing his eyes. Frodo smiled down at Aragorn and ran his hand through the man’s hair.
“You are most welcome, my friend,” he whispered. Sam took the cup and headed for the cave opening. “Do you feel better, Aragorn?” Frodo asked quietly knowing the Ranger was still awake.
“Yes, much, thank you,” Aragorn said without opening his eyes. “I had the strangest dream about you, but it isn’t something I will retell.” He looked up at Frodo, “I will only say that I am relieved to see you unharmed.” He closed his eyes and Frodo felt a chill go up his spine.
“We have one more task to complete before we depart,” Elrond said quietly from behind Frodo. He had been watching the interaction of the two from some feet away. He held up a large square cloth.
Frodo frowned at it in confusion, then the realization of what it was hit him like a lightning bolt and his mouth dropped open. “He will never let you,” Frodo exclaimed.
“I agree, but he might let *you*,” Gandalf chuckled.
Frodo rolled his eyes and mused as to how he would accomplish this feat. An idea came to him and he smiled as he gently tapped Aragorn’s face to wake him.
Aragorn’s opened his eyes grumpily, then seeing it was Frodo, relaxed. “Frodo, is all well? I must have dozed off, is Merry still standing watch?”
Merry spoke up, “Yes Aragorn and all is quiet,” he said. Frodo shot him a grateful smile and Merry gave him a nod. This seemed to calm Aragorn and he leaned back with a sigh, closing his eyes.
“Aragorn, Sam has made you something,” the Ringbearer lied. “It is made to be worn under your clothing and if you will allow me, I would like to put it on you,” he added.
Aragorn looked blearily at Frodo and Sam. “What is it for, Sam?”
Caught off guard, Sam fumbled for an answer. “Uhh…well, we hobbits wear them for .. er.. protection, Mr. Strider,” he blushed furiously and Frodo had to look down to conceal a smile.
Aragorn frowned, “You wear them *under* your clothes, Samwise?”
“Yessir, they’re sorta secret protection, if you take my meanin’,” he stammered.
Aragorn didn’t know if he took Sam’s ‘meaning’ at all. “Are you wearing this garment now?” he asked. Sam blushed almost purple before grabbing the waist of his short pants and pulled them up so Aragorn could see them over the top of his breeches. Aragorn stared at the edge of the cream colored linen cloth. “Men do not wear such things under their clothing.”
Frodo quickly stepped in to rescue the situation before Aragorn could say no. “We worry about your safety, Aragorn. What will happen to us if something happens to you?” Frodo urgently whispered.
Aragorn watched Frodo’s face seeing the fear in the Ringbearer’s eyes, he nodded. Frodo exhaled in relief and, with Gandalf’s help, pulled the Ranger’s leggings down. Frodo situated the cloth beneath the man’s hips and up between his legs. Pins were fastened attaching the ends together at the hips into the triangle shaped nappy. Then the leggings we resituated. Frodo looked into Aragorn’s face but the Ranger’s eyes had closed in exhaustion and he was sleeping soundly.
Frodo rose slowly, coughed harshly and walked away towards the fire.
“A moment, Master Baggins.”
Frodo stiffened, knowing what was coming. Elrond silently rose and walked up behind him, steering him towards a small group of elves. “You will need to drink this ere we leave,” the elf Lord said simply. He nodded to two elves that came towards him, one holding a lovely rose colored vial.
“May I ask what it contains?” Frodo asked wearily.
“Of course, this is the blackberry treacle we gave to my son this morning although as with his, I have added additional ingredients specific to your particular malady.”
“It is but a cold,” Frodo sighed.
“Perhaps, but I aim to ensure it stays a cold and does not become something more …aggressive.”
Frodo took the vial, smelled it, and then drank it down. He smiled in surprise. “That was delicious, Lord Elrond! If only all of your tonics were so tasty,” Frodo said with a wink. Elrond smiled, eyebrows arched then walked away. Only after he had left did Frodo realize that the elf Lord hadn’t told him the ingredients.
After Elrond had given Aragorn his medicine and the Ranger was padded, braced with blankets and towels and sleeping soundly (a benefit of one of the added ingredients to the tonic), the elf Lord gathered his contingent to him with a look. “We will be departing shortly. Gather your supplies and belongings and meet at the mouth of the cave. We will need to move swiftly while shielding Aragorn from as much jostling as possible.” All moved towards the mouth of the cave as the hobbits donned their cloaks and packs. Sam tried to relieve Frodo of his pack, but after a short scuffle and a deadly look from his Master, Sam relinquished all hope of doing so with a sigh. Elrond motioned to four almost identical looking elves and in rushed elvish, told them his wishes. They bowed as one, each chose a corner of the litter and stood ready. Elrond covered Aragorn lovingly in warmed blankets and then a slicker. The covers in the forefront of the litter were braced above the man’s face so he could breathe easily, while still remaining protected from the rain. With a nod, the four elves bent and stood, lifting their prospective corners of the litter. A small gasp was all that was heard from the Ranger but the man remained unconscious. Elrond leveled a frown at the litter bearers and the elves looked chagrinned at the silent remonstration. As one the elves walked towards the cave entrance and out into the rain. Frodo hurried ahead to walk beside the litter. Elrond walked beside him and spoke softly, “I would have you walk with Gandalf, Ringbearer,” he said simply.
Frodo’s face flushed in anger, “I prefer to remain at Aragorn’s side, my Lord,” he said in a raspy voice.
“That may be, Frodo, but until the litter has reached level ground, I must insist.” Frodo looked up at Elrond questioningly. “Traversing the cliff side will be treacherous under the best of circumstances. My bearers will need to focus completely on Aragorn and the litter, they do not need to also be concerned for your welfare as they try to keep track of your position next to them,” the elf said bluntly.
“Oh… my apologies, I had not thought of that. Of course, my Lord, I will walk with the others until we reach the Vale,” Frodo said in chagrin. Frodo watched as the elves carrying Aragorn surefootedly negotiated the Rock Rim, never slipping or faltering as they sidestepped any obstacle along the long descent.
The hobbits, on the other hand, had a harder time keeping their feet. The near constant rain had loosened the rock and runnels of mud had created crevices and holes in the cliff side. Merry slipped first and slid some feet before an elf grabbed him and set him back on his feet. Pippin was no better; a badly placed foot almost ended in disaster as his ankle sank into a hole and he began to fall forward. Gandalf plucked him from the air as he fell and without comment, settled the smaller hobbit on his hip. Pip blanched as he looked down at the Vale far below them. Sam was loaded down with his heavier than usual pack (he had almost emptied Frodo’s pack into his own before their departure) and the extra weight was now working against him as it threw off his center of gravity. Two elves walked beside him and before Sam had been aware of an impending slip, they would grab the hobbit under his elbows and lift him clear. At first it had startled Sam to be lifted and then placed surely back on his feet without a word’s notice, but after it had occurred several times, Sam began to smile and enjoy himself, awed by the seemingly magical abilities of elves at avoiding catastrophe that only reinforced Sam’s belief that elves were an enchanted race.
Of no surprise to Elrond, Frodo’s descent was the most eventful of all. Pippin had let out a howl of pain as he had fallen forward and Frodo had reacted immediately and started to race towards Pippin’s side. The unreliability of the mountain’s terrain had even the normally sure footed elves struggling to keep their feet and Frodo’s feet flew out from under him as a multitude of arms reached out grabbing for him, but missing the hobbit by inches. He rolled down the hillside to the very edge of the Rock Rim and at the last second, his arm shot out and grasped onto a small, scraggily tree growing out over the cliff’s edge. Elrond raced to the precipice and he reached down, grabbing Frodo’s wrist just as the little tree’s roots gave way, pulling him to safety. The Ringbearer’s face was paler than normal against the halo of muddy curls.
“Are you injured?” Elrond demanded.
Frodo swallowed thickly before looking over the edge at what had almost become his final resting place. “No…I am fine,” he said so quietly that Elrond wasn’t sure if the hobbit had spoken or if it had been a passing breeze.
Elrond frowned at Frodo who was holding his left side stiffly. It would do no good to argue with the Ringbearer here but he meant to see that no additional accidents took place on this already fraught journey. He picked Frodo up and resumed the hike down the hillside.
“This is demeaning, my Lord. I can walk on my own,” Frodo started.
Elrond said in a carefully schooled voice, “This is no longer your decision, Frodo. You will be silent and rest until we reach the Vale.” His voice was flat but Frodo knew instinctively that he had badly frightened the elf Lord and that it would be most unwise to argue with him, so he said nothing as he was settled on the elf’s hip and they resumed their climb down the hillside.
Once they reached the Vale and saw Aragorn and his bearers waiting for them, there was a collective sigh of relief not only from the hobbits, but by all who had taken part in their care. When Elrond set Frodo on his feet the hobbit staggered a step and the elf reached out to steady him. He gave Elrond a thankful look before walking over to Aragorn’s litter. He took the man’s hand and tried to look up over the edge. All of the hobbits, except perhaps for Sam who hadn’t fallen, were muddy, scratched and tousled. Elrond looked at each in turn, all worries about Pippin’s ankle fled when the young hobbit suddenly darted towards a small canvas bag of apples that had been left behind when they had left the Vale. Finally, his eye settled on Frodo. The hobbit was very pale save for his cheeks which were ruddy with fever, and his face was covered in dewy perspiration. When he looked up and saw the elf Lord’s scrutiny, Elrond could see that the hobbit’s eyes were tired and bloodshot. He sighed and walked over to the four elves in charge of Aragorn’s stretcher. The elves bowed to him and he gave them a slight nod.
“How does he fare?” he asked in elvish.
“He is well, my Lord and has shown no discomfort thus far.”
Elrond bowed, “I am in your debt.” He touched the feverish forehead of the Ranger’s. “He is as my natural son and I love him dearly. His comfort is of utmost importance to me,” he murmured.
“The honor is ours, my Lord Elrond, to care for such a worthy and honorable man,” the elf replied.
Elrond looked around and let loose a shrill whistle. The ground began to shake violently and Sam, Merry and Pippin ran to Gandalf and crowded around his legs, pulling the voluminous robes around them until only their faces peeked out.
Gandalf could not help but laugh loudly as the horses crested the hill and raced towards them, stopping in front of each of their respective riders. The elves mounted while Gandalf disentangled himself from the hobbits. A beautiful pale palomino walked up to them and nuzzled Sam’s hair. Sam giggled, slipping the horse a slice of apple.
Elrond picked up Merry placing him in front of Elladan. “Well met, Meriadoc. I have been meaning to speak to you about your encounter with the lioness. Perhaps we could pass the time talking?” Elladan said cheerily.
“Oh, I would like that very much!” Merry exclaimed.
“Sam, you will ride with Elrohir,” Elrond said.
“Beggin’ yer pardon, Mr. Elrond sir but I’d rather stay right here on the ground.” Sam looked up, up, and up at the tall horse’s back.
“I am sorry, Samwise but we need to cover as many miles as possible before night falls.” He placed Sam in front of Elrohir. Sam paled noticeably when he looked down. A delighted Pippin was lifted in front of Gandalf and the wizard ruffled the hobbit’s curls affectionately.
“Frodo, you will ride with me,” Elrond said walking towards the Ringbearer.
“No thank you, I prefer to walk next to Aragorn,” Frodo said.
“Frodo you are sick and the bearers will be moving swiftly even though they are laden.”
“No, you said I could walk with Aragorn once we reached the Vale,” Frodo said stubbornly. Sam shifted nervously, not liking the way this conversation was going.
“…will ride with Elrond,” came a low voice. Frodo looked around and saw Aragorn looking at him from the litter.
“Aragorn, I want to walk beside you…” Frodo whispered, gladdened to see the Ranger having a rare moment of lucidity.
“No, my friend, you will ride with Elrond. Do as I say, please. I am the leader of this rag tag bunch, am I not?”
Frodo smiled, “It is good to have you back Aragorn,” he replied.
Aragorn patted his hand as Elrond picked the hobbit up and placed him in front of him on the horse. Soon they were trotting towards Rivendell. Frodo looked back and saw the four elves easily running with the litter. Their pace was in perfect cadence with one another and Aragorn seemed to be floating along between them.
Reassured, Frodo leaned back against the elf Lord. Elrond placed his left hand gently on the Ringbearer’s head and Vilya flickered. “Sleep, Frodo,” he whispered. Frodo’s eyes slipped closed and Elrond covered the hobbit more thoroughly with his slicker with a satisfied smile. “I finally got in the last word it would seem,” he whispered to himself.
Full dark was now upon them and were it not for the hobbits, Elrond would have pushed on until they had reached Rivendell. He looked around at the four bleary eyed Shirelings. They had ridden for a few hours but the large horses had soon proven to be too wide to accommodate their shorter legs, and once they had reached the tree line, all of the riders had had to slow to a walk. That was when Frodo had awoken and insisted he be let down so he could walk beside Aragorn. Sam, seeing his Master walking had insisted on being let down as well and soon all four hobbits were walking beside the riders as they picked their way through the heavy forest. After many hours they were all staggering with exhaustion. Breaks had been few, stopping only long enough for a hurried luncheon. Elrond was glad Aragorn had taken the leisurely pace on the hobbits foray to the Rock Rim, for the distance they had covered over the three days was not far from the Last Homely House. Frodo, he saw, was hanging onto the side of Aragorn’s stretcher with one hand using it for support. As he stumbled Elrond shook his head, the Ringbearer was incredibly stubborn. It seemed they could go no further without rest and he raised his hand signaling a halt. Frodo continued to walk a few paces as if in a trance. The bearers carefully set Aragorn down on a level area of ground as Elrond spoke quietly with Gandalf and Sam before turning and heading for Aragorn. His foster son was in distress, whimpering and tossing his head left and right on the makeshift bed. Elrond talked quickly with the Elves and they bowed before leaving to join their brethren beside a newly kindled fire. The elf Lord did not blame them for Aragorn’s discomfort; they had done well to carry him smoothly for so many hours. But even as steady as their gaits were, the rocking motion had inevitably aggravated Aragorn’s wounds.
Frodo stood in a daze watching Elrond as he removed Aragorn’s coverings and began to unwind the gauze wrappings. Elrond looked over at the Ringbearer, “Frodo, sit down and rest a moment. We will take our ease here until morning, enough time for you to eat and sleep.”
Frodo slowly lifted his eyes to Elrond’s and a rush of pity filled the elf. 'The eyes are always the first sign of illness,’ his mother had always told him eons ago. Frodo’s eyes were glassy and blood shot and his face glistened with perspiration. Although the Ringbearer shivered and drew his cloak more tightly around him, it was obvious that he had developed a fever. Frequently, as they had marched, he had heard Frodo coughing. The cough at first hadn’t been overly alarming and the hobbit had tried to quell any signs of illness. But as day had turned to night, Frodo no longer seemed to care or even be aware of the cough which had grown deeper and wet sounding. Elrond looked over towards the fire and caught Sam’s worried eye. The little gardener saw the elf Lord’s glance and set down his pans and scurried to Elrond’s side.
“Did you need ought, Lord Elrond sir?” he whispered.
“Yes Sam. Have Frodo’s cousins bring over some blankets along with Frodo’s bedroll please and perhaps a cup of tea for your Master.” Elrond smiled, surreptitiously palming a small packet into Sam’s hand. “In addition, I will need a large pot of warm water and assistance from two of my elves and Gandalf as well,” he added with a small smile. Sam glanced at Frodo who was sitting with his knees drawn up to his chest. His arms were wrapped around them and he was rocking slightly back and forth, eyes closed. Elrond saw Sam’s brow crease into a frown before scurrying back to the fire to deliver Elrond’s message to a few of his men.
The elves were immediately at Elrond’s side and he motioned with a nod towards the Ranger. Aragorn continued to frown and mutter, now waving a hand in front of him as if trying to push some unknown enemy away. “He burns,” Elrond said softly to himself. “We must get his fever down before further damage occurs,” he continued.
“What can I do?” Gandalf whispered in Elrond’s ear. The elf Lord jumped before he could stop himself and Gandalf quelled his normal teasing knowing Elrond’s complete focus was locked onto his patient.
“I do not know what demons haunt my son and may need your assistance,” Elrond said evenly. With a nod to the elves they slowly elevated Aragorn’s shoulders until he was all but upright. The man’s face glistened with perspiration and his hair hung in damp, lank strands about his face. Slowly, his eyes opened and he looked at the two forms in front of him. All he could see was two cloaked, dark figures, back lit by the flames of the fire. He whirled his torso towards the two elves kneeling on either side of him and grabbed one of the knives from the closest elf’s belt swinging it out in front of him.
“Back!” Aragorn shouted as he waved the weapon within inches of a startled Elrond’s face. Both wizard and Elf leaned away from the knife. Frodo had snapped to awareness when he had heard the shout and, rising slowly, made his way towards the Ranger.
“Aragorn…” he began.
“Frodo…RUN, hide, but whatever you do, do not put on the Ring,” Aragorn shouted, showing far more strength than any present thought he still possessed.
“Aragorn, we are safe. Let Elrond and Gandalf help you, please,” Frodo whispered.
“It is a ruse…RUN, now! Do not hesitate!” Aragorn continued. All about the camp had stopped in silence as they watched the drama unfolding. Then Aragorn’s arm began to drop, his eyes losing focus, as he leaned as far over as possible and retched at Frodo’s feet.
Frodo cried out and knelt down, holding the man’s head as he continued to empty what little remained in his stomach. Finally, the heaving subsided and Aragorn, thoroughly spent, leaned heavily over Frodo’s forearm. Frodo felt a rag being pushed into his hands and looking up he caught the concerned look in Sam’s eyes. He nodded in thanks then wiped away the spittle and vomitus from Aragorn’s mouth and beard. A cup magically appeared and he thanked the stars above that Sam had joined him on this perilous journey. Frodo roused Aragorn enough to take a swallow. The water ran out of the corner of the Ranger’s mouth and suddenly his head snapped back, colliding with Frodo’s chin. Stars filled the hobbit’s vision as he unconsciously released the Ranger. When Frodo had finally opened his eyes he saw Aragorn bucking and lurching about on the stretcher. Strider had been hastily laid down and as his eyes had rolled back into his head, Elrond had placed a strip of leather between his teeth. It seemed like an eternity before Aragorn’s body stilled.
“We must get his temperature down!” Elrond said in frustration. "I do not know what he thought he saw, perhaps Nazgul, but I do not think he will allow us to treat him and we may need to use force. While he is unconscious we need to wash him down with tepid water and I need to look at his wounds. Then of course, he needs to take some water or even broth,” the elf Lord rubbed a hand over his eyes in exhaustion. “Let us begin. Strip him and I will look at his wounds first,” he ordered. The two elves nodded and one of them retrieved his knife from Aragorn’s lax hand. They cut what remained of the Ranger’s clothing from his body as Elrond unwrapped the broken leg. The wound was red and swollen he noted as he washed it carefully. He pulled a small packet containing Athelas, catnip and yarrow from his satchel and placed it on the wound. Aragorn cried out, arching his back as he tried to escape the pain. Elrond quickly re-wrapped the leg in clean gauze and sponged off the fluid that had leaked down the man’s calf.
Aragorn’s eyes crept open as the leg was carefully re-covered and he began to struggle against the elves, trying to kick back at the shrouded figure at his feet.
“Peace my son,” Elrond murmured, but this only seemed to aggravate the situation as the man used all of his remaining strength to fight off his attackers.
“Lord Elrond, if I may?” Frodo said huskily. The elf looked into the blue eyes and Frodo motioned both he and Gandalf away. The elves also he asked to leave and all stepped out of Strider’s sight. “Sam, Merry, Pippin,” Frodo called wearily. The hobbits rushed to Frodo’s side and knelt beside the man. Taking cloths they began to tenderly wash the man with the warm water amid a constant stream of reassurances and endearments, calming the Ranger as each area was washed and then dried. Aragorn lay still, slowly relaxing as the hobbits gently touched and spoke to him. He tensed suddenly, looking around and Frodo knew what the man was looking for.
“They are gone, Strider,” Frodo soothed. “We are all safe thanks to you,” he added. Aragorn relaxed as he looked up at Frodo. “Roll him to this side…slowly,” Frodo said to Merry and Sam. Frodo began to wash the wounds on Aragorn’s back. The man cried out numerous times, whimpering in pain as the bed sores were sponged clean. Pip noticed a single tear slip down Strider’s face and he looked up at Frodo.
“He’s in pain, Frodo.”
Frodo glanced around for Elrond and not seeing the elf Lord, was startled when he felt a gentle touch to his shoulder. The elf had slipped silently up behind him and now was pressing three additional gauze packets into the Ringbearer’s hands. Frodo nodded and then placed each on the oozing sores. Then with the others assistance, he wrapped Strider’s chest with gauze to hold them in place. Pip had placed two blankets by the fire to warm, intending them for Frodo, but now he rose and quickly gathered them and the hobbits snuggly tucked these around their friend.
“He needs a nightshirt, sir,” Sam said in concern. Merry retrieved Aragorn’s pack and pawed through the contents until he found a semi-clean tunic. Sam took it and inspected it to Merry’s amusement. The material was soft and would help to keep the Ranger covered so no new sores could form. Sam deemed it suitable and handed it to Frodo. They pushed the man partially up and fed his arms through the sleeves then pulling the tunic over his head and down his torso. The shirt was soaked through in a matter of moments. Aragorn’s eyes opened slowly and he gazed up at Frodo.
Frodo smiled down at him, “Your dinner is ready, Aragorn. Would you like to join me for a bite?”
Aragorn’s face blanched, “No…not hungry. I am thirsty however, do you have some tea or water?”
“Of course, Aragorn,” Frodo retrieved the cup from beside the fire. “Here this will help,” he said softly.
Aragorn took the cup with shaking hands and Frodo covered the hands with his own to steady it. Aragorn drank deeply thinking the tea a little bitter but he was so thirsty he didn’t really care.
“Slowly, you don’t want to be sick again,” Frodo whispered.
“Have I been ill?” Aragorn asked in a whisper. As if in answer he began to cough deeply, turning quickly to the side and expelling some of the tea along with a pale pink wad of phlegm. Frodo held his head until he was sure the man was finished.
“You have been, Aragorn. How do you feel now?”
“I do not remember becoming ill,” the man mused. “However, I would be lying if I said I felt like myself. For some reason, my leg pains me abominably. It is taking all of my strength to not give into the pain, I am afraid. I am so hot and my head and chest hurt, like a great Oliphant is sitting upon me. What is wrong with me?”
Frodo looked worriedly at his friend. “Your leg is broken and you have a very high fever, Aragorn. We are trying our best to take care of you and get you back to Rivendell.”
“How did I break my leg…was it the Nazgul? I saw them surrounding me, oh Frodo I am sorry, I promised to protect you.” The Ranger’s voice was filled with worry and regret.
Frodo’s voice trembled, “Yes, the Nazgul,” he said hollowly. “You saved us all, Aragorn. The Nazgul are gone now.”
“No…he was here! He was bent over me!”
“No Aragorn that was Elrond. He is here to see you returned to Rivendell.”
“No… you are…you are mistaken. Frodo you are in grave danger. You must flee!” Aragorn croaked, his voice becoming shrill as he grasped at Frodo’s hand. “Leave me, they will return. FLEE!” the man screamed before he fell back in exhaustion. Frodo sat staring down at the man, cold chills racing up his spine. He couldn’t help but shoot a quick look around the wooded area. The trees seemed closer and he felt his heart freeze in fear. Aragorn was lost now to a feverish dream somewhere between waking and sleeping. Elrond and Gandalf’s forms coalesced from the shadows as they moved towards Aragorn’s side. Frodo released a breath when he realized who the two forms were.
“Thank you, Ringbearer,” Elrond said softly. He turned towards the remaining three hobbits, “I am in your debt,” he murmured. All three hobbits blushed and dropped their heads.
“Wasn’t more than he’d do for us, sir,” Sam murmured.
Elrond smiled, “I am still grateful for your obvious care for my son.” He pulled a blanket up over Aragorn and briefly let his hand rest on the man’s forehead as he closed his eyes. Seemingly satisfied he motioned to a group of elves who hastily constructed a tent over Aragorn’s sleeping form as the rain had resumed with gusto. It hammered down on the tarp before pouring off of the edges and onto the ground. The hobbits were soaked through in a matter of moments but stood by watching, heedless of the rain as Elrond and Gandalf securely wrapped the Ranger against the elements.
Finally, Frodo stepped away and began to walk towards the fire. Sam rushed ahead to pour his Master a cup of tea containing Elrond’s mysterious tea leaves. He also scooped a serving of soup into a cup and met his Master at the fire. Frodo was drenched, they all were, but Frodo was the only one that concerned Sam. His Master looked horrible as he took the tea with quavering hands, turning back to stare into the fire. Frodo ignored the stew no matter how much Pippin went on about how good it was. He drank his tea automatically, seeming to neither like nor dislike it. Sam brought a blanket and draped it about his Master’s shoulders noticing how violently Frodo was shaking. He ran back to Elrond in a panic.
“Me Master’s ill, sir. Is there ought you can do?” he cried worriedly.
“I know, Sam. The herbs will help clear his head and make him sleepy. I am afraid other than keeping him warm and dry…” he looked over towards the huddled figure by the fire seeing that the hobbit in question was neither… “and getting him to Rivendell in all due haste, there is little else I can do” he finished.
Gandalf walked to the fire and gazed down at the dazed hobbit. “We will rest for a few hours then continue on to Rivendell. We will need to set up covered areas to try and keep everyone relatively dry, the fire will blaze through the night for additional heat. You there,” he pointed to a group of elves, “Help your Master and I set up tents or tarps for sleeping.” The camp came alive as all of the elves began roping off areas with tarps then lay more tarps on the ground. Bedding was spread out clustered closely together. One elf brought rocks and placed them in the coals to warm. Frodo never moved though all around him were in motion. They all ate a hurried meal then bid good night to each other before finding comfortable places on the ground to slip into the dream like pseudo-sleep that seemed to be the elves preferred method of rest. When Elrond finally stood at his friend’s side by the fire, all was quiet and only the hobbits remained beside them. Frodo’s head had fallen onto his chest, the teacup hung precariously by one lax hand. Elrond bent, placing a hand to the Ringbearer’s forehead. Then he knelt and placed his head to Frodo’s chest. The only sound was the occasional snap of wood as it shifted and popped in the fire. Finally Elrond stood a frown on his face. He looked at Gandalf and gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head. Sam watched the silent communication not missing a beat.
“It’s bad isn’t it? My Master’s got more than jes a cold, doesn’t he?” he cried.
“Yes, Samwise, he is very sick, more than just a simple cold, I fear. We will be in Rivendell by midday, until then we must keep both he and Aragorn warm and dry. Aragorn’s fever is slightly reduced thanks to your Master, Samwise, but it will rise err the morning comes. Meriadoc, have you prepared the sleeping area?”
“I have, my Lord, under those trees. The ground wasn’t as wet and thanks to the elves, it’s covered.”
Elrond nodded, “Mithrandir, if you will bring the Ringbearer?”
Gandalf bent and scooped up the sleeping hobbit and Merry led them to where he had rolled out their bedding. Gandalf carefully laid Frodo in the center. Sam and Merry quickly peeled the damp clothing off of Frodo as two elves stepped forward with four bundles of hot rocks wrapped in heavy toweling which they placed at Frodo’s feet and along the Ringbearer’s frigid left side. Sam tucked his Master in with as many blankets as could be spared then he and the others slipped under blankets on either side of their friend, spooning close to the shivering body.
Elrond and Gandalf withdrew, returning to the fire side. “Frodo has a fever and his lungs sound quite congested, more so than with a common cold,” Elrond said, looking at Gandalf, “I fear he is getting pneumonia. I also looked at the phlegm Aragorn expelled and it appears he too is getting the disease. I should never have allowed this walking party,” he suddenly burst out in fury.
Gandalf shook his head, “It was not up to you, my friend, but a stubborn hobbit. It does no use thinking of should haves and what ifs when now we must put all our energies into getting to Rivendell and seeing them both well again.”
“I hope we are not too late, Gandalf,” Elrond murmured.
Authors note: I wish to extend my deepest apologies for not posting this update sooner. Life has been hectic lately and it has delayed me, but I will try harder to update in a more timely manner. Thanks to all of you who bugged me about where I was. It was gratifying to know that you truly were interested in the story.
Merry awoke to Pippin shaking him relentlessly. His eyes cracked open and he stared up into the exhausted face of his cousin. He squelched the sudden impulse to yell at Pippin for waking him when he saw Pip’s face. The Took obviously did not wish to wake anyone, let alone Merry.
“They’re packing up, Merry. We’ll be leaving soon so you’d better get up or you won’t have time to eat,” he whispered tiredly.
“So soon? We just got here,” Merry exclaimed. He sat up and looked around the camp. The Elves were talking softly amongst themselves and looked as if they had never had an exhausted moment in their lives. Merry felt a stab of resentfulness until his eyes moved to Aragorn. The Ranger was coughing deeply, almost to the point of choking, as Gandalf rubbed his back and wiped away the thick sputum that ran from the man’s mouth. Aragorn did not even have the energy to spit it seemed and Merry’s face creased into a frown. That frown deepened when his gaze shifted to his elder cousin. Frodo was curled into a ball, resting or trying to rest, in Elrond’s lap. He was wrapped in an uncountable number of blankets, resembling more a cocoon than a hobbit. His face was very pale save for two spots of high color on his cheeks. Merry realized he could hear Frodo trying to breath even from his distant perch and as he watched Frodo began coughing loudly, more of a bark actually, thought Merry. Elrond leaned his cousin over his arm and began pounding on the hobbit’s back. Frodo’s eyes opened weakly as he began to choke, then his body convulsed and a viscous stream of vomit and pinkish mucous streamed from his mouth and onto the ground beside them. Merry looked at the ground and saw that this had not been the first time that Frodo had thrown up. He looked more closely at Strider and saw that Gandalf was now washing the Ranger down with tepid water and for a moment at least, the Ranger looked to be at peace. There was a shallow pan at the side of the gurney and Merry swallowed hard when he saw what was in it.
“However did I sleep through all of this?”
“We all did except Sam, Elrond and Gandalf,” Pippin replied.
Merry looked for Sam and saw him scurrying back and forth between Frodo, Aragorn and the fire where a simple meal was cooking. He looked wan and tired, but mostly worried for both of his friends.
Seeing the urgency of the situation filled Merry with new vigor and he rose, hastily rolling up his bedroll. He and Pip rolled Frodo’s bedding up, collected their belongings and after filling their packs and lashing the bedding to them, made their way to the fire.
“Mornin’ Mr. Merry, Mr. Pippin,” Sam said with a solemn nod. He served them some porridge with dried fruit, topped with honey and dusted with cinnamon. They ate in silence, watching the barely controlled chaos around them. After they had eaten, the pans and bowls were given a cursory rinse and packed to be washed more thoroughly later. Elrond rose and Frodo roused as he was lifted onto a huge horse to sit in front of the elf Lord.
“I want to walk beside Aragorn,” a voice said weakly. The owner of said voice broke into a fit of coughing that made Sam wince in sympathy.
“Not this time, Ringbearer. You will ride with me,” Elrond said evenly.
Frodo looked at the elf as if he would object and then thought better of it.
Pippin looked at Merry in alarm, “Frodo must be really sick, Mer’, he didn’t argue or challenge Elrond’s authority at all!”
Merry looked sadly at Pip, “I think we will be moving very quickly on this last leg of the trip, Pip. Both he and Strider are seriously ill.”
Pip’s eyes rounded and he looked shaken as Merry gave him a quick hug before joining Elrohir and his mount. Pip ran to Gandalf’s side, “We have to hurry, Gandalf,” he said in a rush and put his hands up while jumping in place indicating he needed lifting onto the back of the horse.
Even though the situation was grave Gandalf could not help but grin. “Indeed, I believe you have the right of it, Master Took, we are ready let us depart immediately. Pip looked around seeing Sam in front of Elladan on his mount. The gardener no longer looked fearful of the height or horse, but fear for Frodo was writ on his face. They were off in a matter of moments, the runners smoothly gliding through the last of the close growing trees and out onto the flat top of the mountain. While the others maneuvered carefully down the switch backs to the vale below, the runners easily traversed the trail always keeping Aragorn’s travois level and motionless. Soon they were at the edge of the vale waiting for the others. Merry studied them carefully, ‘they don’t even look winded,’ he thought in wonder. Elrond raised his hand towards them and shouted in a loud voice, astounding the hobbits as the elf Lord usually spoke just above a whisper. The words were Elvish and the runners bowed towards their leader before picking up their burden and continuing their run across the vale towards Rivendell. As Merry watched, they broke into a sprint and disappeared from sight.
“That’s amazing,” he breathed. “However do they do that?” He whispered to himself.
Elrohir answered saying, “From a young age they are groomed for their vocation.” Merry looked puzzled and Elrohir smiled, “Usually our speeders are used to carry news to my Lord Elrond. They can travel easily for many leagues, moving at great speed without need for rest. They are more agile than a horse and a rider so they can maintain their speed through almost any terrain. They are not usually burdened as they are now. It slows them down appreciably.”
Merry gaped up at Elrohir, “But I think they are moving at an incredible speed. You feel they are running too slowly? Do they truly go even faster?”
Elrohir grinned, “Yes, they do. You should see them when they are burdened only with a missive for my father!” Then he laughed at Merry’s expression of awe.
The remaining members of their group had slowed and were carefully picking their way up along a narrow path that switch backed up a steep mountain. Pip strained to see over the top hoping they would finally see Rivendell, then slumped back in defeat seeing only more of the meandering trail disappearing into the trees. They continued on, slower now as they negotiated the closely growing evergreens. A hobbit would be lost in a thrice, thought Merry before realizing that the path was enspelled and changed course behind them.
‘Better to keep out the enemy,’ he thought. “Elrohir, I don’t remember the path being so contrary when we came out from Rivendell,” Merry commented.
“If I know my brother it was not. He would have had Elrond lift the spell to make your passage easier.”
Merry harrumphed, “We aren’t helpless, you know. Why, the Old Forest in Buckland is much like this one only the trees here are friendlier, if that makes sense.
“It does, but were you an enemy I do not think you would find that to be true.”
As they broke through the tree line the hobbits, except for Frodo who was unaware of all around him, gasped. Below them lay the valley of the Last Homely House. The waterfalls and yellow, red and orange leafed trees attested to that fact even though the Home itself was still further on. They felt a peacefulness permeate their souls as they began the climb down into the valley. Merry frowned, noticing for the first time, how the vale seemed to be in perpetual Fall. The trees they had passed on their journey were green with new Spring growth yet those surrounding Rivendell were covered in what seemed an endless supply of golden foliage. He looked over at Lord Elrond and wondered if this somehow reflected the end of the Age of Elves and he felt a great sadness wash over him at the thought.
It seemed to take forever, but finally they viewed Rivendell from the steep path and before long the entourage had arrived at the steps leading into the Last Homely House. Sam nearly vaulted from the front of the horse and were it not for Elrohir he would have taken a nasty fall onto the cobbles. He ran to Elrond’s side and lifted his arms up towards his Master lying limply in Elrond’s arms. Elladan was struck with the image of a tot reaching to be picked up by a doting parent. Elrond smoothly dismounted with Frodo in his arms, and Elladan could see rings of sweaty curls clinging to the Ringbearer’s rosy face. ‘Not rosy due to health unfortunately,’ he thought. As if sensing his thoughts Elrond turned towards him and gave him a grim smile.
“Please take the Ringbearer to his room and prepare him for a cool bath, my son,” he instructed as he laid the hobbit in Elladan’s arms. Sam was at Elladan’s side in a heartbeat and scurrying to keep up with the elf as he moved quickly towards Frodo’s room. Elrond took the steps two at a time as he unfastened his light armor and handed it off to an awaiting elf. When he reached the landing an elf stood ready with his usual robes which he donned smoothly as he continued towards his son’s room.
Merry and Pip trailed behind Gandalf and began to make their way towards Frodo’s room before he stopped them, “No, my dear hobbits, you need to eat and take your own rest first.”
Merry made to object when Pippin placed a hand on his arm, “will they be alright, Gandalf?” the younger hobbit whispered.
The wizard easily dodged the question, “There is no other place in Middle Earth that could treat their maladies so expertly, Master Took. They are in good hands, I assure you. However, they too will need to be tended, fed and rested so you will not be needed until much later while Elrond and his healers see to their needs. Go…have your mountainous meal,” he chuckled, “bathe then rest and see if you cannot convince Samwise to join you!” The wizard chuckled.
Reassured, Merry and Pip headed down the hall towards Frodo’s room to gather Sam. The moment they were out of site, Gandalf’s shoulders slumped and the easy smile fled his face. Then he straightened his shoulders and determinedly marched down the hallway, the click of his staff the only sound of his passing.
As he approached Aragorn’s room a cry of pain issued from within. He rushed through the door and into utter chaos. Elves were moving quickly about the room. At its center illuminated by light, lay Aragorn with Elrond bent over his leg. He was giving instructions to an assistant in brisk Elvish, the only sign of the elf Lord’s barely concealed worry. Aragorn appeared to have been washed thoroughly, his hair still damp and glistening in the light. Gandalf hadn’t seen Aragorn unclothed and was alarmed to see that the Ranger had lost a lot of weight during his ordeal, and now he lay exposed on the table looking gaunt and completely vulnerable. The Maia shook his head sadly knowing how the strong, virile man would have felt were he aware of the scrutiny he now was receiving.
Elrond finished the exam and chose a tall glass vessel from one of the many colorful flasks lining the shelves of the room. He removed the glass cork, sniffed the contents and nodded to himself. He whispered to those assisting him and each grabbed hold of the delirious man just as Elrond poured the liquid over the broken leg. A loud cry of pain filled the room as Aragorn writhed and fought against those holding him down. Elrond was not immune to his foster son’s cries for help and Gandalf saw the elf’s shoulders tense each time he heard them.
Finally finished, Elrond took some gauze, sprinkled it liberally with herbs and placed it on the wound. Next he wound strips of gauze around the leg. While the makeshift splints the hobbits had made had done a good job splinting the leg, now new polished wood splints were applied to the leg and tied into place. Elrond gently placed the leg on two or three pillows before moving to Aragorn’s side. He dipped his finger into a paste then placed the paste under Aragorn’s tongue. As Aragorn slowly slipped into unconsciousness, Elrond mopped the Ranger’s face and torso with a cool cloth. Finished, he washed his hands in a basin, issued instructions to his healers then turned to Gandalf. ‘He is exhausted,’ mused Gandalf.
“Come, sit, my friend,” Gandalf murmured as he sat down and patted a chair next to him. He drew out his pipe, “How is he?”
“He is quite ill. He has a very high fever, but his wounds are healing and show no sign of infection, which means the infection, is coming from his lungs,” Elrond said, rubbing his face with his hands. He motioned a healer over to him.
Gandalf took a deep puff on his pipe and let it out slowly, his eyes twinkled as a slow grin touched his lips. A portly elf came over to Elrond. Gandalf had never thought about elves and how they were built and now he realized that this elf was a rarity. Indeed, the fellow could have been a man if not for the ears, he mused. The healer was shorter than the others by at least a head and was balding on top, another rarity for an elf. He had a fringe of long gray hair coming down the sides of his head which was pulled back into a long braid that ran down the man’s back. The man’s face seemed to reflect more emotion and expression than his fellow elves and there were laugh lines and distinct crinkles at the corners of the healers blue eyes. ‘I shall look forward to getting to know this unusual person,’ thought Gandalf.
“Yes, my Lord? I have seen to the needs of the Ringbearer. He has been bathed in a tepid bath and placed in bed. I gave him some nettle and meadowsweet tea and I am hopeful that it will help him to rest. After much encouragement, the other hobbits went to the kitchens and then I instructed them to bathe and rest. Master Gamgee initially, would not leave his Master’s side, but I insisted. The other hobbits were finally able to convince him that the Ringbearer would wish it.”
“Very well, Balorin, I appreciate your taking the initiative, as always, and tending to the Ringbearer. I also approve of your medicinal choices, of course,” Elrond smiled placing his hand on the man’s …er..elf’s, Gandalf corrected himself, shoulder. Gandalf’s curiosity peaked as he watched the interaction. Elrond never smiled endearingly at anyone not that he didn’t feel that way towards his people. In addition, he had touched the man in an almost affectionate manner, something he had only seen Elrond do with his children. ‘Curiouser and curiouser,’ the Maia mused. ‘Once things are more settled, I *must* speak with Elrond about this unusual healer,’ he thought, giving the man another appraising glance. Suddenly he heard raised voices and saw healers rushing to Aragorn’s side as Elrond whirled and ran with them. Aragorn was in the throes of a seizure, arching his back as his arms struck out even as his lower body jerked and contorted. His eyes had rolled back and someone had quickly placed a strip of leather between his teeth. At last he settled and lay limp and pale against the sheets. One elf quickly went about carefully replacing the wet nappy while another washed the man’s body down with cool water. Elrond looked beyond concerned.
“Bring me some white lily tincture,” he murmured to the squat elf.
The elf looked alarmed, “Are you certain, my Lord? He is quite weak, it might be too potent for him,” Balorin responded.
Gandalf’s eyebrows shot up when he heard the healer challenge Elrond’s request. “Yes, it is strong. We will need to monitor him closely and bind his hands and legs in case the hallucinations become too much for him,” Elrond said quietly.
“Yes, my Lord,” the elf said quietly before leaving to do as he was instructed.
“You must tell me more about that unusual healer,” Gandalf whispered as he watched the elf depart.
Elrond smiled, “It is a long story that I cannot go into now, however if we are allowed time, a cup of tea and a warm fire to sit beside, I would enjoy telling you of him.”
“What is this white lily you were discussing? Your healer friend seemed alarmed to hear you would be using it,” Gandalf asked worriedly.
“It is a very potent curative. Normally we would make a tea but since Aragorn is in no position to drink one, a tincture will have to do. Balorin is concerned because the tincture is highly concentrated and one must be careful to not give too much especially in combination with other medicines. It is used for high fevers, lung sicknesses and wounds as well, in addition to being an excellent cleanser of the blood. We have had great success with this medicine despite the side effects.”
“Yes, it causes vivid hallucinations. Hopefully, Aragorn will remain unconscious and not experience this. It can be most…disconcerting.”
“You have tried it?”
“Yes, once, to see how it would affect a person. It was an unnerving sensation and to this day, using Lily root makes my throat dry at the thought,” Elrond said in a low whisper.
Gandalf looked worriedly over at Aragorn just as Balorian dropped three drops of the tincture onto the Ranger’s tongue, and frowned.
The Honorary Hobbit
White Lily Tincture
Frodo’s eyes cracked open and stared at the person setting next to the bed. “Bilbo,” his voice husked. His throat was so dry that his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth as he tried to form the dear hobbit’s name.
The old hobbit stirred and smiled sleepily over at his nephew. “My lad, how are you feeling?” He reached out with one knarled hand to grasp Frodo’s.
“Oh, of course my boy, how thoughtless of me to not have even offered,” Bilbo tsked. A cool glass was brought to Frodo’s dry lips and he drank thirstily. “There, there…not so fast lad or I’ll have to take it away,” Bilbo chided lovingly.
Frodo forced himself to slow his swallows although he was desperate for the cold liquid on his tongue. Finally, he slumped back onto the pillows. His mouth still felt dry, his thirst apparently unquenchable and he eyed the cool glass for a moment. He was horribly hot, his nightshirt stuck uncomfortably to his skin and he pushed the comforter down, freeing his arms.
Bilbo pulled it back up, tucking it about his shoulders. “You are very ill, my boy, and I have strict orders to keep you covered and warm.
Frodo objected sharply, “I *am* warm and covered. If I were any more warm or covered I’d scream!” He exclaimed frantically pushing the blankets aside.
“Very well, I’ll not fight you on this Frodo, but do keep calm or you’ll begin coughing again.”
“Which is exactly what we wish, Bilbo,” a cool voice answered from the doorway. Elrond walked slowly into the room and laid his hand across Frodo’s forehead. Frodo leaned into it, welcoming the coolness. ‘He is much too warm and could suffer a seizure like Aragorn if I do not find a way to curb this fever,’ he thought to himself. He briefly considered the White Lily root tincture before pushing the thought aside feeling a rare moment of panic. ‘He is too small. Never have we given it to one so small. It would be too dangerous,’ he thought. ‘How do you know unless you try,’ a voice whispered inside his head, ‘it may be just the thing to bring the fever under control.’ He had to will the voice to silence. ‘There are still other herbs and cordials to be tried, only then…’
Balorin entered silently and stood off to the side of Elrond, interrupting his internal struggle much to the elf Lord’s relief. “Prepare a cool bath for the Ringbearer…”
“Frodo…my name is Frodo,” a small voice interrupted.
Elrond smiled and looked down at the Ringbearer, “Indeed it is, I apologize Master Baggins,” Elrond murmured, his hand smoothing the damp bangs back from Frodo’s face.
“No apology is necessary, My Lord,” Frodo gasped, “I just think ‘Ringbearer’ is more descriptive of a ‘thing’ and not a living being.” Frodo’s efforts at speaking were too much for the hobbit and he began coughing violently. Elrond turned him on his side as Balorin produced a basin. As Frodo choked and fought for each breath, a bloody plug of mucus mixed with bile dribbled into the basin. Elrond gave two sharp strikes with the heel of his hand to Frodo’s back, causing the hobbit to jerk in pain but it cleared his airway and once again, a wheezing breath was taken.
Frodo closed his eyes and slumped over Elrond’s forearm, drained. Elrond wrung out a cool cloth, wiped Frodo’s mouth then placed another folded cloth on the hobbit’s brow.
“Water, Frodo?” he asked.
“Yes, thank you,” Frodo said weakly.
The elf lifted Frodo’s shoulders and offered the cup and Frodo could not help gulping greedily, trying to clear the sour taste of vomit from his mouth. Elrond withdrew the cup, telling him to sip only, which the hobbit did fearing the cup would be removed. Finally settled, Elrond turned back to Balorin. “As I was saying…”
“I am sorry I interrupted, my Lord. I also apologize for interrupting you a second time,” Frodo said with a wan smile.
Elrond returned the smile as he finished his instructions, “…add Athelas to the water, the vapor should help the Ring…Frodo, breathe easier. Leave him thus until the water grows uncomfortably cool then return him to his bed. I also think an alcohol massage is in order,” he finished. Balorin nodded and withdrew and soon a line of elves entered and began preparing the bath.
“What can I do, Elrond?” Bilbo asked, wringing his hands. No one save the old hobbit, Gandalf and a handful of Elders called Elrond by his first name, yet Elrond was not offended by the familiarity. The old hobbit was a dear friend and had proven to be a wise and knowledgeable confidant over the years.
“If you would undress him and wash him down with the cool water, Bilbo that would be most helpful. I must prepare a cordial for your charge…”
“No…no cordial,” Frodo moaned.
“…and will return shortly.” Elrond departed in a swirl of silk robes.
Bilbo undressed Frodo and began washing him in the cool water, “My poor, dear boy,” he tutted quietly. Soon the bath was ready and Balorin approached.
“May I, Master Baggins?”
“Of course, of course,” Bilbo replied, dropping the rag into the water. Balorin easily lifted and carried the sick hobbit to the bath as Bilbo walked alongside the two, holding Frodo’s feverish hand. The healer knelt beside the tub and slowly lowered Frodo in. Frodo sighed in relief feeling as if flames were being quenched all over his body by the enveloping water. He could almost imagine he lay under the old oak on top of Bag End. Suddenly he was there, his back cool on the ground, looking up into the canopy of the ancient tree. It was summer and the air rang with the low buzzing of insects and utter stillness of the stifling heat. Yet, in the shade, he was almost too cool making him relish the sanctuary all the more. He reached beside him, picking up a forgotten book of children’s folk tales he had borrowed from Bilbo’s vast library.
“Frodo,” he heard. “It’s time to come in, lad” Bilbo’s voice called.
“In a moment, Uncle, I am much too comfortable to leave just now,” Frodo called back.
“No, my boy, it’s time to return to bed, my lad. Come along now.”
Return? Bilbo was standing at his side now, the Sun backlit the hobbit and Frodo couldn’t see his features, but he knew his Uncle was smiling down at him nonetheless. “No, Uncle, I want to stay here for a time. It’s so nice and cool,” Frodo said irritably.
“Nonsense, a nice soft bed awaits you. There now, come along,” Bilbo whispered. Frodo felt himself being lifted and placed carefully out in the Sun.
“Bilbo, it’s too hot,” he groused. For some reason he continued to just lie in the Sun instead of rising and moving back into the shade. A cool glass of water materialized and he drank deeply.
“I know my boy, I am sorry…”
Frodo opened his eyes and stared. Bag End and the old familiar oak, the coolness of the shade, the little acorns that had pressed into his back as he had lain there, that had all felt so REAL, but it was gone, all gone, no more than a dream. He was in Rivendell, ill and in bed. A crushing wave of despair assailed him and a single tear slipped down his cheek. How he had taken his life for granted. The beauty and peacefulness of the Shire—he had not truly appreciated it and now he was so far away, perhaps never to return.
“My poor boy,” Bilbo crooned, wiping the tear away with a cool cloth.
Frodo turned his face into the pillow, closing his eyes as he thought about the delightful shade and utter peace he had experienced however briefly. A small smile touched his lips, pleased that he was yet able to have such a precious memory to keep with him.
Elrond slowly blended the butterbur and wood spurge into the sweet milk. He dipped his finger into the concoction and tasted it, grimaced and added more honey. He would never admit that the good natured barbs about his tonics tasting so nasty had bothered him but decided to *try* to make them more palatable nonetheless. Frodo was renowned for his resistance to Elrond’s cordials and tonics and Elrond had no desire to see the Ringbearer…Frodo, he corrected mentally with a smile, upset or excited. Satisfied, he poured the warm mixture into a teapot, covered it with a cozy and turned to leave. He turned towards the door then stopped and turned back, gathered a pinch of Valerian root powder and adding it to the teapot, giving it a stir. ‘He has already had enough excitement for the day, some rest is in order,’ he thought to himself. His eye trailed along the counter and lit on the innocuous looking bottle of White Lily tincture. His mouth went suddenly dry and his hands shook as they, seemingly of their own volition, moved to the bottle. ‘NO,’ his mind screamed, yet he proceeded to open the bottle, dispensing one small drop of the liquid into the cordial, ignoring the still small voice that warned him to do otherwise. He stood there for a moment deep in thought, ‘It will be alright, ‘it is but a drop,’ he tried to reassure himself, feeling uncharacteristically unsure of himself. He schooled his features and left the room.
“Hold him steady,” Gandalf’s voice boomed. The elves surrounded Aragorn’s bed, holding the wild man down. Aragorn’s eyes moved relentlessly around the room keeping each foe in sight as he struggled to free himself. The injuries to his leg ignored, he kicked with all his might at the elves, landing a blow to one elf who ventured too close to the Ranger’s feet. The elf held his ground even though blood dribbled down from his broken nose. “His jaw!” Gandalf demanded. Two elves captured the man’s twisting head, holding him firmly whilst another pried open the jaw. Gandalf slipped a healthy dollop of poppy paste under the Ranger’s tongue then the elf held the jaw closed until the man’s eyes began to lose focus. He still struggled weakly then his efforts waned until, finally, he stilled, eyes closed. Everyone in the room breathed out in relief and Gandalf smiled at the group. “Well done, you have my thanks on behalf of my friend, for your efforts,” he said with a little bow. The elves bowed in turn and quit the room. The elf with the broken nose remained as well as another. “Cella? You should be attended to,” Gandalf said.
“I am well, my Lord, this is the second time I have received a broken nose from worthy adversaries. Both will do well to have such strength when traveling to the dark realm. It is my own fault for daring to come within striking distance of their feet,” he said with a small smile.
“Indeed,” Gandalf’s bushy eyebrows rose. “And who, may I ask, dealt the first blow?”
The elf colored while the other looked down, grinning. “The Ringbearer, my Lord,” he said softly.
“As you said, both are worthy adversaries and hobbit feet are their best defense mechanism, there is no shame in admitting that.”
“Thank you, my Lord,” the elf said as he turned away to gather a sheet. Gandalf smiled as he winked at the other elf, causing the elf to almost lose control and break out into laughter.
The younger elf turned back and nodded to his smirking brother and together they pulled a light blanket up to Aragorn’s neck. On top of this they lay the sheet and began pouring ice onto it. Once finished the Ranger resembled more a frozen mountain slope than the future King of Gondor. Elrond approached silently and it was Gandalf’s turn to give a startled jump. Elrond smiled to himself at catching the Maia off guard for a change. Outwardly he looked as stoic as ever but for the twinkle in his eyes. “How has he been?” he asked to no one in particular. Gandalf knew that Elrond already *knew* how the Ranger had been and of the great fight the Ranger had mustered against an army of elves moments earlier. Nothing within the boundaries of Rivendell’s vast lands escaped the awareness of the elf Lord. But Elrond could be quite intimidating, as the elf knew, so he gave his men an opening in which to speak with him in an attempt at making him seem more approachable.
“The hallucinations have increased in strength and duration, my Lord Elrond,” the elf with broken nose said nervously. Elrond frowned and walked over to the Cella, tipping the elves head to the left then the right.
“I see that they have indeed,” Elrond said flatly. He reached up to the elf’s face and Cella jerked back a step. A stern look from Elrond and a raised eyebrow were all it took for Cella to move back to where he had been, closing his eyes. “It will hurt a little, Cella,” he said casually “but as I recall, you already are aware of that.” The young elf blushed furiously as his companion burst out into loud laughter. Elrond shot him a scathing look, silencing him immediately. Elrond placed his fingers on both sides of the elf’s nose and jerked slightly. Cella had been distracted, watching the other elf blanch at his Lord’s glare. It made the young elf feel vindicated and…
“Ouch!” he exclaimed, followed by a deep blush at his outburst over such a minor thing as a broken nose. Elrond gave him a small smile and reached over to a nearby table taking up a roll of tape. “Truly, my Lord, that is not necessary,” Cella stammered.
“Ah but it is, Cella. This is the second break in the same spot. It must be secured or you will have a badly bent nose to have to explain to everyone over your long lifespan.” Cella stilled, he would be a laughing stock for now but the idea of being one for his whole life, which could be many thousands of years, made him comply with the treatment and he stilled, allowing Elrond to finish. “You should place a cold compress on it and rest,” Elrond murmured. Knowing that this was not a request but a dismissal, Cella nodded and thanked him with a bow before departing. When a significant amount of time had passed for the elf to be out of earshot Elrond and Gandalf shared a small chuckle. The second elf who remained did not join in.
“Poor Cella, he is still so young that things of this nature seem of utmost importance, ah to be that young again,” Elrond whispered.
Gandalf smiled, “Yes, to be utterly innocent of the world would be a delight again, would it not?”
Elrond smiled then turned to the other elf. “Pray finish Master Cella’s recounting, Serra,” he said brusquely.
“Yes, my Lord,” Serra said, all trace of his previous mirth vanquished from his face. “Lord Aragorn was trying to hit and kick us violently, my Lord. He used both legs,” he added slowly.
Elrond’s eyes went to his son. “Remove the ice over the injured leg,” he commanded. Elrond quickly unwrapped the leg and sighed in relief once he had examined it. “It is unharmed,” he said gratefully. Noticing the bluish tinge to Aragorn’s lips he bent to check the Ranger’s breathing and temperature. “How long has he been under the ice?”
“Some half hour, my Lord,” Serra said nervously.
Elrond nodded, “Remove the ice and bundle him. See that the linens are freshened and we will have to continue to restrain him,” he said. “I have made a wormwood oil ointment for the sores which should help speed their healing. I also have a mullein and coltsfoot tea to ease his breathing and perhaps clear the infection from his lungs. It does not always work on cases of lung fever, but it should be tried nonetheless,” he finished.
Gandalf nodded in agreement knowing the benefits of coltsfoot tea were well known. Were it to have little or no effect they would move onto other remedies. The elf began removing the ice as Balorin entered the room and began assisting him. In quick elvish Serra relayed Elrond’s instructions to the Master Healer and the elf nodded in understanding. Balorin left the room returning a moment later with six elves. They lined up along both sides of Aragorn’s body and with a nod lifted the Ranger smoothly from the bed. They stood thus as the sheets and comforters were quickly changed then slowly lowered him back onto the bed. After he had been made as comfortable as possible, Elrond moved to his foster son’s side. He placed a cool hand on Aragorn’s forehead and closed his eyes. After a few moments he opened them again and gave Gandalf a small smile. “His fever is reduced somewhat whether from the tea or the bath I am uncertain but it is a good sign. Now we must do something that is hard for someone so ill. We must pound on his back in an attempt to expel the infection from his lungs.
Gandalf grimaced, it was an unpleasant procedure but known to be quite effective at easing the patient’s breathing and speeding their recovery. Elrond nodded to the elves and they carefully rolled Aragorn onto his side, mindful of the broken leg. Balorin sat down on the bed and began pounding vigorously on the Ranger’s back.
Aragorn’s eyes shot open and his hands grasped onto the sheets and mattress as if to firmly anchor himself. “Aghh,” he cried. “Stop…please, stop,” he cried then began to cough deeply producing a thick mucus which was forced from his lungs into an awaiting basin.
Many rooms away down the long hallway, Frodo was sleeping restlessly. He had dutifully drank his tea and taken his cordial then demanded Sam turn in and get some much needed rest. The gardener had resisted mightily, but his Master had *ordered* him to bed and Sam could never disobey an order from Frodo. The shades had been pulled and the room’s doors stood open to a balcony allowing a cool breeze to freshen the sick room. It felt lovely and before long Frodo had slipped into exhausted sleep. But his dreams were chaotic, jumping from one scenario to another in rapid succession. The one prevailing sequence involved an injured Strider being held against his will and tortured by his captors. Frodo’s body trembled and his brow furrowed as his head moved restlessly on the pillow. “No..no,” he muttered to himself knowing that he could help the Ranger if he could only slip past the enemy guards to Aragorn’s side. He would cut the bindings and free the Ranger and could, perhaps, even secrete a knife within the Ranger’s hand so the man could defend himself and escape.
A cry of agony rent the air and Frodo’s eyes snapped open as he jerked fully awake. He knew from whom the cry originated, “Aragorn,” he cried out. He carefully slipped from the bed, staggering a step ‘before regaining his balance. ‘I am so weak…so tired, and my head feels so muzzy. No one else was in the room and for that he was grateful. He stopped as a thought occurred to him, “‘How ever will I slip past the guards?” he said out loud and rather forlornly. ‘And like a burglar, I slipped right past the guards and they were none the wiser…’* Frodo smiled at the commonly told tale “Of course! If Bilbo could do it then why not Frodo Baggins?” He grabbed the Ring from the chain about his neck. It was strangely warm in his hand, “I shouldn’t…Gandalf said to never put it on,” he said to himself. ‘But this is an emergency, Frodo,’ a small voice intruded that was not his own. ‘Aragorn is in danger and if you do not help him they will kill him…’ it continued. Convinced that Aragorn’s very life was in his hands, he grasped the Ring, slipping it onto his forefinger, disappearing. He opened the door and headed slowly down the hallway towards Aragorn’s room.
*This is a paraphrased version of Bilbo’s tale in the Hobbit. I do not have a copy of the book handy as I am on vacation so I am posting it as a paraphrase.
Trapped in a Dark World
Rumbles, growls and a cold wind assailed Frodo as he was plunged into a hellish blackness lit only by a swirling fog of orange. Shapes, he saw, that he thought might be people but he was unsure so he felt his way along the wall trying to avoid them. Some of the shapes seemed lit from within by a bright, bluish light. Unlike the orange and occasional flashes of yellow, these shapes calmed his soul and their light was as a beacon of hope. Then with a thunderous explosion, the Eye appeared before him. He scuttled behind an open door, trying to hide.
“I see you, thief of that which is mine. I will send my servants and we will at last entrap you, forever to serve the one Lord of the Ring!” The voice boomed, harsh and grating as the eye contracted and narrowed fixedly onto him.
And then a remarkable thing occurred; a blinding white light that caused Frodo to wince and throw up his arm to protect his eyes, stopped a scant few feet from his hiding place. The Eye swept the area back and forth, unable to penetrate the pure radiance. Frodo quickly slipped out of his hiding place and drew close to this new protective influence. He did not know what it was, this saving brilliance, but it *felt* wholly benevolent and peaceful. As the being moved he quickened his pace to catch up with the light but his body dragged; the energy he needed spent. He gasped for air and choked on the wad of sputum that filled his windpipe. Frodo’s head swam and he staggered, disoriented by the glaring brilliance and the blackness of the void, both seeking to fill his field of vision. His head was pounding as colorful dots filled his vision. He thought he might be ill and he teetered dangerously close to fainting. As his legs started to give out from under him he reached out to catch himself and felt cloth which he grasped in desperation. The white figure stopped and deliberately turned around before slowly proceeding onwards. Frodo was trying to think of what he would do when the figure continued on past Aragorn’s room and they would be separated but luck, it would seem, was with him as the figure stopped and opened the door to Aragorn’s room.
He had been summoned by Elrond although he knew not what he could do to help his long-time friend Aragorn. He had no real healing abilities that he was aware of, but he would never gainsay his Lord. Perhaps Aragorn’s condition had improved or he was needed for some other task. Excited at the possibility of an improvement in the Ranger’s condition and the man’s returning to his normal robust health, he quickened his pace. And that was when he heard it, huge gulping gasps as if someone were running a race to catch up with him. Someone coughed deeply and he heard a low moan and he slowed his pace, looking around, before continuing forward. Then he felt his cloak pull violently down on one side and he stopped cold, eyes wide as he slowly turned and looked around him. “Perhaps a prank of Legolas,” he thought with a smile. But the smile faded as he realized Legolas was on patrol many leagues away at that very moment. Then what…he looked at each of the elves that passed him. They nodded respectfully, if they looked at him at all, and continued on gracefully. “Shades and Spirits,” he mumbled to himself then continued on towards Aragorn’s sick room. He opened the door and quickly closed it behind him before rushing to Elrond’s side. The elf Lord grasped Aragorn across his chest as the Ranger’s head hung over Elrond’s arm. The man’s face was scarlet from his struggles as well as the fever. He was totally limp, his face flushed with perspiration as he coughed deeply. An elf held a basin under his mouth as thick pink tinged sputum drained slowly into it. Occasionally, Aragorn would buck as he choked on the viscous phlegm.
Elrond noticed him and gave him a short nod while at Aragorn’s back Balorian pounded a steady staccato as he tried to loosen the infection from the Ranger’s lungs. Aragorn writhed and moaned in pain until finally Balorian ceased his beating.
“My Lord?” he asked Elrond.
“It is enough for now. Give him one hour, and then repeat the procedure. How is Frodo faring?”
“He is in much the same condition as Aragorn, I fear. He is also showing signs of hallucinations, my Lord.”
Elrond winced. He feared doing the procedure to the hobbit coming so recently after Frodo’s wounding, but pneumonia could be deadly to someone so newly recovered. “We will need to start the percussions on him as well, of course to a lesser extent than with a full grown man,” he said slowly making sure Balorian understood. Elrond trusted the elf implicitly and when Balorian gave him a short bow, knew that the healer would choose an assistant with a lighter touch for the hobbit. Elrond straightened, laying his foster son back against the pillows. He began to wash Aragorn’s face of perspiration and spittle.
The door careened open and Sam, Merry and Pippin rushed in with expressions of panic on their faces.
“Mr. Frodo’s gone, sir! We gotta find ‘em,” Sam cried. Merry and Pip clutched at each other nodding in agreement.
“Sam, take Merry and Pippin and search all of the hallways and gardens. Frodo is feverish and may try to find some place cooler than his room.” All three disappeared as fast as they came and Elrond could hear Sam shouting directions to both Merry and Pippin as the door shut.
“Glorfindel, I ...” he jumped to his feet, overturning the basin of cool water as he swung around facing the elf.
Glorfindel stepped back in surprise, eyes wide, “My Lord?” he asked in alarm.
“Do not move,” Elrond said in a low voice. The door burst open a second time, slamming against the wall. Standing within the doorway was a panic stricken Gandalf who quickly reached behind him, locking them in.
“Frodo, take it off!” Gandalf shouted as he extended his arms and staff trying to locate the invisible hobbit. Understanding dawned in the elf Lord and he closed his eyes in concentration.
“Master Baggins, you will bring destruction upon us. The Eye is moving and fixed on Rivendell. You MUST remove it,” Elrond said as he endeavored to speak slowly and calmly.
Frodo hesitated as he looked at the forms swaying about Aragorn. Their features were blurred and he rubbed his eyes trying to clear his vision. It certainly *sounded* like Gandalf and Elrond but it could be a trick of the Ring, he thought. He was unable to clearly make out their features. Both had a pinkish white glow surrounding them, not the brilliant white light that the other had but also not giving him a feeling of evil or of darkness.
But he had seen them torturing Aragorn with his own eyes. He could not reveal himself, he decided, and crept hobbit quiet around the bed to Aragorn’s side. He looked up at the man’s still face just as the Ranger’s eyes slit open. He gasped and Gandalf’s head swiveled towards the sound. In two steps he was waving and grasping at the air as Frodo stepped back between two cupboards against the wall. But Frodo now had another problem that dwarfed his suspicions of Gandalf and Elrond. He was in the open, laid bare for the Dark Lord’s lidless eye to see. He felt a sense of triumph from that evil presence.
“Now I have you,” the voice roared as the Eye found him. He clamped his hands over his ears and made for the pure white light that had camouflaged him before. He placed himself at Glorfindel’s front and again the Eye dodged about, seeking him, even as he heard a loud roar of anger from the Dark Lord. He was breathing very hard and feeling faint when he felt a hand fall onto his shoulder.
“Frodo,” a husky voice croaked. “I am unharmed. Please, my friend, do as Gandalf and Elrond have asked.” The voice was very weak and the words were separated by long pauses as the Ranger struggled for breath. “They are trying to *help* me, Frodo, please take off the Ring.”
Frodo turned towards Aragorn as his small hand slipped into the Rangers, who gave it a squeeze. His legs trembled with fatigue and, needing something to lean against or fall unconscious, he grasped the cloth of the brilliant being next to him and leaned into it. Unable to stop himself, he began to cough and choke as his body betrayed him. His eyes rolled back into his head and he fell insensate to the floor.
Glorfindel looked down at his legs, his mouth open and arms held out to his sides, and then knelt down. Elrond and Gandalf rushed over to him and Gandalf quickly ran his hands over the small figure until he located the Ringbearer’s hand, removing the Ring which he then dropped as if he had been burned.
Elrond gasped when Frodo materialized before him. The hobbit was very pale, his face and clothing saturated with perspiration. He bent and placed his head to the hobbit’s chest then touched two fingers to Frodo’s neck. “He is very weak, I do not know how he had the strength to walk here. His breathes are too shallow, I fear he is hypoxic. We need to clear his lungs and quickly or risk losing him. Balorian!” Glorfindel bent and with a flannel, picked up the Ring and handed it to Elrond. Balorian appeared, breathing heavily from his exertions. He crossed to Elrond and handed the elf the silver chain and Elrond slipped the Ring back onto it before placing it over Frodo’s head.
Sam, Merry and Pippin skidded into the room and rushed to Frodo’s side. General chaos ensued as all of the hobbits and began to talk at once. “Is he alright?” “I shoulda’ never left him alone. I am a ninnyhammer.” “Where was he? Can we talk to him?” issued from the group.
“Lads,” an aged voice broke in and Elrond turned to see Bilbo hobbling slowly towards the other three hobbits. “Lads, Elrond and Balorian are going to see to Frodo, come. Come away and let them help him, alright?” Bilbo said calmly.
Hesitantly, the three younger hobbits obeyed as they arranged themselves stiffly next to Bilbo on a divan within sight of the Ringbearer. Elrond gave his old friend a nod of appreciation and Bilbo smiled and gave a quick wink in return. Elrond could see the masked tension and worry in the old hobbit’s face. Bilbo continued to talk and reassure Sam, Merry and Pippin and they listened intently to all he said. They hung on the older hobbit’s words in a desperate hope that the reassurances were indeed fact instead of merely wishful thinking.
Balorian reached to pick up the hobbit but Elrond intervened. He slipped his hands gently under the Ringbearer, lifting him easily into his arms. He walked quickly back to Frodo’s room with four additional hobbits in tow. They clutched the Ringbearer’s hand, foot, or whatever was within reach as Elrond walked, then crowded around Frodo as soon as Elrond had gently laid him down upon the mattress. Elrond sighed audibly.
“Little Masters, if you would be so kind as to move aside. Balorian will take care of your cousin,” he said then looking down at Sam added, “and Master. He will first give him a cool bath but then he will be doing a treatment on Frodo to help the Ringbearer cough up some of the mucus in his lungs. It is not pleasant, but Frodo will be the better for having it done. You may stay if you wish but,” he gave them a ferocious stare that caused them all to shrink back, “You will NOT interfere in his treatment of the Ringbearer. Do you understand?” Three heads nodded quickly, eyes wide. “It will seem cruel but be assured it will help Frodo recover.”
Gandalf had followed the little group into Frodo’s room and now studied Elrond closely, “Strange that Frodo should be having such vivid hallucinations, don’t you think, my friend?”
Elrond gave the Istari a remorseful look. “I gave him a drop of the White Lily Tincture, Gandalf.”
“What? It is unlike you, Elrond, to take such a chance with such a potent remedy,” Gandalf said angrily, shocked that he had witnessed the elf Lord make a rare error in judgment.
“Yes, even one drop was too much, it would seem. I feared he would die without it. It was impetuous and stupid of me to take such a risk with so small a patient. It will not happen again. Even after thousands of years, even I still make mistakes, Gandalf,” Elrond said quietly.
Gandalf placed his hand on the elf Lord’s shoulder, “But not often, my friend. The percussion treatment will be dangerous for Frodo.”
Elrond smiled, “Balorian is very knowledgeable concerning hobbits, I am sure he will be as gentle as he can. Frodo is frail and still recovering from a mortal wound, but pneumonia is something that could take hold of the Ringbearer and slowly drain the life from him. I prefer to take my chances on Balorian.”
“I am still very curious about this Balorian,” Gandalf gave Elrond a side long look. “He does not look like an elf, almost a combination of elf, hobbit and human.”
“You may guess all you want, but I will not share my story until I have time to tell all of the details. You will have to be patient, my friend,” Elrond answered with a wide grin. Gandalf harrumphed as he and Elrond quit the room.
In Frodo’s room Balorian ordered a cool bath and a pot of water was placed on the fire to heat. When it came to a boil he dropped four crumpled athelas leaves onto the burbling surface, releasing the rich wood scent the herb was known for.
Everyone inhaled deeply as they prepared Frodo for his bath. Sam rushed to assist, removing his Master’s clothing and folding it neatly before placing them on a nearby chair. His hands shook and tears filled his eyes as he looked down at the feverish and wasted body of his Master. Elrond gently lifted Frodo from the bed and placed him in the wooden tub. Merry and Pippin rushed to quickly change the bedding then paced beside the tub hoping to hear some bit of conversation of what Elrond planned next for their cousin. Sam had left for the kitchen hoping to find something nourishing for his Master. Too impatient to wait for long, Merry grabbed some towels and laid them by the fire. Pippin watched him then went to the tub and stood next to Elrond watching as the elf bathed his cousin. “Can I help, my Lord?” he asked quietly.
Elrond smiled up at the pert little hobbit, “Could you talk to him, Pippin? He needs to hear a voice he recognizes to help ground him and make him feel safe.” Pip nodded vigorously, excited to be of some use. He sat down at Frodo’s head and began to whisper to Frodo all that had been going on in Tookland before he had left. Elrond listened silently and noticed tears of homesickness standing in the green eyes as Pippin twirled one of Frodo’s locks absently.
Finally, the water grew cool and Elrond lifted the quiescent hobbit and dried him with one of Merry’s warmed towels then dressed him in a clean nightshirt before settling him between clean sheets and pulling a comforter up to his chin. He bent and placed his head against the hobbits chest, “His breathing sounds easier,” Elrond said with a sigh. He turned to Balorian, “Create a tent over the Ringbearer and place a boiling pot of athelas water inside. After he has rested a few hours we will begin the percussion therapy on him.” Balorian nodded in understanding.
Sam, Merry, Pippin and Bilbo arranged themselves around a sleeping Frodo, watching the Ringbearer draw in a slow raspy breath then exhale equally slowly.
Elrond watched them for a moment before Gandalf joined him. “Well, this won’t do at all,” the Istari said. Four heads turned and looked questioningly up at him. Elrond smiled at Gandalf and gave him a slow nod.
“What won’t do, Mr. Gandalf?” Sam bit.
“I have a dear friend that is badly in need of some hobbit care,” Gandalf said mysteriously. All of the hobbits heads swiveled and looked at Frodo.
“No, Frodo is well taken care of, my friends. I was referring to Aragorn,” he said quietly.
“We wanted to help with Strider but all those big people rushing around made us feel, well,” Merry looked around at Sam and Pippin who were looking at their hands and the floor respectively.
“Useless,” Bilbo said. The hobbits all looked at the older, wiser hobbit and smiled.
Gandalf and Elrond smiled as well. “My son is suffering. I need to stay with Master Baggins for a time and I wondered if you would do me the favor of helping care for Aragorn.” The hobbits all looked at each other, Sam looked nervously over at Frodo. Elrond had no trouble reading the gardener’s mind. “Master Gamgee, I will call for you if your Master stirs or needs you in any way.” Sam still looked uncertain but Gandalf was already moving them along towards the door. Elrond followed, hands pressed at Sam and Bilbo’s backs, thanking them profusely for their assistance.
“You promise you’ll come for me, sir?
“I will, Samwise,” Elrond reassured him. He watched the group walk down the hall towards Aragorn’s room with a small smile, then closed the door. “Balorian, let’s get started. Who did you get to do the percussions?”
Sam frowned at the greasy hair and pale face of the Ranger. “He’s almost as pale as Mr. Frodo!” he exclaimed.
“And as thin,” Merry added.
“And he’s taller so he’s thinner all the way up, like a piece of stretched taffy,” Pippin said, eyes wide. They all looked at Pippin and grinned.
“Well, let’s do this then,” Sam said with authority. “He needs good hearty food to get his strength back. Mr. Pippin, you go to the kitchen and see if their cook can fix a thick meat stew with lots of vegetables, hobbit style…you know what I mean,” Sam said.
“How about some bread and maybe cider to drink, fruit with clotted cream for a nice side dish, some mashed sweet potatoes…oh, and something for afters too…”
“No, Pippin. Strider hasn’t eaten much lately so we have to give him soft foods and only a little of that until he’s more used to it,” Bilbo said, looking at the Ranger in sympathy.
“As big as he is? How’s he going to *live* on that amount of food,” Pip said, incredulous.
Sam shushed him and looked around at the solemn elves. “Mr. Pippin, don’t say it like that. He’s gonna live just fine. Men don’t eat like us, remember?”
“Oh, sorry,” Pippin whispered, covering his mouth and shooting an apologetic look towards the elves, who only smiled at the winsome hobbit.
Pippin scurried off towards the kitchen as Merry and Bilbo moved closer to Sam. “Poor man needs a proper bath. Why, he’s still got leaves in his hair from camping,” Bilbo sighed.
Sam smiled, “Why Master, that’s a wonderful idea,” he exclaimed. Bilbo only looked at him in confusion.
“Excuse me,” Merry said, approaching the group of elves who were restocking the shelves with clean bandages and medicines. He bowed and smiled at the elves.
“Yes, Master Perian, we are to assist you in any way you require,” a thin elf with long black hair said with a low bow. Merry bowed again.
“Do you have a low tub we could use for Strider…er…Aragorn?”
The elf turned and spoke in rapid elvish and two of the group nodded, rose and left. Soon they returned with a long shallow wooden tub. Merry smiled. “Perfect!” he cried. “Now, we need some gentle soap, a brush and some soft cloths..oh and some towels.” The elves nodded and smiled, leaving and returning with stacks of towels, soap, a brush and a man sized night shirt.
“All right then…er…Mr. Elves, sirs,” Sam blushed furiously as Merry giggled loudly behind his back. The elves smiled expectantly at the hobbit. Could you bring us some kettles of warm, but not real warm, water so we can bathe him proper like?” Again the elves jumped into action, bringing in coppers of water and filling the awaiting tub about half full. Sam tested the water, adding just a half bucket more of cool water to it. With a nod to Merry and Bilbo they uncovered the Ranger and the elves gently carried him to the shallow tub. Sam scooted a footstool over to the side of the tub for Aragorn’s leg. Aragorn sighed as he was lowered into the warm bath. Merry and Pippin washed his hair and squeezed out the water then wrapped his head in a towel, talking quietly to the Ranger as they worked.
Sam giggled and the other hobbits looked over at him. “I can’t help it, he looks just like Daisy after her bath,” he snorted. They all looked back at the man and grinned widely.
Bilbo and Sam knelt over the man and carefully soaped then rinsed him clean even wiping down the exposed foot on his broken leg. While they worked the bed linens had been changed and, at Sam’s instruction, extra padding was added to the mattress to cushion the Ranger’s back. Merry laid the warmed towels over the sheets. Sam motioned to the elves that they were finished and they lifted Aragorn gently, placing him onto the warmed towels. But Sam didn’t let them go yet, “We need you to help us turn him,” he tried to explain. They looked at him in confusion, but when Sam picked up the eucalyptus oil and poured some into each of the hobbits hands, understanding dawned.
Small warm hands worked the oil into muscles sore from lying in one position too long, as they spoke softly to Strider. Pippin hummed a tune under his breath as he massaged the man’s leg muscles. They all stopped when they heard a relaxed moan of contentment from the Ranger and gathered around his head to peer into his face. But Aragorn’s eyes stayed closed. “He does look much more content,” Bilbo said softly. Sam beamed at Merry and Pippin who grinned back at him. They had the elves move Aragorn onto his other side and rubbed more oil onto the abraded skin.
Next, Sam and Merry moved behind him, propping him into a sitting position and finally Aragorn’s eyes drifted lazily open.
“Pippin?” he asked weakly.
“Yes. My you’ve been a lay about lately,” Pippin joked. Aragorn smiled tiredly. “We have some lovely foods for you to try and you’ll have to eat them or Frodo will be very hurt,” Pippin said softly, trying his hand at Frodo’s deception. “You wouldn’t want that, would you?”
“No indeed,” Aragorn mumbled shaking his head, then thinking better of it. He looked around, “Where is Frodo, Pippin?” He asked softly. “I dreamt he had taken the Ring and put it on and was trying to help me.”
Pippin gulped, “Oh, uh, he’s resting. He’s been cooking all day and needed a little nap.”
“Oh…” Aragorn mumbled something else that Pip couldn’t make out.
“Here drink this,” Pippin held the cup up to Aragorn’s lips and the Ranger took a sip then his eyes widened and he reached for the cup.
“Not too fast, Strider,” Merry whispered. Aragorn forced himself to drink slowly until finally Pippin removed the cup. Aragorn eyeing it longingly.
“Try some of this,” Pippin said gently. He spooned some of the salted, pureed stew into the man’s mouth and Aragorn ate hungrily. He finished the stew and asked for more of the cider which Pippin gave him. After he finished the cider Pippin gave him a cool glass of water.
“Thank you, thank Frodo for me. I think I’ll just close my eyes for a little while,” Aragorn slurred. They left him semi-reclined against a stack of pillows, to sleep.
Sam yawned followed by Merry and Pippin. Bilbo was already nodding in his chair. “Taking care of sick people is hard work,” Pippin said curling up next to Merry on the divan, his head in Merry’s lap.
“That it is, Mr. Pippin. I ‘bess go check on Mr. Frodo now,” Sam said with a yawn. He leaned back against Aragorn’s bed and closed his eyes. When Elrond and Gandalf returned to check on them they found a clean Ranger, whose temperature was slightly lower and a room full of sleeping hobbits.
Gandalf chuckled, “Well, you know better than anyone, my friend that taking care of the sick can be draining.”
Elrond smiled sardonically, one eyebrow arched, “I begin to wonder if I am truly up to the challenge with this particular group of patients, Gandalf,” he said with a sigh.
Patience with Patients
The elf walked almost silently down the corridor, the rustle of her robes the only mark of her passage. She hesitated outside Aragorn’s door before opening it a crack to peer in. The Ranger was quiescent, flagged on either side by two of her brethren who smiled and gave her a nod. She closed the door after returning the nod and continued down the hallway until she came to the Ringbearer’s quarters. She opened the door slowly and entered.
Balorian looked up and gave her a rare smile, “Ah, Deara, thank you for coming on such short notice,” he said with a sigh. “Lord Elrond had instructed me to locate someone to do the percussions on the Ringbearer… someone who perhaps wasn’t so …heavy handed. He has already been through so much and he is quite thin. I was concerned that I might injure him.
Deara smiled, “I am not that gentle, Balorian, perhaps you prefer another?”
“No, I think you’ll do well and he will not need the same amount of force as a larger patient would.”
Deara nodded, her eyes shifting to the hobbit in the bed. This was the first time she had seen the Ringbearer and she was struck by how small and frail he appeared. She pulled from her gown two large padded mitts. At Balorian’s confused look she explained, “I have found that these gloves help to minimize the bruising and abrading of the skin,” she said simply.
“Ingenious! Why ever did I not think of that?” Balorian exclaimed, picking up one of the gloves, examining it. “Why, they look like the mitts the cooks use for the hot pans,” he said in wonder.
Deara smiled, enjoying the rare look of surprise on the healer’s face. “That is where I got the idea,” she said. Balorian lifted Frodo and lay him across Deara’s lap. After placing a pan beneath Frodo’s head, Deara slipped on the oversized mitts and began to forcibly strike at the hobbit’s back.
Frodo’s reacted immediately as he cried out and tried to shift away from this new torture. He coughed, violently expelling the thick mucus from his lungs. Occasionally, Deara would have to stop her treatment as Frodo would begin to choke, but would resume as soon as his airway would clear. He cried out in agony as he tried to pull himself out of Deara’s grasp but he was too weak to make much headway. Balorian rose and with a nod to Deara, left the room, closing and locking the door so she could work undisturbed. He walked down the long hallway and entered a room resembling a laboratory. Flasks and beakers simmered over low flames, heavy tombs written by elves long since departed from Middle Earth, sat on long counters and stands, from the rafters bunches of herbs hung drying and shelves lined the walls holding glass containers and burlap bags all labeled in Balorian’s neat script. This was where the teas, cordials and other medicinal antidotes were prepared. He had been working on a powerful elixir that he hoped would banish the infection in both Aragorn and Frodo once and for all. Thus far he had combined four or five ingredients and he swirled the flask slowly examining the creamy white mixture before climbing the ladder to retrieve other herbs that might prove useful. This room was where he spent most of his days working when there weren’t patients to attend to. He had created many curatives over the long years by experimenting with whatever he gathered from his herb garden and the lands surrounding Imladris, then writing them down in his careful scrip, in a large ledger. He had little chance to test the medicines since elves were seldom ill, but since the arrival of the Ringbearer and his kin, he had made leaps and bounds in the process. Frodo blamed Elrond for his disgusting medicines but it was actually Balorian’s recipes that the elf lord used. He continued working, occasionally tasting the concoctions, grimacing, as he was unfortunately, forced to agree with the Ringbearer’s assessment of his curatives. He added a liberal amount of honey to the mixture in a vain attempt at making it more palatable and grimaced again after tasting it. It would do little good if the patient would not take it. He sighed and then brightened as an idea occurred to him. He left the room in search of the other hobbits. He didn’t have to search far. Outside the locked door to the Ringbearer’s room they sat huddled on the floor looking totally dejected. Balorian approached and was about to greet them when the hobbit that was the Ringbearer’s servant spoke up.
“Mr. Balorian they won’t let us in to see to Mr. Frodo, sir. He needs me to do for him and Mr. Gandalf told me to stay by his side, and I mean to, sir.”
Balorian took a breath to speak but the youngest hobbit interrupted him. “You don’t look like the other elves,” Pip said bluntly. Balorian’s mouth quirked as he looked down into the guileless green eyes. Merry elbowed Pip sharply, but Pippin ignored him. “You’re stout like a hobbit and pretty short. Plus your hair is thinner, oh and …” Merry elbowed Pip again, only harder, which must have hurt as Pip cried out, “OWWWWWWWW, Merry what is WRONG with you?”
Merry simply rolled his eyes and looked skyward as Sam smiled and looked down. Balorian didn’t smile but his eyes twinkled in mirth. He turned to Sam, “Master Baggins is receiving a ‘treatment’ and my assistant needs privacy to do so. She should be done shortly and then you can rejoin your kinsman,” he said reassuringly. Sam scowled at the door which remained firmly locked in front of him. Balorian decided a change of subject was needed. “Is there anything in particular that the Ringbearer particularly enjoys? Perhaps something sweet or fruity or…?”
“Oh, Frodo’s mad about strawberries,” Pip exclaimed. “He always eats them all during the harvest and comes back with an empty basket and stained lips. And of course there’s mushrooms, but they aren’t really sweet or fruity, I suppose.” Pip continued.
Balorian smiled down at the youngling, “Very good, you have been most helpful,” Balorian exclaimed before bowing, turning sharply and walking briskly down the hallway back towards his lab.
“See here now, Mr. Elf, what about my Master?” Sam called after him, but Balorian’s quick strides had already taken him around the corner. Sam slumped back against the door, trying to listen to what was occurring within. “Now what do we do?” Sam said with a sigh. Merry and Pip slid down next to him.
“We wait, Sam,” Merry said simply.
Deara ran frantically down the long hallway, three hobbits close on her heels, desperately looking for Balorian. She found him in his laboratory and, out of breath, whispered to him in rushed elvish as the hobbits looked on in fear.
“It’s Frodo, isn’t it?” Merry cried.
“What’s happened to him?” Sam shouted.
Balorian looked at the hobbits before turning and racing back towards Frodo’s room, Deara and the hobbits flying after him. He pushed open the Ringbearer’s door and hurried towards the bed. Frodo’s face was pinched in pain and although he was not fully conscious, he coughed weakly as he cradled his left arm against his chest. Balorian leaned over Frodo’s shoulder, peeling back the nightgown and peering closely at the wound. It was a bright red and a thin trickle of bloody fluid had dampened the gown. The wound pulsed, like a live thing, with each beat of the Ringbearer’s heart.
“Balorian, did I injure him?” Deara whispered tearfully.
He looked into her anxious face, “I do not know, Deara. He had been in pain from the wound while on the hiking trip. From all accounts given, I believe he re-injured it during that time.” He looked towards the hobbits for confirmation and they all nodded silently.
“I’m sure it weren’t your fault, my lady,” Sam whispered as he went to her side.
“Perhaps I hit him too hard even though I used the mitts,” she said twisting her hands.
Merry and Pip exchanged a confused look, “Hit him?” Pip squeaked.
Sam nodded, “It’s what they do to get the infection outta the lungs, Mr. Pippin. Me Ma’s sister is a healer o’er in Sackville,” Sam said.
“Oh…but doesn’t that hurt?” Pip whispered to Merry. Merry nodded to him and he winced.
Balorian overheard the whispered conversation, “It is indeed most uncomfortable, little hobbit, but it will help him to heal.” He turned to the three, “you must understand that we would do nothing to harm the Ringbearer, but instead would give our all to see him restored to good health.”
Having heard the commotion, Elrond entered the room in a swirl of robes. He went immediately to Frodo’s side and examined the wound. Afterwards he looked to Deara but not in an accusatory manner, “You did well, Deara, do not let your heart be troubled. The Ringbearer is more fragile than normal due to his continued convalescence; still, he is stubborn and has other strengths that will win the day,” he said softly. Deara only nodded, unshed tears in her eyes.
He turned to Balorian, “Prepare a hot compress for his shoulder but first lay cloths down to protect the wound and his skin.” Balorian nodded and set about gathering his supplies.
“Help me, Samwise. We need to give him some sustenance, tea and Balorian’s newly created medication,” Elrond said with a smile. Sam looked suspiciously at the jar with the red jelly like contents before jumping into action. They carefully raised Frodo’s shoulders and Sam settled himself behind his Master. Frodo naturally resisted, crying out as he was moved. Pip and Merry moved to the bedside and Pip took Frodo’s hands. The three hobbits whispered loving reassurances to their cousin and master as Elrond slowly fed the broth and tea into the small mouth. Lastly, the elf lord opened the jar and removed a spoonful of the red jelly, placing it in Frodo’s mouth. To everyone’s surprise, Frodo’s eyes opened wide and he swallowed the contents eagerly, licking his lips afterwards. Sam slipped out from behind Frodo who had, once again, slumped down in exhaustion. The gardener gently washed Frodo’s face as Merry and Pippin lovingly sponged the perspiration from the rest of Frodo’s body.
Frodo seemed to relax, finally made more comfortable and hearing, on some level, the litany of whispered reassurances. They covered him as Deara brought a steaming bowl of athelas water and placed it at the head of the Ringbearer’s bed. A sheet was draped over the bed creating a tent which helped to concentrate and hold the vapors within.
Content that Frodo was now as comfortable as possible the elf Lord, Balorian and the hobbits left the room while Deara remained in case needed by the Ringbearer.“Please go to the kitchens and take a meal, then rest, for Frodo will need you once he awakens,” Elrond said. When Sam made to object, Elrond said quietly, “I insist” leaving no room for argument. Once the three had departed the elf lord allowed himself to relax, sighing as he leaned against the wall.
“How is he?” a voice whispered.
The elf turned towards the Istari, “injured and sick, my friend,” Elrond said sadly.
“He will recover. He is an amazing young hobbit and stronger than he appears,” Gandalf said reassuringly. “You should rest as well, my friend. It appears you will be very busy for the next few days.”
Elrond nodded, “I am weary, perhaps you are right.”
Gandalf raised an eyebrow, it was unusual for Elrond to *admit* he was tired which indicated to Gandalf how truly exhausted his friend was. He walked Elrond to his quarters then returned to Aragorn’s room. He took out his pipe then thought better of it, before pulling a chair to Aragorn’s side and relaxing into it. Reflectively, he studied the Ranger’s profile, his eyes drifting down to the leg. He called an elf over to him, whispered a request and then waited as the elf left. Soon long straight branches, shoots removed, were brought to him. He nodded his thanks as he withdrew his knife and set to carving the poles into what would eventually become crutches for the Ranger. He knew that a stubborn and determined Aragorn would, sooner than later, make some attempt to go to Frodo’s side. “Might as well be ready for it, and as Samwise would say, sooner started, sooner finished,” he murmured to himself then chuckled before beginning to strip away the outer bark and shape the wood beneath.
“But I need to get up!” Aragorn exclaimed to the healers attending him.
Gandalf enter the room, overhearing the exchange. “Why, dear boy?” he said softly. He crossed to the bed placing a weathered hand across Aragorn’s forehead and gazed into the feverish face of his friend.
“Gandalf! Thank Eru you are here! They will not allow me to see Frodo and he needs my help. I heard him cry out.”
“My dear Aragorn, you are quite unable to go anywhere at the present time. Don’t be unruly or Elrond will be forced to sedate you.”
Aragorn’s eyes became stormy, “We will just see about that!” He tried to push himself up and frowned in puzzlement when his arms refused to lift him. Perspiration bloomed anew on his forehead. He geared himself to try again when Gandalf gently pressed down on his shoulders.
“Aragorn, you have been quite ill, your energies would be better spent in healing.” Gandalf gave an elf a nod, “Could we move him into a more upright position?”
“Of course,” the elf replied, and with Gandalf’s assistance, shifted Aragorn up onto his pillows into a semi-reclining position while another elf readjusted the broken leg with more pillows.
Aragorn blanched, closed his eyes and took a couple of slow, deep breaths, before slowly opening them again. Elrond entered the room carrying a single rose colored vial on a tray. He smiled at Aragorn and Gandalf.
“It is good to see you awake and more or less alert, my son,” he said.
“Father…Ada…I would like to be moved into Frodo’s room to assist in his care,” Aragorn said respectfully.
“I am sorry, that is not possible at the present, Estel. Besides, the Ringbearer is receiving the best care possible from our healers. You need your rest, Estel. You are improving no small thanks to Balorian, but I do not wish you to relapse. You need to drink this,” Elrond said, holding out the vial to the Ranger.
Aragorn eyed it suspiciously knowing that the lovely color most probably belied the taste of the contents. Sighing, he took the vial with shaking hands and drank it down in one swallow. It was worse than he had imagined and he almost forced the contents back onto the sheets. “Uggh, that’s awful,” he exclaimed.
Gandalf smiled, “Now that the unpleasantness is over with, how about some broth?” Aragorn nodded slightly, wincing as a sharp pain shot through his head.
Elrond studied his foster son. Aragorn was still very pale save for the bright red that blossomed at his cheeks, evidence of the fever. He looked exhausted and he could tell by the way the Ranger’s hands shook that he was still very weak. But the coughing had been reduced to occasional jags and he seemed to be breathing easier. An elf approached and whispered in Elrond’s ear. The elf lord nodded and the elves left the room. Aragorn had finished his broth and Gandalf was now spooning some of Balorian’s new cure between his lips. The Ranger’s eyes opened in surprise and he licked his lips afterwards.
“Now some tea, Aragorn,” Gandalf murmured. Aragorn’s eyes were beginning to lose focus as the brief amount of wakefulness had drained his limited energies. Finished, Gandalf set the cup on the night table. He spoke softly to the Ranger as he gently washed the man’s face.
“Gandalf, I require your assistance,” Elrond said softly.
“Of course, my friend, how may I be of help?”
“We need to roll Aragorn onto his side for a moment,” Elrond said. Together they rolled Aragorn onto his right side then Elrond pulled down the coverlet and began to unfasten the makeshift nappy.
Aragorn frowned in his sleep and reached down for the blanket. Gandalf captured the Ranger’s hands and held them while he spoke to the man in a low, reassuring murmur. “There, there, my boy. We have a small amount of unpleasantness to take care of and then you can have a rest.”
“Wha…what are you doing?” Aragorn mumbled, his eyes still closed. As Elrond tugged the makeshift diaper away from the Ranger. “Ada! What are you doing?” His eyes flew open even as his face turned an amazing shade of purple. Elrond noticed that Gandalf was now looking down, trying not to smile.
Elrond was carefully wiping away the waste followed by washing Aragorn’s backside with a warm, soapy cloth. The Ranger was positively sputtering with the indignity, and Gandalf lost his composure as he broke into chuckles.
“Aragorn,” he said softly, “who did you think would attend to your business while you were ill and trussed up like a spitted goose? You are a healer, you have treated patients, Frodo for example, that you have had to care for similarly,” The wizard’s eyes twinkled.
“This is different,” Aragorn said through gritted teeth.
“How so, my friend?” Gandalf asked with a smile.
“I am perfectly able to care for myself!” Aragorn said evenly.
“Ahh…truly? I saw you trying to lift yourself up earlier and it seemed to me you were too weak to do so,” Gandalf goaded him.
“You don’t have to look so happy about it, Mithrandir!” Aragorn exclaimed.
Gandalf broke into gales of laughter and even Elrond grinned as he started to secure the clean cloth, he hesitated, crossed to the side table and returned with a fever stick. Seeing this Gandalf began to laugh even harder, his face rosy as tears ran down his cheeks.
“WHAT is so amusing?” Aragorn nearly shouted, “I don’t see why you find me being in such an..AHHH!” He shouted as Elrond inserted the fever stick.
“Remain calm, my son, and try to relax your muscles, it will make this easier as you know,” Elrond said softly.
The Ranger’s face was apocalyptic; his voice more of a high pitched squeak. “Is this really necessary? I am much improved, you said so yourself. And you could have at least given me a little warning before sticking that thing up my…”he began to cough violently as he became more agitated. Gandalf thumped him on the back, causing Aragorn to wince in pain. Elrond finished attaching the clean cloth and with a nod to Gandalf they slowly rolled Aragorn onto his back and re-covered him. Elrond noted that his color was very high and a sheen of sweat coated his body, which was completely normal given the circumstances.
“Perhaps we should enlist the hobbits to give you another bath,” Elrond said simply.
“I don’t need a bath, if I am sweating it is only because…ANOTHER?” Aragorn yelled, his voice breaking and coming out in a most un-Rangerly squalk.
Elrond smiled, “They are excellent care givers, my son. They were careful and tender with you as if you were one of their own,” he said softly.
“I do not doubt that, they are a giving, gentle people. I simply do not wish to appear weak in front of them,” the Ranger muttered.
“Weak? That is preposterous, my dear Aragorn. They respect you and consider you a dear friend, nay…more like an honorary hobbit, I would say. I do not think they would ever think of you as ‘weak’. Instead, I believe they only wished to make you more comfortable during a time when you needed comfort most,” Gandalf said softly. Aragorn merely grunted before closing his eyes. Gandalf placed his hand on the Ranger’s forehead and gently smoothed back the damp hair, “Sleep, my boy, you have had a busy day.” As if the wizard’s words were part of a spell, Aragorn felt his mind begin to drift and his body relax as oblivion slowly overtook him.
A few days passed in relative peace. Aragorn continued to sleep, his body having the final word no matter how much he fought it, as it struggled to return him to health. A sharp cry awoke him from a sound sleep and he lay still, listening intently. His eyes were just beginning to close when another cry, more of a shout, caused him to jerk. He instantly recognized the scream to be Frodo’s and the hobbit sounded frantic, his voice filled with pain and terror. Aragorn swept the blankets aside and glared down at the traitorous leg. Undaunted, he looked about him and his eyes lit on a pair of intricately carved crutches leaning against the wall next to his bed. He smiled, making a mental note to thank the wizard later. He reached for them and ran his hand down the length seeing Gandalf’s familiar rune at the end of one crutch. This would be the second set of crutches the great Istari had fashioned for him in his lifetime. “Let us hope it is the last,” Aragorn muttered to himself.
“My soul! Aragorn, you cannot be up! Here, let me help you lie back down,” the healer squealed as he rushed to Aragorn’s side. “You are far too weak to stand and if you should fall, you could re-break that leg,” he continued, reaching out for the man.
Aragorn brought the elf up short with a threatening glare, “Come no further,” he growled. Taken aback the man stopped cold. “I am going to the Ringbearer and you can either join me or leave me be,” Aragorn hissed.
“You know that you could easily maim yourself for life by this foolishness. The Ringbearer is being attended to most expertly, I can assure you,” the elf huffed, drawing himself up.
“I prefer to see that for myself. I heard him call out and he did not sound as if he was being “attended to” in any way that he wished,” Aragorn said, wobbling precariously as he leaned into the elf’s face. “You will remove yourself or I shall do it for you,” he whispered dangerously.
The healer felt a prickle on the back of his neck as the hair rose, taking a step backwards as he locked eyes with the Ranger. Aragorn straightened, adjusted the crutches and began making his way slowly out of the room and down the hallway. He had to stop frequently to catch his breath and it seemed like Frodo’s room was much farther away than he remembered. Frequently, he would have to bite the inside of his mouth to force himself to remain alert. He stumbled only once and was grateful that the healer had been nearby, circling him like some chaotic satellite, to prevent him from falling. Finally, he arrived at Frodo’s doorway and looked inside at the pale hobbit seemingly fighting off a room full of concerned care givers.
“He will be well again, Samwise. Do not despair,” Deara reassured. “It is a hard thing to eat when you feel so ill. Still, it would be nice to get something into him today. Do you have any ideas…foods that he especially enjoys? Perhaps we could tempt him.”
Sam’s eyes lit up; finally a project to occupy his time. “Yes Miss, he loves fruit of all kinds and of course, mushrooms. I could make him some peach froth and oh, some carrot juice. Nothin’ tastes better than a cold glass of juice when yer sick!”
“Wonderful! It sounds like you have some good ideas to start with,” Deara said with a smile.
“I’ll see to it right away,” Sam exclaimed. Before she could respond, he flew off the bed and out the door and she could hear the patter of his feet as he hurried towards the kitchens. The smile she had given so easily to the gardener left her face as she rung out another cloth and placed it on Frodo’s forehead. She was deeply concerned. The fever should have broken by now and she worried that there was something else at work draining the strength from her patient.
“Poor Sam, he really has had an awful time of it lately,” came a hoarse whisper.
Deara’s eyes twinkled as she looked down into the fever bright ones of the Ringbearer. “I’m afraid he got more than he bargained for when he decided to come with me on this little adventure,” he whispered.
He looks so sad, Deara thought. She pressed the damp cloth to his lips then took another to wash away the perspiration and matter from his eyes. “I believe Samwise is happiest when he is seeing to *your* needs. I think he is perfectly happy here on your ‘little adventure’ as long as he can be by your side to make your task a bit lighter. He would have been miserable if you had left him behind, would he not?”
Frodo gave her a wan smile, “He would have followed I am sure. He is quite devoted to me.”
“Then he is the perfect person to have by your side to lift your spirits and help you with this arduous deed,” Deara said with a wink.
Frodo smiled at her then his face changed as he began to cough. He rolled to his right side and pulled his legs to his chest as he struggled to gain just one breath. She reached for him but he held up his hand, “No,” he said. His eyes were watering and his face was turning a dark red as he tried to expel the mucus from his lungs. Finally, she could take it no more and though he weakly pushed her away, she pulled him over her lap and gave him two hard hits between his shoulder blades. A large wad of bloody expectorate landed on the blankets, leaving a trail of saliva from Frodo’s mouth. He cried out in pain, but he was finally able to take a wheezing breath.
He lay there for a moment just relishing the simple action of breathing. He felt like a fish out of water, struggling for each lungful of air. Deara slowly pulled him upright and placed him up against two or three hurriedly gathered pillows before looking into his face.
“Better?” She asked quietly.
Frodo’s eyes were closed and his color was still very high. Sweat beaded his face as he took small sips of air. “Yes, thank you,” he whispered.
“Frodo, you need to take slow, deep breaths and use your whole lung, otherwise you will not get sufficient oxygen.
“It is too painful, I do not want to cough anymore,” he croaked. He was clutching his left arm, holding it firmly against his body.
Deara gently touched the left shoulder, checking for swelling. The arm was quite frigid to the touch.
“No! Do not touch it!” Frodo cried loudly and recoiling.
“Frodo, I could ease your pain with some hot compresses. If you would but allow me to…”
“NO! No, stay away!” Frodo shouted as he struggled out of reach, coughing violently.
The patter of multiple feet caused Deara to turn quickly and look towards the doorway. Hobbits crammed the entrance into the room before Sam squeezed in between them.
“What are you doing to him?” He bellowed.
Merry and Pippin raced to Frodo’s side, speaking softly in an attempt to calm their cousin.
“No!” Frodo screeched, pushing himself as far to the right of the bed as possible. He clung to Merry, turning fever bright eyes up at him. “Don’t let her, Merry, please, please help me.”
Pippin’s eyes teared up as he looked at his cousin, his heart wrenching to see the normally docile gentlehobbit change into this wild thing. “Merry, maybe we should…” Pip’s voice quavered.
Unheard by all in the room, Elrond and three healers entered the room quite out of breath. Sam marveled anew at how elves could run so silently. Gandalf tromped up behind them, pushing all but Elrond aside to gain entrance. “Frodo Baggins! What is the meaning of all this caterwauling?” He boomed. Frodo flinched away, tightening his grasp on Merry’s arm.
“You’re frightening him!” Sam shouted, placing himself squarely between his Master and the wizard. Elrond squelched a smile as he watched the small gardener take on the obviously larger foe who dared to threaten the one he cared most for. Pippin moved up beside Sam with a grim and resolute tightening of his jaw. He looked defiantly at the entourage. ‘Ah, now we see the true mettle of the family Took and future Thain,’ Gandalf mused admiringly.
“Little Masters’ if I may, I would like to talk with Frodo,” Elrond said softly. Frodo turned frightened eyes towards the elf Lord. Seeing this fear Elrond added, “I will not touch the arm Frodo, until you say that I may.” Frodo relaxed slightly. Elrond raked his eyes over the left arm and saw that it hung limply at Frodo’s side. The hand was swollen and to his dismay, he saw that the upper arm was red and distended. He cringed inwardly, saddened that the Ringbearer would have to endure additional pain. But what had caused this injury? He mused. I should never have allowed them to go on that outing, he thought for the 100th time.
A steady clumping noise drew everyone’s attention towards the hallway. The noises were interrupted by long pauses and then the clumping would resume. Pippin started towards the door, his curiosity peaked, but Elrond waved him towards a chair. The elf Lord started to rise from Frodo’s side when the clumping resumed and then just as suddenly it stopped. A quavering, pale and heavily perspiring Ranger stood, leaning over a pair of wobbling crutches, framed by the doorway. Elrond rose quickly giving his foster son a thunderous look. Sam looked between the two and knew that Aragorn was about to ‘catch it hot’, to coin a phrase and he was suddenly grateful to be small and all but invisible.
Now, it should be known that the Herald of Gil-galad, Elrond Halfelven, seldom was heard within the boundaries of the Rivendell Vale, and although Frodo had read the stories of the last alliance of men and elves and the great battle that they had fought together against Sauron and his orcs, he was ill prepared for the deafening roar that caused all of them to cover their ears and cry out in pain. Throughout the Vale all stopped what they were doing and listened in awe. Two riders approaching the Vale, as alike in feature as they were different in personality, stopped their horses and listened.
“I wager that this involves the hobbits in some way,” said Elladan.
“Nay, not even hobbits could evoke such an outburst,” the mirror image said with a similar grin. “I only remember one other time hearing our father shout so and it involved our foster brother, therefore I wager that Aragorn has had something to do with the disruption of the peace in Rivendell.” They shared a laugh and shook hands, sealing the bet, then resumed their descent into the Vale.
Frodo cried out, jumping at the shout, causing his shoulder to flare in pain. The very walls of the great home seemed to stutter.
“What is the meaning of this?” Elrond bellowed. Aragorn lost his balance as the boom threw him backwards. Elrond lunged forward, catching the Ranger. He was furious, but he still loved his foster son.
“I heard Frodo cry out,” Aragorn said, suddenly realizing how weak his argument sounded. “I am needed here, Father. I cannot remain abed while he suffers,” he added in defiance.
“You would permanently cripple yourself when you know full well that he is being attended to by the best healers in all of Middle Earth?” Elrond shouted. He removed Aragorn’s crutches, throwing them aside as he and the healer carried the man to a bed. “You could have done irreparable damage to your leg by acting so impulsively,” he continued. He propped the leg up on two hastily retrieved pillows. He covered Aragorn and signaled the healer to bring some water for the man.
Elrond waved him off dismissively, “We will *discuss* this later. For now, I have a slightly more compliant patient to see to,” he bit out before turning away. Aragorn flushed in chagrin feeling more like a troublesome ten year old than a grown man.
Elrond sat down on the left side of the bed. Frodo startled and shrunk away, his attention had momentarily been distracted by the hub bub Strider had created. “Frodo,” Elrond said, struggling to reclaim some semblance of calm, “Tell me about your outing to the Rim Rock. Were you injured…perhaps you fell and reinjured your shoulder?”
Frodo glanced over at Strider and saw that the Ranger was listening intently. His eyes teared up as he looked at the man’s broken leg and the pained and strained face of his friend. “Strider saved me,” he began, his voice quavering. “Had he not thrown me aside I would have been injured far worse than just a bruised shoulder.”
Elrond smiled, “He is a loyal friend to you, is he not?”
“Oh yes, even when we treated him so horribly in Bree he has only been caring and concerned of me and my kin.” The corner of Strider’s mouth slowly curled into a small smile as he listened to Frodo. Little did Frodo know that he had been treated far worse by those of his own race than by the hobbit and his friends. “I would be quite upset if he were to be punished simply because of my inability to tolerate pain without crying out,” Frodo said softly.
Elrond frowned, aware that he was being artfully manipulated. “I will consider your plea for leniency,” he said dryly. Aragorn smiled in admiration of the hobbit. “Were there any other instances where you could have injured yourself on your hike?”
Frodo glanced guiltily towards Sam and Sam frowned, pursing his lips together.
“I knew it! I knew it all along,” Sam muttered. Elrond looked over at Sam and the gardener closed his mouth with an audible snap.
“I am sorry, Sam, but I didn’t want to draw attention to myself when Strider was hurt so badly.” Sam blushed and Frodo saw the gardener’s jaw muscles jump as he ground his teeth, but Sam remained silent and continued to study the floor.
“How far did you fall, Frodo?” Elrond asked.
“Not far…” Frodo said vaguely, looking away.
Elrond’s eyebrows rose, “I see,” he said noncommittally. “Alright, well like as not your shoulder has been badly bruised and will need to be examined.”
Frodo gave him a sharp look that slowly changed to one of acceptance. “I am sure you will be gentle as always, my Lord,” Frodo said flatly and looked away.
“Of course, but for now we will get you something to eat and arrange a short rest before beginning. I will return later for the examination,” he said with a concerned smile.
Frodo sighed in relief. Perhaps he could still get a reprieve from the prodding. If only Merry and Pip could create some mischief and distract the elf Lord. He sighed closing his eyes.
“Gandalf, please accompany me,” Elrond murmured. Gandalf rose and exited with Elrond and they walked towards the kitchens. As they entered the elf lord saw that a stew bubbled over the fire in preparation for luncheon. “Please give me a small bowl of stew for the Ringbearer, but strain out the meat and mash up the vegetables,” he asked the cook.
“As you wish, my Lord,” the cook said respectfully.
“What are you up to, my friend?” Gandalf asked with a smirk.
“Why Gandalf, you wound me,” Elrond said with a chuckle. Soon the soup was on a tray along with a tall glass of carrot juice. Elrond looked at the cook questioningly.
“It is his favorite, my Lord,” the cook said with a blush.
Elrond smiled. All of Imladris had become enamored with the little ones, especially for the slight but brave Ringbearer. He withdrew a small packet from his pocket and stirred the contents into the stew.
“Frodo would be most indignant if he knew he was being drugged,” Gandalf said, his eyes twinkling.
“Then we will not tell him,” Elrond replied with a grin.
They left the kitchen and walked down the long corridor entering Frodo’s room. Elrond sat down beside Frodo’s bed and took the cover off of the tray. Frodo’s face blanched as the aroma wafted off of the stew.
“You must eat something, Frodo, or if you prefer, we could begin the examination now,” Elrond said smoothly. He scooped a small spoon of stew up and Frodo grudgingly opened his mouth, his choice made. Frodo swallowed dutifully and gradually his eyes began to glass over until they finally closed. Elrond check the hobbit's pulse and satisfied that Frodo was truly unconscious turned to a nearby healer, “I shall require a surgical tray,” he said. The healer bowed and left.
“I would have you wait outside while we treat your Master, little ones,” Elrond said. One look at the elf’s face confirmed to all that this was not a request. Deara herded the hobbits into the hallway as she whispered reassurances to them. Balorian came into the room bearing the requested surgical tray and closed the door behind him. Aragorn raised himself up on his forearms but a look from Elrond caused him to lie back down.
“Let us begin,” Elrond said softly.
Stubborn and Stubboner
Elrond went to the basin and washed his hands and forearms thoroughly, but did not dry them. He nodded to Balorian who poured a pungent liquid over Frodo’s bared shoulder then directed the light over the exposed limb. Elrond sat near the bed and selected a slender blade from the tray. “He will likely feel this on some level. I cannot give him any further sleep inducing drugs due to his diminished lung function Gandalf, so you will need to hold him steady while I work.” Gandalf nodded in understanding, his face filled with pity. Elrond bent to the task and made a cut, reopening the dark wound that forever would mark the pale, white skin. Frodo lurched away, crying out, but did not fully awaken.
Aragorn heard the cry and a burst of adrenaline caused him to push himself up until he was sitting and could easily view the surgery. “Father, please let me assist,” he cried.
“Estel, you will be silent or I shall have you removed. Even now, I allow you to remain out of courtesy and respect of your feelings of protectiveness towards the Ringbearer,” Elrond said, never turning to look at the man. Aragorn forced himself to keep quiet, understanding how delicate the procedure was and not wanting to further distract the elf Lord. “Ah... see? An abscess has formed,” Elrond murmured to Gandalf, “A rather large one at that.”
He pulled the two edges open wider as Gandalf pressed down trying to restrain the hobbit. “Easy, my boy, it will be over soon,” he crooned into the pointed ear.
Frodo turned towards the much loved voice but continued to struggle, kicking his legs and swinging his head back and forth on the pillows. Elrond paused and shot a glare at his assistant, “Please see that he is still,” he chided softly.
“Yes, my Lord,” the young elf said, blushing.
Elrond again bent over the shoulder, “He is stronger than he looks,” he said by way of apology to the elf. Elrond nicked the abscess, forcing out the bloody pus. Balorian handed him a large wad of gauze and Elrond mopped the area thoroughly. “Balorian, the tincture, please,” he said without looking up. It was placed in his hand almost before the words had left his lips and Elrond smiled to himself at the elf’s foresight. He flushed the open wound with the liquid as Balorian sponged up the fluid before it could flow onto the sheets. The shoulder was the color of rusty metal by the time he had finished. He rinsed it a total of three times to ensure the wound was free of infection. A gauze pouch materialized in the air to his left and the elf Lord looked up at Balorian and gave the man a thankful smile. “Thank you, my friend.” It still amazed Elrond that Balorian possessed some strange ability to sense what he needed before he voiced it. With sudden clarity he realized it was much the same with the small gardener and the Ringbearer. He placed the pouch where the abscess had been moments previous and stitched the wound closed, leaving a small opening at the bottom where the tie to the pouch protruded. Once the wound was well on its way to being healed the bag of herbs would be pulled free of the surgical site and the skin would close over the small opening. Elrond gently washed the shoulder with antiseptic and stood, crossing to the basin to wash his hands. Afterwards, he dried them on a clean towel and went back to the bedside where Balorian was dressing the wound, and checked the Ringbearer’s pulse and breathing.
“How is his breathing? There seems to have been substantial blood loss looking at the toweling. What is his pulse? Is it elevated? Perhaps we should give him a pain killer to ensure he is more comfortable. Balorian, don’t forget to prop his arm and shoulder up on some pillows.”
Elrond shook his head as he grinned at Gandalf and Balorian, who wore similar grins. He turned towards Aragorn who sat perched on the side of the bed. A healer had propped the broken leg up on a pillow on a chair. Aragorn’s arms quaked with the effort to remain upright and he was very pale as his eyes roved over Frodo’s form.
“He is breathing shallowly, which he has been doing all along, despite my admonishments to do otherwise. There was significant blood loss, but we will keep him calm and give him fluids to help him regain what he has lost. His pulse is slightly elevated but that is to be expected considering how agitated he was, and it will return to normal while he is sedated. I will wait until he awakens to judge whether he requires additional pain killers. And, as you can see, Balorian has already padded and propped the arm up on pillows. Was there anything else, Estel?”
Aragorn blushed crimson before asking quietly, “How is his fever?”
Elrond burst out laughing and Gandalf and Balorian joined in. Elrond’s face became serious again, “It is higher than I would like. Deara will continue to bathe him in cool water. Now that the source of the fever is known and has been dealt with, he should be able to fight off the pneumonia and finally heal.” He sighed,” Now I need to see to my more troublesome patients,” he said with a glare.
Years of living under that very glare caused Aragorn’s stomach to roil. He laid back and prepared himself for the lecture he knew was to come. Elrond sat gracefully down beside the Ranger’s bed, “It is at times like these that I wish I had taken up smoking, Gandalf,” he said softly. Gandalf chuckled as he made himself more comfortable beside Frodo’s bedside. He took out his pipe but at a glance from Balorian, decided better of it.
“I will talk, you will listen, Estel,” Elrond said shortly. The elf Lord took a deep breath before he spoke, “What were you thinking?” he boomed. When Aragorn attempted to answer, Elrond held up his hand, “It was a rhetorical question. If you had fallen you could have crippled yourself for life. You do not seem to understand the gravity of your situation, my son. Odds are against you already of walking without a limp.” Aragorn’s eyes widened. “This was a severe break happening as it did, directly beneath the knee. It has been too soon to place any pressure or even for you to change position, for it to heal properly. I will examine it to ensure you have done no further harm, but unless you wish to forever walk with a cane and are unable to rest at night due to the ache in the limb, you will promise me that you will remain immobile until I say otherwise,” he said loudly. “I ask this out of love and concern for your own well-being, Estel. Please do not challenge my trust in you,” he added softly.
Elrond’s words struck a chord with the Ranger and he was touched by the concern on the face of his foster father. “I will do as you ask, Ada. I am sorry I caused you concern but I did promise Frodo that I would protect him, and to that I hold.”
“And why would you think we would allow any harm to befall him? His care is of utmost concern to all who dwell here,” Elrond asked.
“I heard him cry out,” Aragorn started to explain, but realized how foolish he must sound. His face fell, “I was not thinking clearly, Ada. I knew only that he was in distress and I needed to see for myself that he was being attended to,” he said quietly.
Elrond sighed as he rose slowly and folded back the blankets covering the broken leg. He frowned, as he saw how swollen the leg appeared above the break. He closed his eyes and said a silent prayer for both patience and that the limb would have no further damage.
He unwrapped the bandages slowly and looked closely at the break. He palpated the swelling causing Aragorn to draw in a hissed breath. The leg was red, perhaps due to the change in position but he could not detect a source of infection or smell, so he attributed the general puffiness to Aragorn’s stressing the limb before it was healed properly. He felt along the break, feeling the knitting bones beneath his fingers. He glanced at Aragorn and saw the jaw muscles jump as the man tried not to cry out. A light sheen of perspiration lay beaded on his foster son’s brow.
Elrond turned to Balorian and whispered a request. With a nod the healer left the room, returning moments later with a steaming surgical tray. Aragorn’s eyes widened and he laid his head back and grit his teeth, preparing himself for the worst. “Hold steady, Estel,” Elrond murmured. He quickly cut two of the stitches on the end of the incision and popped open the cut. Aragorn groaned but did not move. Elrond sprinkled some powdered arnica over the opening and gently squeezed the newly opened wound but nothing came forth. He took a small suture needle and meticulously restitched the opening before looking up at Aragorn, whose eyes were closed tightly. Elrond retrieved a hot towel from Balorian and wrapped it loosely around the leg. After examining his work he pulled a light coverlet over the limb. “Change the toweling every half hour and monitor him closely for fever,” he instructed. Balorian nodded that he understood. “Now we need to see to your comfort, Estel, then we will give you a tea to help you to rest…and keep you in bed,” Elrond said with a faint smile.
“I do not need anything for pain, Ada,” Aragorn said softly, his features saying otherwise.
“Hmm…nonetheless you will receive something and you will take it. There is no shame in requiring a painkiller. Pain is not a weakness, Estel,” the elf Lord said simply.
They removed the blankets below Aragorn’s waist and unfastened the make shift nappy. Aragorn’s coloring deepened at the indignantly. “I do not see why I am forced to endure this. I am perfectly able to see to my own needs.”
“I am sure Master Baggins would feel the same yet he too is attired thusly.”
“That is different. Frodo is not well enough to be up and about…”
“NO, it is NO different,” Elrond boomed, causing Aragorn to flinch.
“You have already proven what damage can be done by being “up and about!” You will do as I say, Estel, or face my wrath, which you know about from when you were a child in this Vale.”
Aragorn’s mouth snapped shut at the rebuke as Balorian washed his nether regions with a warm towel then placed a clean nappy around him. “You will remain still and supine. I will not tolerate further insolence. Later, I will enlist the hobbits to give you a bed bath and…” Aragorn’s eyes widened as he began to sputter a reply. “…you will accept their attentions graciously. They have offered this small token of their care and concern for a dear friend whom they love and admire and you will accept it in the spirit in which it was given,” Elrond said brusquely. Aragorn relaxed, realizing that his friends needed to care for someone just by the very nature of being hobbits. Since Frodo was already being tended to and they had been given limited access to him, he understood that, as their friend, they would naturally turn to him and his needs.
Elrond bent to within a few inches of his face, “If I hear of any further compliance issues Estel, I will have you sedated for the duration of your convalescence,” his foster father said threateningly. A look at Elrond’s face and his serious expression caused Aragorn’s stomach to lurch. He had never seen the elf Lord ‘joke’ about much of anything and he had no doubt that the threat was real and not to be challenged. Elrond turned with a sweep of his robes and strode from the room.
Balorian retrieved some stew and a slice of bread from the fire, placed it on a tray and pulled a table up to Aragorn’s bed. He raised the man’s head and shoulders, propping him up with pillows.
“Allow me, my good elf,” he heard from behind him.
“Of course, Mithrandir, I will retire to my laboratory unless you require anything else?” Gandalf waved the man away and Balorian shot the wizard a pitying look and rare smile as if to say, ‘better you than me’.
Gandalf returned the smile with a wink and made himself comfortable beside the Ranger. He stirred the stew before lifting a spoonful to Aragorn’s lips. Aragorn swallowed dutifully and had to admit that it tasted wonderful. “I can do this myself, Gandalf,” he said.
“Hmmph…I wonder,” Gandalf murmured. “Very well, I will leave you to it then, my friend.” He placed the tray across Aragorn’s lap, feigning indifference, as he pulled his pipe from his robes. He watched the Ranger out of the corner of his eye as he pretended to study his pipe, knowing he could not smoke in the room. Aragorn seemed barely able to lift his arms and with shaking hands, he tried to collect a spoonful of the stew. His forehead was creased in concentration as he lifted the spoon slowly towards his mouth. The spoon fell back into the bowl with a clatter, splashing stew over the coverlet. Aragorn uttered an oath and Gandalf smiled.
“It is frustrating to be so weak and helpless,” the Ranger bit out.
“It is indeed, but we have all been there. The trick is to know when to ask for help or to *accept* it when it is offered,” the wizard said softly. He replaced his pipe in his pocket, took up the spoon and began to feed the man. This time Aragorn accepted the help gratefully. Once finished, Gandalf retrieved the tea Balorian had left warming by the fire. He touched the cup to Aragorn’s lips but the Ranger turned away. “Remember Elrond’s instructions, my boy, or do you truly wish to lie insensate when perhaps Frodo needs you most?”
Aragorn looked over at Frodo who lay in much the same position as before, the pale forehead creased in pain, before opening his mouth and swallowing the tea. His eyes never left his roommate even when they became unfocused and distant. Once the tea was gone a spoonful of the medicinal strawberry concoction was slipped between his lips which he swallowed reflexively. Gandalf eased the pillows out from behind the man and made him comfortable. Soon Aragorn’s eyes slipped closed and at last, he slept.
Gandalf sighed, “Spare me from stubborn hobbits and humans,” he mumbled. He nodded to the remaining elf and left the room to finally have a smoke.
Long hours later the same elf knocked on Elrond’s door. The elf Lord slowly opened his eyes. He had been resting in the manner of the elves and enjoying a tranquil stroll in his mind, through a verdant valley. He rose from his chair and opened the door.
“My Lord, Aragorn’s fever has risen,” the elf said briefly before turning and walking back to Aragorn’s room.
Elrond pinched the bridge of his nose. He was weary and these two patients were beginning to not only tax his strength but his patience as well. He followed the elf healer to Aragorn and Frodo’s room and stopped at Aragorn’s bedside. The man twisted in the bed, first pulling the blankets up then pushing them away as he tried to become more comfortable, groaning as the heat rolled off of him.
Elrond placed his hand across Aragorn’s forehead and the Ranger stilled briefly, relishing the coolness. “Estel,” Elrond whispered. “Estel,” he said more loudly, but the man merely batted him away as he would an annoying insect. Gandalf sat silently by the bedside, his unlit pipe resting in his hands. “How long has he been like this?” Elrond asked.
“Less than an hour, my Lord,” the healer replied.
Elrond pushed aside the blankets and examined the leg but not seeing any further swelling, he recovered it. “Sponge him down and try to get some liquids into him. If his condition worsens we will take more drastic measures,” he instructed. The healer nodded and set about retrieving what was needed. Elrond washed his hands before going to Frodo’s bedside. “How does he fare?” he asked Deara who sat beside the hobbit with a cloth and basin of water.
“He is in some pain, my Lord, and has developed a fever as well,” she said as she washed Frodo’s torso and arms.
“This is to be expected, but if it rises significantly, call me. We need to coax some liquids into him plus the pain killing teas, if he can be roused.”
“I will try, my Lord. Balorian is already bringing me some tea for both Frodo and Aragorn,” she replied.
“Very well, but if we are unable to get them to drink it, we will have to take other measures to ensure they remain hydrated and get the medicines they need.”
Deara winced, knowing of what the Lord of Imladris referred to. Should either patient awaken while Elrond was conducting the procedure there would be a war to rival the second age. “I worry that the fever will linger and further weaken him,” she whispered.
Gandalf stood beside Elrond and looked down at the hobbit lad who was so dear to him. “He is a stubborn and willful Baggins, I have no doubt he will recover fully, my dear,” he chuckled. He looked at Elrond closely, “and how are you, my friend?”
Elrond smiled, “Wondering about your soon-to-be journey across Middle Earth with such stubborn and contrary traveling companions, Mithrandir.”
The smile fled the wizard’s face as he glanced between the two patients. “Hmm…I may have been hasty in volunteering my services,” he murmured. Elrond left the room but as he walked down the hallway, Gandalf heard the elf erupt into uncharacteristic laughter.
The Honorary Hobbit
Frodo opened his eyes slowly, trying to orient himself but all he could see was darkness. He listened, barely breathing, and heard whispering and a low moaning somewhere nearby. Where am I? he thought to himself. He tried to lift his head and gasped as pain ripped through his shoulder. The left side of his body throbbed, so much so that he could feel his gorge rise. After a few minutes, his stomach settled somewhat and, breathing deeply, he slowly turned his head on the pillow. Beside his bed, napping in a stiff backed chair, sat Deara. Rivendell…Elrond’s house… he remembered. He was so sleepy that his eyes began to close of their own volition. He tried to swallow and panicked when his tongue became stuck to the roof of his mouth; his throat making an odd clicking noise which triggered a cough. A shock of pain lanced through his body and he couldn’t help but cry out. Deara snapped awake, instantly by his side with a cup of cool water and whispered words of reassurance.
“There you are at last, my friend,” she murmured, as she slowly lifted him from the pillow and brought the cup to his lips. But the movement sent another shock wave of pain through him and Frodo’s vision dimmed and somewhere he could hear someone scream. Me? he realized numbly. He almost blacked out, wished that he could, but Deara held him steady until the worst agony was over with and then offered him the cup again.
He drank deeply and she pulled the cup away to keep him from gulping the liquid and possibly vomiting it back up. “Slowly, dear one,” she whispered. Then the cup was back and he tried to force himself to take small sips. When she took the cup away again, he groaned in frustration. She smiled, “We will give you more in a few moments, I promise,” she said quietly. She gently placed two pillows behind him to keep him slightly upright. It caused his shoulder to pull and throb and he squeezed his eyes closed as a heavy sheen of perspiration beaded his brow. He grit his teeth, trying to bear the agony while she adjusted the pillows under his shoulder to be more even with his torso. When at last his shoulder was in position, Deara returned to his right side. She washed his face and torso, “I am sorry to cause you more pain, little one,” she murmured.
“It is no matter,” he replied flatly.
Deara looked into the pain filled eyes, “Of course it matters, Frodo. I would see you well again and able to enjoy the beauty of Imladris.” Frodo made no comment; his eyes only stared at her blankly. She smiled, “I have reason to believe that Lord Elrond will allow you another attempt to explore with your cousins and gardener once you are healed.”
Frodo huffed bitterly, “Why? So I can fall off a cliff or cause another injury to one of my friends? I have more than proven how accident prone I am and how dangerous it is to go on an outing with me. Just ask Aragorn…I imagine he will gracefully bow out of any hobbit walking parties in the future.”
“Frodo, you’re feeling sorry for yourself,” Deara chided. “Accidents will happen and just because your first outing was filled with unfortunate events does not mean that another would be also.” Frodo rolled his eyes and turned away from her, the reassurances falling on deaf ears. He had always been a bit clumsy and was determined to not chance another hike until their departure. “I have some tea to help alleviate your pain and some broth to strengthen you,” she said watching his face in concern. There was no reaction so she rose and retrieved the soup and tea and returned to his side. Frodo dutifully drank the tea and was grateful as it further slaked his thirst. Then Deara slowly spooned the broth into his mouth and was pleased that he ate all that she had. Finally, she gave him a spoonful of the antibiotic laced with mashed strawberries and watched as he licked his lips afterwards in appreciation. “Once I change your nappy, you can rest,” she said softly.
Frodo’s eyes flew open, “Nappy?” he squeaked.
“We had to use one since you were unable to use the chamber pot,” she explained, noting the Ringbearer’s high color. “There is no reason to be embarrassed, Frodo, I am a healer and well used to such things,” she reassured.
“I am not!” Frodo exclaimed. “This is humiliating. I am so very tired of being sick and having everyone care for me,” he cried, a single tear ran down his cheek.
“It will be over with quickly, I promise,” she said softly.
Frodo whipped his head around, “Could I not *TRY* to use the chamber pot on my own?” he begged.
She smiled, “I can bring a bed pan and we could see how that goes, but you should concentrate your energies towards healing.”
‘See how it goes’…Frodo almost laughed aloud at the play on words, but he instantly sobered when he heard what Deara said next.
“We will still need to remove the nappy and clean you, Frodo.”
Frodo’s mouth dropped open, “Could Sam do it?” he pleaded.
Deara smiled, “As you wish, Frodo, allow me to find him.” She left and Frodo sighed in relief. It was one thing to have a male see your privates…that was embarrassing enough, but to have an Elf? And a lady Elf at that? No self-respecting gentle hobbit would ever allow such a thing. Frodo thought of all the days and nights he had been ill and unaware … he shook his head, trying to dispel the images brought forth.
Sam, Merry and Pippin had been forbidden into Frodo’s room for days while Elrond assessed whether the pneumonia was contagious or not, so Deara had barely had time to request their presence before they rushed out the door and down the hall towards Frodo’s room, leaving an uneaten meal behind. Sam raced to his Master’s side and Frodo smiled weakly up at him. “Oh Sam, I cannot thank you enough,” Frodo exclaimed in relief.
Deara smiled widely, “Master Baggin’s would prefer your taking care of his personal needs over myself, little Masters.” Frodo stammered an apology, afraid he had offended the healer. She held up her hand, “I quite understand, Frodo, and I am not offended,” she reassured before gracefully bowing to all and closing the door behind her.
“Mr. Merry, fetch some nice warm water and add some lavender to it, would you? Mr. Pippin, would you warm some towels by the fire?” Sam said, taking charge. Both of Frodo’s cousins jumped into action, thankful to finally be of service. “Now Master, let’s get you out of this thing,” Sam said gently. He climbed up on the bed, careful not to jostle Frodo, and pushed the covers aside.
“This is so humiliating,” Frodo groaned.
“Nonsense cousin, you changed my nappies often enough,” Pip chirped.
“Yes, but you were a bit younger, Pip,” Frodo moaned.
Sam expertly unpinned the cloth and peeled it off of Frodo. Frodo blushed purple in embarrassment.
“Now, I know you’re worryin’ more about me than yourself, Mr. Frodo, and that’s just plain silly. This doesn’t bother me a wit, so you just get them feelin’s outta yer mind, sir,” Sam murmured. He set the dirty nappy aside and took the warm lavender scented flannel from Merry and gently washed Frodo’s front and back. Frodo hissed and Sam abruptly stopped. “Am I hurtin’ ya, Master?” he asked in alarm.
“It stings a little but the warmth feels wonderful,” Frodo said.
“’Shouldn’t sting, sir,” Sam said, looking closely at Frodo’s backside. Frodo’s blush deepened as his gardener scrutinized his privates. “Looks like you’ve got a bit of a rash, sir,” Sam muttered.
Frodo gasped,“I have nappy rash? Oh my stars, please just kill me now, I have never been more mortified,” he exclaimed.
Merry grinned and Pip was trying hard not to giggle. “Well, at least it’s not Deara examining your bottom, Frodo,” Merry said brightly.
Frodo moaned, astounded that he could be any more embarrassed. “We’ll jes put a little cream on there then maybe some powder, sir, and you’ll be right as rain,” Sam was saying cheerfully. Frodo groaned again, his face now a dusky purple. “Mr. Pippin, hand me that athelas salve that Mr. Balorian has been using on Strider, please,” he asked. Pip retrieved it off the table and Sam withdrew a large dollop and applied it to Frodo’s backside and front. “Now we just need some cornstarch…”
“I’ll get it, Sam,” Pip exclaimed. He opened the door and yelled in what seemed to Frodo to be a very loud bellow, for Balorian. Frodo tried to shrink even further under his blankets as he thought seriously about putting on the Ring and disappearing. “Oh, Mistress Deara, do you have any cornstarch?” Pippin called. Frodo pulled a pillow out from under his head and covered his face. “Thank you, Deara,” Pip was saying.
“Can I be of assistance, Master Took?” Frodo heard the healer ask. The voice sounded very close to the bed.
“NO!” Frodo yelled, muffling his voice with the pillow.
Deara grinned widely and left the room. Merry was having a very hard time controlling his laughter, even going so far as to cover his mouth with both hands. Frodo felt a breeze hit his bottom as the cornstarch was applied.
“Before I pin ya sir, would you like to use the cup?” Sam asked quietly.
“Uggh…yes Sam, thank you,” came a muffled reply.
Sam held the cup while Frodo tried to urinate with no success. “Mr. Merry, could you pour some water into that pan over there, real slow like?” Sam asked. Frodo was sure there was no way he could feel any worse. As Merry poured the water, making a loud tinkling sound, Frodo sighed in relief as he voided.
Once it was done, Sam began to pin a clean nappy on him when Frodo popped his head out from under the blankets,” Deara said I could use the bed pan and wouldn’t need the nappy anymore,” Frodo whined.
“Beggin’ yer pardon,sir, but with nappy rash, you’ll need the nappy a little while longer,” Sam explained slowly.
“Oh botheration!” Frodo stormed, ducking back under the covers.
“There, all done Master. Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?” Sam said.
Frodo popped his head out, incredulous that Sam could say such a thing. Merry and Pip were grinning while Sam, oblivious to his Master’s agape expression, climbed off the bed and went to wash his hands. “That’ll do until next time, I think,” Sam said, his back turned towards Frodo. Merry could stand it no longer and burst into gales of laughter as he looked at the stunned, tousled and wide eyed visage of Frodo Baggins, gentlehobbit of the Shire. Frodo shot him a withering glare.
“Your bottom sure was red, cousin Frodo,” Pip said innocently.
After seeing to Frodo, the three small caregivers went to Aragorn’s bedside. The man tossed and turned, leaving behind a large sweaty swath on the pillow. The Ranger mumbled, locked in some nether dream known only by the fevered sick.
“He sure is sweaty,” Pippin said. He bent and sniffed the bed, “and he smells bad,” he added.
Merry nudged Pip, “It’s not like he can help it, Pip!”
Pippin blushed, “I was just wondering when we could give him another bath, is all,” he retorted.
“Now would be a good time, Master Took,” came a voice from behind him. All three jumped and Merry silently cursed the stealthiness of elves. Two more elves materialized behind Elrond placing a large tub in the middle of the floor. They began heating kettles of water as another elf filled the tub about a third full of cold water. Elrond added some myrrh and eucalyptus to the bath and the hobbits all breathed in deeply at the aroma. Frodo eyed the tub longingly.
“Could I take a bath too, Lord Elrond?” Frodo asked quietly, his eyes lingering on the steaming tub.
Elrond smiled at the Ringbearer, “I do not see why not, Frodo. Moving you will be painful though, little one, and of course this tub is too awkwardly shaped to accommodate your shoulder in a comfortable position. I will confer with Master Balorian for his suggestions on how we might achieve our goal.”
“I can tolerate the pain as long as I can finally feel truly clean again,” Frodo said, his eyes looking longingly at the fragrant water so close yet so far from his sick bed.
“Very well, once Aragorn has had his bath we will arrange one for you, Ringbearer,” Elrond said with a bow of his head.
A chair was brought and situated by the side of the tub and pillows were placed on it. Two different elves entered the room and the coverlet was removed along with Aragorn’s nappy, then they effortlessly moved the Ranger to the tub, slowly lowering him into the steaming bath as Elrond supported Aragorn’s leg. Aragorn sighed as the water touched his skin, relaxing into the water’s embrace.
“We can take it from here, sirs,” Sam said with authority.
Elrond and the elves smiled, “I will have one of my elves within earshot should you require assistance, little Masters.” They then bowed and, after the hobbits had returned the gesture, the entourage left the room, closing the door behind them.
“Well, let’s get at it, sirs. Mr. Merry would you put some towels by the fire please?”
“Right Sam,” Merry jumped up to do as bid.
“Mr. Pippin, mayhap you could strip the bed whilst I begin washing Strider’s upper body.”
“Happy to,” Pip chirped, pleased that he had such an important task.
Sam placed a towel about Strider’s groin to give the man some small amount of dignity before lathering a flannel and beginning to wash the man’s torso, neck, face and ears.
Strider’s eyes slowly opened. He looked about him as he tried to get his bearings before looking up at his caregiver, “Samwise,” he acknowledged softly, blushing.
“Yes sir, Mr. Strider.” Sam said softly.
“I believe you have me at a disadvantage, my friend,” the Ranger croaked, his blush deepening.
“Yes sir, it appears so,” Sam whispered with a smile. “You jes’ lay back while we get you cleaned up and more comfortable, Strider,” he said softly, never faltering as he continued to rinse the soap from the long arms.
“He’s awake!” Merry exclaimed and both he and Pip ran to the tub, entering the man’s field of view.
“Gentlemen,” Strider acknowledged with a nod, blushing darker.
“Strider, it is so good to see you! Well, *see* you wasn’t what I meant exactly though we certainly *can* see almost all of you…” Pippin prattled. Merry jabbed Pippin with his elbow and gave him a look that clearly said Pip had gone too far. Strider turned purple, took a deep breath and fixed his eyes on the ceiling.
“I’m sorry if I embarrassed you, Strider. But we are all males here, even if you are a good deal *larger* than us which is natural seeing as you’re a man and we’re hobbits and all. It’s not like you haven’t seen *us* often enough, I mean poor old Frodo has been seen by almost *everyone*. I bet Deara could practically *sketch* his privates by heart….”
“PIPPIN!!!” Merry and Frodo yelled at the same time.
Strider smiled widely knowing that Pippin was really *trying* to make him feel more at ease, but was helpless to control what came out of his mouth. “Frodo? Are you well, my friend?” Strider asked out loud.
“I am much better, thank you Aragorn.” Frodo’s voice reflected that he was still bemoaning his cousin’s remarks.
Pippin blushed, “Frodo, I was only trying to say…”
“I think you have said enough, Pip,” Merry glared at him.
Sam had almost burst out laughing while Pippin had made his remarks, coloring at some of the details, but had held his peace. While Strider had been preoccupied he had washed the man’s genitalia, legs and feet. The broken leg had been tended to with utmost care and Strider was touched by how gentle the small gardener was.
“Aragorn, I am so sorry that any of this happened. I cannot express how badly I feel about…” Frodo began in earnest.
“You are not responsible for any of my injuries, Frodo,” the Ranger exclaimed. “It was mere happenstance that all occurred as it did. Please be at peace, I do not want you worrying and wondering ‘what if’ or ‘if I had only’ when it will avail you nothing. Please, my friend, or I will be most distraught,” Aragorn said the last hoping Frodo would act true to form and avoid anything that would cause another to feel *distraught*. It worked, as he heard the hobbit gasp. He smiled to himself realizing how well he knew the inner workings of each of these small individuals even though they had been companions only for a short while. They wear their hearts on their sleeves unlike men who endeavor to secrete all of their feelings and emotions, he thought in wonder. He looked up at Sam and the gardener was smiling down at him aware of the man’s careful manipulations.
“Oh..I didn’t mean to…” Frodo sighed. “It is only that mishaps seem to follow me wherever I go. I must be the unluckiest hobbit ever,” he moaned.
“Nonsense, you should have more faith in yourself, my friend. I for one am honored to be considered your friend, and would feel privileged to hike with you anywhere and at any time,” Aragorn murmured groggily, his eyes slowly closing.
“I feel the same, Aragorn. Aragorn?”
“He’s fallen asleep, Mr. Frodo. I’m sure you can talk to him a little later, sir” Sam said if he isn’t delirious with fever again, he thought to himself.
“Oh,” Frodo whispered. “How is he really, Sam? And how did he get to my room?”
Sam sighed, not wanting to cause his Master further worry before deciding there was nothing for it. He recited the story of how Strider had trekked on his crutches down the hallway, the loud lecture from Elrond and finally the fever that had resulted from Strider’s activities. Frodo listened intently, his worry for his friend intensifying, but he said nothing, knowing he would be faced with more of the same platitudes from his friends. He sighed and lay back against his pillows. He knew who was really responsible for Aragorn’s injuries and resulting sickness.
Not hearing any response from Frodo, Merry looked over at his cousin, but Frodo’s face was turned away from him. He sighed knowing his cousin well enough to see that Frodo was berating himself over all that had happened.
“There, that does it, except for the hair,” Sam said. While he had been explaining all of what had taken place, Merry and Pip had gently rolled Strider to his side so they could wash the Ranger’s back. “Let’s bail some of this soap scum dirty water and replace it with more hot, what do you think?” Pip and Merry nodded and retrieved the pails left by the elves. While Sam went to the elf at the doorway and requested more hot water, the others bailed the water out and dumped it off the balcony. Three elves entered and carefully added the hot water as Sam stirred the tub to make sure Strider didn’t get burned. He thanked them and they bowed and left the room.
While Merry and Pip supported Strider’s shoulders, Sam thoroughly washed and rinsed the Ranger’s scalp, his smaller hands artfully working through the tangles. “Mayhap we should make up his bed, sirs, and what say we add a fluffy quilt so’s he has some more padding for his back?”
“Good idea, Sam,” Merry said before running to a closet and pulling a soft blanket from within while Pip grabbed sheets and more blankets. They positioned themselves on opposite sides of the huge bed and managed to achieve their task after only a few tries. They spread the fluffy quilt on the bed and rolled the other comforters to the end. Pip pummeled the pillows as Merry crawled around the headboard trying to make the sheet as tight as possible. Sam signaled he was ready and Pippin retrieved the elves to move Strider from the bath to the warmed towels. All three descended upon the man, rubbing him down vigorously before pulling a nightshirt over the Strider’s head. Finally, Sam retrieved a brush and combed out the man’s long hair. The elves smiled at the sight of the three small beings taking such gentle care of Elrond’s foster son. Once done, the elves carried Strider to the awaiting bed while Sam and Merry carried the broken leg. Strider and his leg were settled and covered with a light blanket just as Elrond entered the room.
He crossed to the bed, placing a hand on Aragorn’s forehead and closed his eyes. He smiled, “I should have a team of hobbit healers at my disposal all of the time, it would seem. His fever is down and he appears to be quite comfortable, my friends.” His face became serious and he knelt down so he could talk to them on their own level. “I am very grateful for the gentle, loving care you have given to Aragorn. He is fortunate to have such devoted friends.”
All three hobbits blushed and bowed to the elf leader. “It was our honor to help him, Lord Elrond. He has repeatedly shown his quality taking care of my cousin Frodo.” Merry replied solemnly.
Elrond smiled and rose, “Please join us for luncheon, then perhaps you would enjoy a small tour of the kitchens and gardens,” he said.
Their eyes lit up and after making sure Strider was tucked in proper, they all went to Frodo’s bedside. Even though Frodo’s eyes were closed and he slept, there were dried tear tracks on his face, showing the three how worried their friend was about Strider.
Merry stretched up on his tippy toes and placed a kiss on his cousin’s forehead, “You’re next, Cousin,” he said softly. Each followed suit, Pippin whispering, “get better soon, Frodo,” and Sam “we’ll be back in a shake, sir,” before they quit the room and made their way to the kitchens.
Elrond smiled, looking at both of his patients and murmured, “Perhaps my services are not needed after all, as long as there are hobbits to care for you.” He closed the door and followed the sound of laughter and chatter towards the kitchens.
Chapter 21 Forays of Foolishness
After hearing the door snick closed Frodo slowly opened his eyes and looked around the room. He glanced over at Aragorn and saw that although the man’s face was damp with perspiration, he appeared to be relaxed and resting quietly, temporarily cooled by his bath. Frodo laid there for some time, carefully assessing his hurts and ills. His shoulder throbbed; a pain that seemed to continue without end. He lift his head and immediately wished he hadn’t as the room spun in and out of focus. He groaned and took slow, deep breathes as he tried to control the ensuing nausea. Slowly, he lowered his head back to the pillow.
From his right he heard a small groan and he turned and watched as Aragorn tossed his head back and forth on his pillow. His friend was in pain and Frodo felt helpless being so far across the room. “If only I could help him in some way,” he mused. “And why not? He sacrificed himself to protect me when that limb broke. He could have *died* giving no thought to his own safety.” A moan caused Frodo to push himself slowly up so he could see the Ranger clearly. Aragorn’s face was beaded with sweat, his brow furled in pain, as he licked dry lips. “Confound it, where are those healers when you actually want them about?” Frodo muttered, looking towards the door and listening for the too quiet foot falls common to the Elves. As he continued to watch the Ranger he saw something that nearly broke his heart; a single tear broke free from the man’s left eye and trailed slowly down his face into the pillow. Frodo gasped, “That’s IT… I cannot simply lie here when he needs medicine and someone to comfort him.” He looked towards the door again, in hopes that it would swing open, pouring forth healers and orderlies to see to Aragorn’s every whim. Nothing.
Frodo looked at his arm in disgust and then scanned the area around him for something he could use as a sling. His face lit up and he pulled one of the pillows from behind his head and stuffing it under his chin, he pulled off the casing. He had to try a several times to fold the cover one handed into a triangle before bringing it to his mouth to hold while he tied the corner. Sweat ran down his face but he stubbornly slipped it over his head, clenched his teeth and slowly moved his left arm towards his chest. He almost lost consciousness and had to take several breathes to clear his vision and quell the nausea. He laid back panting and blinking away the encroaching darkness. He bit his lip hard, bringing blood but also clearing his sight. He resumed his efforts crying out as the shoulder slipped from the supporting pillow. He closed his eyes, gasping for air, before gritting his teeth and grasping the left arm with his right, maneuvered the arm into the sling. He lay back and rested for many minutes as the sweat rolled off of him.
Slowly he raised his head, bracing his right arm close to his body, to make an attempt to rise. The arm quavered and collapsed and Frodo cried out again as a jolt went through the shoulder. Another moan of distress from Aragorn caused a surge of adrenaline to flow through him and holding the injured arm close to his body, he rolled to the right pushing with his feet. He grasped the table with his hand and swung his feet over the edge clasping the sheet tightly, and slowly lowered his feet to the floor. The room whirled as he clutched at the table with all his might before losing the battle with his stomach and heaving repeatedly onto himself and the floor. Gasping, he reached out a trembling hand towards a glass of water but as he touched it, it tipped, falling with a clatter and spilling most of its contents. He grasped the cup and brought it to his mouth, capturing the last swallow and washing the bitterness from his mouth. His legs wobbled, threatening to fold under him at any moment, and he leaned heavily against the bed and began to shuffle slowly around it, grasping the blankets and sheets for dear life.
The room seemed fuzzy around the edges and it swung in and out of view so he closed his eyes as he walked. “I’m so weak,” he whispered to himself, before smiling wanly, “Good thing Merry and Pip aren’t here or I’d never hear the end of the old jokes. Merry always did say I was a lollygagger.” His left foot stubbed against the bed post and reflexively, both hands shot out to grasp the bedding. Frodo screamed into the blankets as pain lanced through his shoulder. His vision darkened and before he would have lost consciousness, he weakly clamped down on his lower lip, biting it savagely. Blood ran down his chin as he turned glazed eyes towards his goal. Aragorn moaned as he fussed with his blankets…one minute pulling them close, the next pushing them away as the fever burned within him. Frodo knew he needed to get closer in order to cross the two or three feet between a small table and Aragorn’s bed. If he could only make it to the table, he would be close enough to touch the man.
Having recovered enough to continue on, Frodo resumed his slow progress around the bed. Unbeknownst to Frodo, his shoulder now bled freely, the trip over the bed post and sudden grasping of the covers had caused muscle to tear and had torn free all of the meticulously tied sutures Lord Elrond had just placed in the injured shoulder. Frodo was completely unaware of the trail of blood he was leaving behind him as the linen nightshirt became saturated. He began to chant to himself “step, slide, step, slide” in an attempt to focus on moving and working past the pain. He moved in a dazed trance as pain and exhaustion slowly robbed him of conscious thought. He stepped forward finding that there was nowhere else to go, realizing he had made it around his bed. He leaned back, still grasping his comforter as he attempted to judge the distance to Aragorn’s bedside table. He took a deep breath and willed his legs to be strong enough for the two or three steps it would take to reach his goal. He let go of his blanket and held his breath as his legs shook, threatening to fold from under him at any moment. He lunged towards the table just as they traitorously gave out beneath him, catching the edge of the table and pulling himself upright. He leaned heavily against the table, catching his breath before reaching out and grasping Aragorn’s bed post and pulling himself towards the man. He leaned against the bed, slowly taking the damp rag floating in the basin of water, and gently began to wash away the sweat from Aragorn’s face and neck.
Aragorn stilled, sensing that someone was near then his eyes slowly cracked open and locked with Frodo’s. “Frodo?” he asked weakly.
“Shh, let me make you more comfortable, Strider,” Frodo gasped. The door swung open and Elrond and Gandalf entered. Stunned silence filled the room as the Istari and Elf Lord took in the sight of the blankets on the floor, the smell of vomit and the blossoming blood stain on the Ringbearer’s shoulder. Their mouths hung open speechless, as Frodo gave them a wan smile, “I know you’re angry, but look---I made it here all by myself,” he said proudly, before his eyes rolled up into his head and he collapsed onto the floor.
Chaos ensued as Elves rushed about bringing coppers of water that were placed on the fire, rushing to store rooms for bandages and medicines and hurriedly stripping dirty linens from the bed to be replaced with clean. Merry, Pippin and Sam appeared on the threshold and watched with wide eyes the uncharacteristic sight of frantic and noisy elves. Sam looked desperately about for Frodo as a white faced Deara ran passed him. Merry and Pippin crossed to Aragorn’s bedside, trying to stay out of the melee only to almost trip over the Lord of the house as he crouched over something on the floor. When the Elf swung his head around to see who had approached, both hobbits took a step backwards as the stormy countenance locked eyes with them. Sam joined them, his eyes slowly drifting towards the floor and taking in the bloody body of his Master.
“Master Frodo!” he cried in alarm.
Merry and Pippin saw their unconscious cousin on the floor a heartbeat after Sam. All three lunged towards Frodo, trying to get past Elrond as Gandalf intervened, physically corralling and pushing them towards the door. Sam fought him and Gandalf came to a sudden halt giving him a shake. “NO, Samwise!” He thundered. All three hobbits recoiled, clinging to one another in fear. Gandalf softened his voice and gave them a tired smile. “No, my friends, you need to leave until we can assess the damage your unruly cousin has wrought.” Sam’s face turned purple as he gathered his breath for a rebuttal but Gandalf placed his hand on the young gardener’s shoulder, “You will have to trust me, Samwise. You cannot rush in and take care of him this time. I will call for you once we have all in order.” Then the wizard was gone, leaving three stunned hobbits in the hallway, the door securely locked between them and their cousin.
“What is happening? I saw Frodo…where did he go?” Aragorn rasped, the noise causing him to become increasingly agitated. Even over the din, Elrond’s acute hearing caught his foster son’s cries. He motioned to Deara and she forced a smile on her face as she sat down by Aragorn’s bedside. She moistened the rag and wiped the Ranger’s forehead. The man’s eyes were closed as he put forth his questions. He slowly opened his eyes and looked up at her. “Why…where did he go?” Taking in the cacophony and general chaos as Elves rushed in and out, calling loudly to each other, he became more lucid. “Deara, what has happened?” he asked in a demanding voice. He looked towards Frodo’s bed and saw the bed was freshly made but Frodo was absent. An elf was walking towards the door carrying what looked like bloody linens. Aragorn felt a jolt run through him as he came full awake. “What has happened to him? Where is he, Deara?” he all but shouted.
She tried to allay his fears by talking quietly in reassuring tones, but Aragorn had used the same techniques on agitated patients and knew that it was usually used to avoid answering serious questions and to keep a patient calm.
Hearing his son’s voice become more frantic, Elrond slowly rose from the floor and into Aragorn’s vision. The Ranger looked at him in confusion then Gandalf rose, a white bundle in his arms. As Aragorn watched, blood slowly crept over the white linen. “Frodo!” he gasped, as Gandalf turned, moving towards the freshly made bed. “Ada?”
Elrond laid the back of his hand on Aragorn’s brow and frowned. “My son, Frodo made his way to your bedside, no doubt sensing your distress and wishing to alleviate some of your discomfort…how he found the strength to do so his beyond me.”
“Even now, you do not realize just how stubborn and determined our Ringbearer is,” Gandalf said gruffly.
Elrond gave the wizard a grim look but his eye held a spark of humor. “Aragorn, you must trust us to care for him. You need your rest to fight your own illness, therefore I have decided to have you sedated or you will worry needlessly.”
“No Ada, I want to know what is happening! I will remain awake,” Aragorn insisted.
“Not this time, my son,” Elrond said and retrieving a rose colored vial of liquid from the table. “Mithrandir, if you would assist me please?”
“Of course, my friend,” Gandalf said softly.
Aragorn’s eyes flicked between the two imposing figures feeling cornered but his mind felt foggy with fever and he realized he was too weak to fight them. Elrond tipped the flask into his mouth and Aragorn swallowed dutifully. The Elf lord frowned, Aragorn must be feeling worse than he thought to have taken his medicine without a struggle or further argument. He looked up at Gandalf and saw the same thought echoed on the Istari’s face. “I need to examine him but I must see to Frodo first. Perhaps you could examine him for me and help me determine the cause of this relentless fever, Gandalf?”
“I do have some limited skills…of course, go see to Frodo, I will take care of our stubborn Ranger and let you know of my findings.”
Elrond smiled at the wizards false modesty before rushing to Frodo’s bedside. He looked down at the perfect white face. Frodo had been cut out of his dressing gown so as not to cause further damage to the injured shoulder. The wound was covered by a gauze bandage that had already become soaked through with bright red blood. Elrond crossed to the basin and washed his hands before motioning to Balorian to attend him. The healer retrieved a suturing tray and followed Elrond to the bed. Elrond drew back the gauze and sighed. The wound was oozing blood but it seemed to be slowing. He motioned to Deara and she was immediately by his side. Her face was pale as she spoke.
“My Lord, this is my fault. I should have never left the Ringbearer unattended. Please forgive me.”
Elrond’s eyebrows rose comically. “I hardly think that you are responsible for Master Baggins's misguided performance. He may seem small to us, but he is an adult and therefor responsible for his own actions. He should not need to be watched as if he were a child, Deara.” When Deara tried to explain further Elrond stopped her with a raised hand, “Frodo, no doubt, thought Aragorn was in need and not seeing anyone attending him, acted without regard to his own well-being. It was an honorable act, however foolhardy.”
“If I had been here he would not have had to make such a foolish decision,” Deara replied sadly.
“You cannot be all things to all beings, Deara. I do not hold you accountable and there is no reason for you to feel guilt by what has occurred,” Elrond said with a reassuring smile. He took up the needle and thread and turned back to her, “would you administer a small dose of the ether please. This will be quite painful for Frodo so I would like him to remain unconscious if possible.”
“Yes, my Lord, and thank you,” Deara said with a small smile. She felt better knowing that Elrond did not hold her to blame but still felt responsible just the same.
She cracked the window and placed the cup over Frodo’s nose and mouth and gradually, drop by drop poured the ether onto the mask. After a few moments, Elrond began stitching the small tear in the muscle. Once the tear was repaired the bleeding stopped and he began carefully restitching his previous sutures in the original Morgul wound. Afterwards, he cleaned the wound thoroughly, checking for any other damage, the shoulder was bandaged with a thick pad held in place by long strips of gauze. He washed the shoulder clean of blood and gazed down at the pale face. “Alas Ringbearer, you will not be seeing the bath houses as promised, for many days,” he murmured.
“I will sponge bathe him my Lord,” Deara said with a confused glance, not understanding.
“Yes, but Master Baggins had much desired a real bath. Unfortunately, this little foray will force me to cancel the promised soak. Prepare a hearty broth with extra salt and meat. We need to replace the blood lost and rebuild his strength. He needs to drink more water and juices as well. I will leave you to take care of this for me,” Elrond said. Deara nodded in understanding.
“Elrond, I believe I have determined the source of Aragorn’s fever,” Gandalf called from Aragorn’s bedside.
Elrond left Frodo in Deara’s care noting that the room had returned to its former state. No sign of the previous chaos remained the blood and trampled linens having been removed. He walked to the Ranger’s bedside and looked into the sad eyes of his wizard friend. Gandalf slowly rolled Aragorn onto his side and the elf Lord recoiled at what he saw. Along the Ranger’s spine the decubitus that they had been treating had festered and now thick yellow pus slowly drained from the obviously infected wounds.
The Herald of Gil-Galad
“How is this possible?” Elrond cried in dismay, bending closer to inspect the wounds. The sour smell of the festering sores attacked his olfactory senses and he drew back suddenly. His face clouded as anger suffused the usually serene face, coloring it to a dusky purple. He rose slowly and Gandalf took a step back, alarmed at his friend’s demeanor. He would not have spoken if his very life depended on it seeing the tension of the Elf Lord’s body and the barely concealed tremor of his hands. The hobbits saw the change in their host as well and they drew closer together, trying to make themselves smaller and less conspicuous. Pippin began to shake in fear and the other two hobbits moved closer to him to lend him comfort. Deara bowed her head closer to Frodo’s, thankful she would not be the one to receive the full measure of the Master’s wrath.
The Lord of Imladris rose to his full height and called out in a deafening voice heard throughout the valley and Gandalf mused that this was only the second such time he had witnessed the Herald of Gil-Galad in all his magnificent and terrifying form, both episodes within their short stay in Rivendell.
All within the room covered their ears in shock, the hobbits crying out in pain and fear. Pippin began to whimper to himself and Merry put his arm around his smaller cousin in comfort. Even Frodo, drugged though he was, jumped and cried out, nearly brought to consciousness by the roar. Sam shot a disapproving glare at Elrond before moving to comfort his Master. Merry marveled at Sam’s devotion to Frodo and the gardener’s braveness.
“HEALERS TO ME!!!” Elrond roared. He gave Sam and the others an apologetic look. The normally silent footfalls of Elves became a thundering stampede as all concerned with the care of the Ringbearer and Aragorn converged on the two patients’ room. All bore looks of worry and fear to hear the Master so angered. What could have happened to bring about the explosion of vitriol from the Lord of the valley? Each bowed as they entered and soon the room was full, the overflow filling the corridor outside. The hobbits watched the scene unfold before them both out of amazement to see the normally placid elves so flustered and secondly because somehow they knew they were witnessing a rare and terrible event; to have raised the ire of Elrond.
Balorian parted the crowd and bowed low to Elrond. Elrond seemed larger in Pippin’s eyes and he made a mental note to wipe all of the honey off of the out house seats immediately following whatever was coming so as not to be the recipient of the almost manic looking elf’s ire.
Lord Elrond turned towards the hobbits and asked, “Who among you bathed my son this day?” The hobbits quavered and stood slowly. Sam looked as if he might faint. Merry stepped forward and stood to his full height, attempting to show bravery even though he quailed inside. Elrond smiled to himself, ‘Yes, this one will one day make an excellent leader for his people,’ he thought in admiration. He softened his voice, “I am not angry with you, my friends, I only wish information,” he said with a slight smile.
Merry smiled wanly, “We understand, my Lord.” Pippin and Sam bowed to Elrond before stepping forward.
“We bathed him, sir. He was frightfully sweaty from being sick,” Sam whispered.
“And I am in your debt for your tender care of one of my family, Master Samwise,” Elrond said with a soft smile and short bow. “Did you notice anything unusual…a smell, a discharge or the condition of his scabs on his back when you bathed him?”
The hobbits seemed to think on this before Pip chirped, “He did smell awful sour…”
“Pippin!” Merry exclaimed.
“What? He DID, Merry. I said so, remember?” Elrond smiled slightly.
Sam had colored a deep red and his eyes were wide as if he was remembering something, “There weren’t no scabs, sir, jus’ sores and they was weepin’ somethin’ awful, but I didn’t touch ‘em figurin’ Mr. Balorian wouldn’t want me too…”
“Well done, Master Gamgee, that was wise of you. Why did you not notify Balorian, if I may ask?”
Sam blushed dark, “I am right sorry, sir. I intended to tell Mr. Balorian first chance but hadn’t seen him yet.”
Elrond nodded then gave the hobbits a small smile, “Again, I am sorry if I startled or frightened you. You have treated my son as if he were one of your own kind…”
“He is, you know. We made him an honorary hobbit when he took us on our walk,” Pip interrupted then grinned.
It was impossible for Elrond not to smile back at the precocious Took, “Indeed? We shall have to see if he begins to grow hair on his feet and steal pies from the window ledges like some OTHER hobbits I am becoming acquainted with,” Elrond said, his eyes twinkling. He gave them a short bow, “I thank you for your insights, little Master’s.” Pip smiled and all three blushed crimson. The Lord of the Manor knew more about their escapades than they had thought.
Elrond straightened and turned back to the group of healers waiting nervously. His eyes no longer twinkled in merriment, instead they glittered dangerously as his body stiffened, prepared to pounce on the guilty party with dispatch. The elves standing closest to the front attempted to back step but there were too many of them and they stood looking down forlornly.
“My Lord, what has occurred?” Balorian asked anxiously. Elrohir and Elladan skid to a halt outside the door then squeezed their way into the room. Elrond barely noticed their entry as his eyes bored into Balorian’s.
“Who is tending to my son’s decubitus?” Elrond asked quietly. Merry thought that the soft question coupled with Elrond’s florid face and tensed body was somehow even more frightening than the ear splitting shout of a few minutes before.
“That would be our newest apprentice Hearan, my Lord. He has been with us only a short while,” Balorian said, hoping Elrond would somehow take this in to consideration of whatever the doomed apprentice had done.
Elrond noted Balorian’s intention before continuing, “I would speak with him now, please,” Elrond said icily.
Balorian bowed again and surveyed the room at last alighting on a pale and shaking elf. Hearon looked as if he might faint or at least vomit, thought Sam and he was flooded with pity for the quavering being. Hearon moved slowly forward towards Elrond, “My Lord,” he said shakily, bowing low.
“You have been tending Aragorn’s wounds?”
“Yes, my Lord,” Hearon answered softly.
“Describe exactly leaving out nothing, how you treated Aragorn’s bedsores,” Elrond said tersely.
“They looked as if they were healing well, my Lord, but Master Balorian instructed me to continue bathing them with athelas and rubia followed by tincture of iodine, which I have been doing. Is this wrong, my Lord Elrond? Should I have done something else?” Hearon asked, alarmed.
“No, that is the correct procedure, Hearon. I wish to see you demonstrate how you did this,” Elrond continued. “The rest of you are dismissed.” Silently the elves disappeared from the room and hallway, all save Balorian and Hearon.
Hearon bowed again then crossed to the fire to retrieve the boiling water and pouring some into a shallow bowl. He added three crumpled leaves of athelas and a handful of crushed rubia flowers. He waited patiently while the mixture steeped, inhaling the fresh aroma and trying to quell his nerves. Once it was a brownish green he added a measure of cool water to make it bearable for Aragorn. He moved to the bedside and pulled a chair to him. At last he looked at the Ranger’s back and recoiled with a gasp at what he saw. He shot a look of dismay up at Elrond and the elf Lord merely continued to scowl down at him. “My Lord…truly they were not like this last I tended the Lord Aragorn,” the apprentice stammered.
Elrond replied steely, “Continue with your treatment, please.”
Hearon bowed his head and placed his hands on the wounds in order to scrub around the sores, letting the liquid run into the opening created after the removal of the pus.
Elrond turned to Balorian and gave the healer a sharp look. Balorian stared at Hearon’s back in disbelief.
“Hearon, you have forgotten a crucial step,” Balorian cried.
Hearon swiveled and looked into his Master’s face, “My Lord?”
“You need to wash your hands prior to any treatment between patients!” Balorian exclaimed.
“Oh yes, thank you Master for reminding me. For some reason I always forget that step,” he said as he crossed to the basin and washed his hands quickly before returning to his chair, bending once more to his task. “I am thankful it was not one of the more important ones,” he murmured quietly to himself.
“ENOUGH!” Boomed Elrond. Hearon jumped a good six inches off of his chair as Balorian frowned at his apprentices back.
“My Lord?” Hearon squeaked looking nervously between his two masters.
“Master Balorian, you are responsible for your apprentices training, is that not so?”
Balorian bent low, “Yes, my Lord, I accept all blame for this and will see it rectified immediately, I assure you,” he whispered.
“I do not understand, my Lord Elrond, it is such a small thing to forget. Please do not blame my Master. He DID instruct me to always wash my hands,” implored the novice.
Balorian rolled his eyes and said, “Please be silent, Hearon.”
“No, Balorian, it is important he understand and it will not hurt for him to hear it more than once,” Elrond said evenly. “You see, my dear elf, washing your hands is the MOST important part to any treatment. We do not know why, only that washing thoroughly, always using new bandages and covering our mouths during surgeries… when we do these things wounds do not get infected as often. Now, have you been also caring for the Ringbearer?” Elrond asked suddenly.
Hearon’s eyes flew open, “No, my Lord, he is Deara’s charge. My Lord, forgive me, I did not realize,” the elf stammered.
“Obviously,” Elrond said flatly. “I trust you will not forget again. When you wash your hands, wash every crevice, EVERY part thoroughly to be sure they are clean as possible, not as I just witnessed.”
Hearon blanched, “Yes my Lord,” he said softly. “I shall not forget and will endeavor to work all the harder to prove myself worthy to be a healer.”
“Hearon, you are prattling again. Please be silent,”Balorian sighed.
“Yes, Master,” Hearon murmured.
Elrond squelched a smile before resuming his stare, “Balorian please see that Aragorn’s wounds are aggressively cleaned and disinfected. Then see that he receives regular doses of the strawberry syrup as before. Perhaps it will work on the infection as well as it did on his lungs.”
“Yes, my Lord Elrond, we will see it done. I will supervise Apprentice Hearon’s work vigilantly.”
Elrond smiled wanly, “I am sure you will. Has your apprentice treated other patients?”
Balorian blanched, “Yes, my Lord…cuts and scrapes and such,” he replied.
Elrond grimaced, “See to it that each is examined and treated accordingly,” he said tersely. He turned back to Hearon, “You will need to scour the wounds, Master Hearon to remove as much of the infection as possible.”
“Scour, My Lord?” Hearon said softly, paling. He looked up at Balorian whose expression removed all doubt as to how unpleasant the task would be.
“Yes, I suggest you do so while your patient is unconscious as it is very painful.”
“Yes, my Lord,” Hearon said sadly. Elrond moved to the other side of the bed and lifted one of Aragorn’s eyelids. With a nod to Balorian, the healer retrieved a basin containing a small brush and cloth. He retrieved a pitcher from the sideboard and filled it with hot water to which he added cool. Hearon looked at the small brush and paled. He knew he would never forget to scrub his hands again.
Balorian pulled a chair to the edge of the bed after scrubbing his hands with another small brush and soap. He sighed then liberally coated the cleaning brush with soap and using slight pressure, began to scrub the wounds. Aragorn moaned and struggled against this new attack and Elrond grasped him behind the legs and upper back to still him. “I am sorry, my son,” whispered gently.
Balorian motioned Hearon to the sink and the healer gulped. After he had thoroughly scrubbed his hands and forearms he returned to Balorian’s side. Bloody pus coated the Ranger’s back and Balorian’s hands. Balorian rose and motioned for Hearon to sit. He laid a towel under Aragorn’s back and sluiced warm water over the wounds. Aragorn cried out, his eyes opening in surprised pain. Sam, Merry and Pippin moved quickly to his bedside seeing his distress and began whispered words of comfort to their friend as Sam gently finger combed the Ranger’s hair back from his forehead. Aragorn was awake now but his eyes were unfocused as he gasped at each touch to his wounds. Balorian washed the brush and his hands thoroughly and handed it to Hearon. Hearon’s hands shook violently as he glanced at Elrond who stared icily at him over his son’s body. Timidly he began to scrub at the decubitus. Balorian shook his head, “You will need to press harder, Master Hearon,” he said flatly. Of all the procedures healers were forced to use he dreaded this one the most.
Hearon gulped again before continuing. Aragorn cried out and Hearon hesitated before Balorian motioned for him to continue. Hearon felt nauseous as the wounds one by one, were scrubbed bloody. At last it was done and Balorian retrieved more warmed water to sluice the Ranger’s back with. The toweling was replaced many times until the wounds appeared free of exudate, then Balorian patted Aragorn’s back dry before retrieving a small jar of salve and coated each wound liberally.
“What salve is that, Master?” Hearon whispered.
“It is a paste made from yarrow and rubia root and mixed with beebalm. It will eliminate the infection and give some relief to Lord Aragorn. Unfortunately, not enough to vanquish all of his pain, I fear.”
Elrond slowly released his hold on Aragorn and slowly rose. “I will try to alleviate his discomfort,” he said quietly. The hobbits had remained near their friend and by their very nature, almost unnoticed by the elves. Their eyes widened as they watched Elrond close his eyes and hold his hand mere inches above the wounds on Aragorn’s back. Just for a flicker of a moment Sam thought he saw the elf Lord’s hand shine blue. He shook his head thinking it a trick of the light then glanced over at Gandalf. The wizard was studying him. Seeing Samwise looking at him he gave the gardener a small smile and a wink.
Aragorn sighed and closed his eyes but his brow was furrowed showing that some pain yet remained. “Is he still awake?” Pippin asked quietly.
“I don’t know as he ever really was, Mr. Pippin,” Sam murmured.
“He is unconscious, Master Took. He has been in a waking dream or nightmare as you would call it, while the procedure took place. It is uncertain as to whether he will remember anything or not,” Elrond said. “I gave him a potent soporific, hopefully strong enough to dispel any memories of this event.” He looked doubtful.
Balorian and Hearon had finished applying the bandages to Aragorn’s back. Balorian crossed to the door summoning two elves who held Aragorn aloft while the bed was stripped of the bloody and filthy linens then equipped with a special pad before being re-clad in clean dry sheets and blankets. Merry squeezed the pad between his thumb and forefinger before the clean sheets were placed over it. It was very soft and the top of it was covered in fluffy lambs wool. Aragorn was slowly lowered onto his right side, supported carefully by bolsters and pillows to make him comfortable. Merry wiped away a single tear from the Ranger’s face before corralling Sam and Pippin and moving back to Frodo’s bedside. Sam looked back over at Aragorn and pleased that he could see the Ranger’s face and detect if his friend was in distress without leaving Frodo’s bedside.
Gandalf tried to convince them to leave with he and Elrond, enticing them with possible stories of battles or Kingdoms long gone (Sam’s eyes lit up) or sweet cakes (Merry and Pippin’s ears swiveled towards him) to no avail as the three made themselves more comfortable on a low divan.
“No thank you, sirs,” Sam said. “It was leavin’ em before that caused all this in the first place and I don’t plan on makin’ that mistake again,” he said simply.
“Understood, Master Gamgee, I will see that trays are brought for you…”Elrond said.
“…and I will tell you some stories I know about the dwarves as they traveled with Bilbo and I on our first adventure that I am sure Bilbo did not tell you,” added Gandalf.
Elrond knelt down on one knee before the puzzled hobbits, “I have only my thanks to give you for your gentle care of my son,” he said gently.
The three blushed crimson, “We didn’t do aught, sir, but give him a quick wash,” Sam said.
“Ahh…you are too humble, my friends. Your comforting words and gestures have made more of a difference than you shall ever realize,” he said, rising and quitting the room as Gandalf followed.
The hobbits stood quietly a few moments before Pippin suddenly shot to his feet, “The outhouses!!” he screeched before flying from the room.
The Honorary Hobbit
A log shifted causing a flurry of sparks to briefly illuminate the room. Aragorn’s eyes slowly slipped open and he gasped as a fiery pain assaulted the flesh on his back. Almost instantly Gandalf moved into his field of vision. “How are you feeling, my boy?” The Istari whispered, pulling a chair closer to the bedside and taking up a cloth resting in a nearby bowl of water. He wrung the cloth over the bowl and pressed it to Aragorn’s forehead before moving to the man’s throat and chest. Aragorn sighed in relief.
Aragorn smirked, it had been many, many years since he had been a “boy” but by Gandalf’s point of view he imagined everyone was considered young. “I…” he began, huskily and tried to clear his throat. Gandalf slowly tilted his head up and pressed a cup to his lips. Aragorn drank thirstily; it tasted wonderful and he tried to reach up to take the cup but his arms barely moved before falling back to the coverlet.
“I will do the dispensing, my friend, you have only to swallow.”
Many moments later Aragorn’s head fell back to the pillow and he sighed. “I am hot,” he said simply. “Couldn’t we remove some of the covers, Gandalf?” he asked pushing them away.
“You are only covered by one comforter, Aragorn, so no, we cannot,” Gandalf replied.
“My back…it feels as if it’s on fire,” Aragorn said, giving his torso an experimental stretch, and gasped.
“Let that be a lesson to you,” Gandalf said with a small smile.
Aragorn paled and broke out in a sweat, “What has happened?” he groaned.
“Your bed sores became infected, my boy. They have you lying on two wrapped boards which straddle the sores on your spine. You are badly abraded, I’m afraid,” Gandalf said.
Aragorn knew what ‘abraded’ entailed, “An aggressive infection then,” he mused. He swallowed thickly, “will they be continuing the treatments?” he asked through gritted teeth.
Gandalf looked down at his boots, “Elrond is taking a ‘wait and see’ attitude. If your fever goes down he will take it as a good sign and continued scouring should be unnecessary,” he said softly.
Aragorn grimaced then his eyes sprang open, “What of Frodo?” he asked.
“He is resting,” Gandalf said carefully.
Aragorn gave him a frown, “And? What is his condition? I am no child, Gandalf, please tell me everything.”
“You do not need to be worrying about Frodo. You need to focus all of your energies on healing yourself, for now,” Gandalf said sternly.
Aragorn glared at him until finally Gandalf rolled his eyes, blew out a breath and threw up his hands in defeat, “Oh very well, but I only do so because I know you will barrage anyone and everyone who walks through that door with questions. Will you concede that once I have told you everything that you will eat a light luncheon and drink some juice followed by a nice, long nap?”
Aragorn ground his teeth together hating the patronizing tone and being treated like an invalid, “I will,” he bit out, noticing that Gandalf’s eyes held a spark of mirth as he read the Ranger’s mind through the man’s facial expressions.
He moved the chair aside and Aragorn realized then that the wizard had been blocking him from seeing Frodo. He gasped, seeing the pale, shrunken form lying a few feet away. “What happened? Why is he so pale? Gandalf, his shoulder is bleeding through the bandages. Was he attacked?” The questions flew the Ranger’s eyes were wide as he struggled to rise from the bed.
Gandalf calmly pushed Aragorn back down to his pillows, “You remember nothing?” he asked quietly.
Aragorn closed his eyes going back to his last memories. He remembered raised voices and seeing elves rushing about. Someone was bleeding as most of the linens they carried appeared to be drenched in blood. Then he was shouting at his father as he struggled to rise. That was all, he had thought it a bad dream, *wished* it was a bad dream, now that he knew the alternative. He turned to Gandalf and quickly recounted what he remembered.
“No doubt your fever has erased most of what happened.” The wizard sighed, pulling out his pipe. He cleared his voice and began the telling of Frodo’s ill-conceived journey across the room. Aragorn listened, incredulous, frequently looking over at his friend to watch the slow rise of his chest and unconsciously counting Frodo’s breaths.
“Why would he do something so foolish?” Aragorn interrupted.
Gandalf gave him a small smile and coughed on a puff of smoke before placing his hand on Aragorn’s shoulder, “An odd question considering you would have done the same thing, dear boy. Nonetheless, his actions were because he saw that you were in distress and the healers had temporarily left the room. Frodo has always been impatient and impulsive,” he murmured to himself. “He heard you moan and saw how much pain you were in, at least knowing how Frodo thinks, this is what I believe happened. Frodo has never been one to think of his own needs over another and in true Baggin’s fashion, took it upon himself to go to your bedside to comfort you.”
Tears sprang to Aragorn’s eyes and he turned his face away for a moment. Gandalf sat back then looked up at the ornate ceiling and blew a gust of smoke shaped into a flock of gulls flying on a brisk wind in order to give his friend a moment to compose himself. When Aragorn turned back his eyes were red. He looked over at Frodo, amazed anew at the stubborn selflessness of this slight being.
“He has a pure heart,” Gandalf said as he too gazed at Frodo’s unconscious form. “Let us hope it remains so,” he continued under his breath.
Aragorn heard the last and swore that even if he had to do hand to hand combat with Sauron himself he would make it his mission that Frodo retain his natural lightheartedness. “Tell me his condition,” Aragorn said assuming his practical healer mode.
“His injuries are grave, but not so much so as to prevent him from a full recovery, if he will but behave himself,” Gandalf said with a long suffering sigh.
Aragorn smirked,”And what are the odds of that, my friend?”
Gandalf’s eyes twinkled, “Not good!” he exclaimed. He became more serious, “He tore open his shoulder wound and lost a goodly amount of blood. Until that volume has been replaced by broths and other liquids, in addition to his own body’s rebuilding what he has lost, he will be unable to make any more *journey’s*,” he smiled at Aragorn who continued to stare at Frodo in concern. “That at least is a good thing.”
The door opened quietly as Deara slipped in with a small tray. The aroma of broth filled the sick room. Aragorn also spied a fluted flask, undoubtedly one of Elrond’s ‘nourishing tonics’ and a tall glass of what appeared to be carrot juice. She set the tray on the side table and pulled back Frodo’s blankets. The hobbit lay unmoving; an alabaster figurine on the white sheets. Pillows supported the left shoulder which was heavily bandaged, a small spot of red on the linen gauze, the only color in the otherwise blank landscape.
Someone was speaking to Aragorn but he ignored them and eventually they quieted. His attention was totally focused on Deara and her patient. Deara motioned to an assistant and the two of them began to slowly raise Frodo’s shoulders allowing Deara to slip into position behind him. Aragorn tensed for what was surely to come. Frodo’s eyes flew open in a gasp, he cried out in pain and Deara whispered reassuringly to him while he squeezed his eyes shut, biting down hard on his lip. If possible he blanched even whiter. He arched his head back and Aragorn could see the delicate blue vessels under the skin and the fluttering pulse point on his neck. The Ranger raised his head further from the pillow and made to call out to the healer but was stayed by a hand being softly placed on his shoulder. He glanced up into Gandalf’s damp eyes. He relaxed slightly as Frodo sagged, boneless, against Deara, the shoulder lay propped up by a taller stack of pillows so that it was even with his body. The spot of blood had grown in size by twice. Frodo gazed down unseeing, into his lap, breathing in small pants. Deara murmured something to him and Aragorn saw a single tear break free from the left eye and trail unheeded down his cheek. She tipped his head back against her shoulder, bringing a small spoon of soup to his lips. He swallowed slowly, dutifully. After the soup was gone, the cordial was brought to his lips, again there was no reaction to the taste which caused Aragorn to frown. Battles with Frodo over medication and tonics were legendary, Aragorn had scars to prove how heated they could become (his from a shard of thrown glass). This Frodo sagged quiescent, uncaring about anything he imbibed as if it was merely a duty to be endured.
The carrot juice was next and finally Aragorn saw a glimmer of interest as Frodo slowly sipped from the glass until it was empty. Finally a glass of water completed the meal. Frodo looked anxiously up at Deara knowing he would be shortly lowered back down, having to endure the excruciating pain once more. Deara whispered something to him and he smiled wanly with a sigh of relief. She finger combed his curls slowly, humming under her breath as his eyes slowly closed. Once his breathing deepened she motioned to her assistant and they slowly maneuvered their charge back onto his pillows. Although Frodo’s eyebrows drew together, he seemed relatively oblivious to the pain and sighed deeply once ensconced into his nest. Deara quickly removed his nappy and the blankets from his lower body and began to wash him, drying and covering him as she moved up towards his neck and shoulders. A new nappy was affixed and he was covered warmly. She retrieved a clean flannel, washed his face, ears, and upper torso. His arms and hands were washed last before he was covered completely.
Finally, she moved to Frodo’s left side, carrying a basin with a multitude of bandages and creams along with a pair of scissors. She washed her hands thoroughly then the elf assistant blotted her hands with a pure white towel. Aragorn’s view was blocked by the assistant and he moved slightly to observe Deara’s actions. Gandalf cleared his throat and Deara looked up at him, blushed before motioning the assistant to move slightly to the left. Aragorn smiled as he lay back down onto his pillow, his gaze still fixed on his friend. Gandalf’s hand had remained on Aragorn’s shoulder and he gave the ranger’s shoulder a squeeze. The assistant stood to the side holding a tray and Deara quickly cut away the bandages, placing them on this tray. Finally the wound was exposed fully and Aragorn could see the carefully placed line of Elrond’s sutures. Blood oozed between them and he frowned in concern.
“When were the stitches placed?” he asked quietly, breaking the long silence in the room. All turned to look at him, startled by words being spoken after complete silence had surrounded them for so long.
“Almost two days and one night has passed,” Deara said with a look of concern.
“Why is the wound still bleeding?” Aragorn pressed.
“We do not know, perhaps a nick in an artery. Treating a morgul wound is an unknown thing to us and has proven radically different from any other wound we have treated thus far. The wound bleeds more than most wounds, for one thing. It is as if the blade had been treated with something that has interfered with the clotting of the blood. You remember when Lord Elrond first saw the Ringbearer and began working on him?” Aragorn nodded. “I remember how the bleeding was excessive for such a small stabbing and how our Lord worked so feverishly to staunch the wound,” her eyes became distant with memory. Lord Elrond has examined the incision, even reopening it thinking one of his stitches had broken, but all is as it should be.”
Aragorn frowned, “Morgul wounds are generally always deadly or they have always been so, until Frodo somehow managed to survived after seventeen days—an unheard of event.” Aragorn shook his head, still amazed at the fortitude of the seemingly frail hobbit.
Deara turned back to her work. She cleaned the wound thoroughly, washing the blood from the shoulder and arm. She applied a thick blob of creamy ointment to the wound then placed a thick square of gauze over the top. Then she wound the wound in roll after roll of gauze going around the shoulder before securing it in place with a knot. She folded a square of muslin and tied it around Frodo’s neck, placing the arm within the cradle of the sling. She placed two fingers under the edge of the wound wrappings checking that the bandages were not too tight. She rose, washed her hands while the elf saw to the disposal of the bloody bandages. Deara gathered her supplies, checked Frodo’s breathing and pulse and flashed a smile towards Aragorn and Gandalf before exiting the room.
Aragorn grasped Gandalf’s forearm and looked up into his face, “Gandalf, I need to examine him,” Aragorn,” urged. He attempted to rise but his arms betrayed him and he crumpled back onto his pillow.
“Easy, my friend,” the wizard murmured. Gandalf studied the perspiring face of his ranger friend and raised an eyebrow, “My dear boy, Frodo is receiving the very best of care and you are far too weak to see him now. I will speak with Elrond on your behalf if you will remain in bed and continue to heal he may find a way for you to visit with him,” Aragorn rolled his eyes but nodded in agreement. “Regain your own strength first, Aragorn. You will be no use to Frodo if you are physically impaired. You know I speak true, my friend.”
“If I were in your position I would say the same, yet it is so difficult not to go to him and help in any way possible,” Aragorn said in frustration.
“I understand better than you know, Aragorn,” the wizard said sadly, “but Frodo would not have you further risk your recovery to see to his health.”
“Frodo would deny being hurt even if his arm was missing, Gandalf,” Aragorn snorted. They were interrupted by a servant bearing a large tray.
Gandalf grinned at him, “You have been in the lad’s company for such a short time and yet you know him only too well, it seems. You must recover so that he will *allow* you to treat him. If he thinks you are neglecting your own health to help him, he will fight you. Your luncheon has arrived, let’s see how much of it you can eat, shall we?” Gandalf took the tray and placed it on the bedside table. He helped Aragorn slowly sit up, placing pillows behind him, so he could eat. Gandalf removed the covers and set the tray in front of Aragorn.
“This looks wonderful,” Aragorn said. In truth, he wasn’t that hungry but knowing he needed to regain his strength so he could help care for Frodo, encouraged him to eat. Gandalf eyed him as if reading his mind.
“Let’s see, you have scrambled eggs with buttered toast, oatmeal with cinnamon and diced apples, and a tall glass of Frodo’s favorite carrot juice. Not enough food for a hobbit but…”
“More than enough for a recovering ranger’s first meal,” Aragorn finished with a small smile. Gandalf smiled at him as he sat down and fed each entre to his patient. Aragorn had to admit that the food tasted delicious, although he was unable to eat all of it. Gandalf began cleaning up the dishes, placing them back on the tray and replacing the covers. He lowered Aragorn back down onto his pillows and pulled up the covers. “Gandalf, would you have Elrond hang one of the pull up bars over my bed for me, please? I would like to start trying to regain my strength.”
“Of course, Aragorn, but Merry and Pippin have also volunteered to help in your physical therapy,” the wizard said with a chuckle.
Aragorn grinned, “This should be interesting,” he said laughing.
“Indeed, for now however, rest. We will talk later,” Gandalf crossed to Frodo placing his hand on the tousled curls before lowering the wick and exiting the room.
Well, Hell has frozen over, my friends. I am finally updating my fic. I realize most of you have given up on me or forgotten what the fic was even about, so here is a brief refresher.
Synopsis: While on a hike with Aragorn and the other hobbits, Frodo and Aragorn are injured. This story is about their road to recovery and the little dramas that happen along the way as is usual for our intrepid group.
Hard Work and Heartbreak
A determined Bilbo marched angrily down the hallway to Frodo's room. Elrond followed a few paces in his wake, a small smile on his lips. "Bilbo, try to rein in your anger. You do not want to say anything you will regret, my friend," Elrond admonished.
Bilbo stopped and, for his age, swiveled with remarkable agility towards the Master of Imladris, "Nonsense. If I could bend him over my knee without further injury to his shoulder, I would. What was he thinking, doing something so foolish?" he fairly shouted. "I am shocked by his carelessness in regards to his own health. He could have died for Eru's sake," Bilbo continued, his lip trembling and his face flushed.
"If it had been you in his place and it was Frodo who needed attention, would you have reacted any differently, Bilbo?" Elrond raised an eyebrow as he scrutinized the hobbit.
Bilbo sputtered and turned, resuming his march, his cane thumping as he moved quickly forward, "That is not the point, Elrond. I expect him to consider all of the variables before acting so impetuously," he stammered.
As I thought, Elrond mused. Obviously, Frodo's impulsiveness was a family trait he thought with a smirk. They arrived at Frodo's room only to find both Merry and Pippin had arrived first. Both hobbits looked up with a grin, then rose and gave their elderly cousin a hug. "Cousin Bilbo, you look wonderful today," said Pippin. "Not as pale as usual and you have got a nice rosey glow and spark in your eye, doesn't he Mer'?" he chirped happily.
Bilbo blushed while Elrond masked a bark of laughter as a cough behind his hand. Merry studied his elderly cousin closely, recognizing immediately that someone was about to catch it hot. Surreptitiously, he looked for a freshly cut switch in Bilbo's hands, seeing none he relaxed slightly. There was only one person other than themselves and Sam in the room with the ability to draw such ire and Merry gulped as he thought of Frodo's little foray to Aragorn's bedside. He smiled, "Why Cousin Bilbo, if you were a lass I'd say you looked positively radiant," he quipped. Elrond and Aragorn were unable to contain their mirth and both exploded into laughter.
Bilbo waved them off impatiently, "Very funny, Meriadoc," he grumbled. His face saddened as he looked at them, "I am sorry for this lads, but must ask you to step out for a moment, please." Pippin looked at Merry in confusion then glanced over at Frodo who's eyes were closed, unaware of the tongue lashing he was about to receive. He grimaced as his eyes locked with Sam's who had paled considerably. Sam's former Master was slow to anger but once done so, his temper was legendary. "You too, Sam," Bilbo added.
Sam swallowed thickly, "I think I should stay, if it's all the same, Master," he said, trying to sound brave.
"I think not," Bilbo said flatly and Sam decided not to push his luck and rose, leaving the room with the others. Aragorn frowned, clearly worried and a little confused, about what was about to happen. Bilbo gave him a nod and mumbled "good morning, Aragorn," before pulling the curtain separating his and Frodo's beds.
Gandalf entered, "What occurs, my friends?" he asked innocently. Bilbo swiveled towards the wizard and Elrond.
"Gentlemen, if you would excuse us…" he began.
"No, Bilbo. Gandalf and I will be staying," Elrond said simply. Bilbo gave him a furious glare. "My home, my rules, old friend," the elf lord said without a smile.
Bilbo huffed and waved his hand at them in disgust, "As you wish," he muttered. He shut the door on the other three anxious faces and marched unceremoniously over to Frodo's bed.
Elrond captured his arm as he passed, "Do not go too far with this Bilbo, he is still not completely out of danger."
Bilbo's eyes misted, "I understand," he whispered. He gently shook Frodo's shoulder until the blue eyes opened and stared up into his face. Bilbo almost abandoned his planned lecture looking down at the one who was closest to a son to him. Frodo was thin and pale and would be unable to do little more than listen, but that was all that Bilbo really wanted, so he decided to proceed.
"Uncle Bilbo, how delightful to see you," Frodo said, his eyes warming.
Bilbo smiled at him, "And you, my dear boy, but you may not feel so in a few moments, I fear," Bilbo continued.
Frodo looked concerned as he studied his Uncle who still stood. "Wha..?
"I am quite perturbed at you, Frodo. Frodo's eyes cleared, becoming distant, as he realized what was coming. The Lecture. Whenever he had got in trouble as a lad, there was the lecture, sometimes accompanied by a thrashing or confinement to his room, or prohibiting him to go to some planned event. Since all of these options were unlikely, he knew he would have to lay there and bear the berating which was worse than all of his Uncles other punishments because it detailed how much he had disappointed Bilbo. Yes, this was the absolute worst thing to bear. He would do anything to avoid making Bilbo disappointed in him. "In fact, it has been many years since I have felt this angry and disappointed in someone, and to have it be you, Frodo, makes it doubly hard," Bilbo continued, "How could you be so heedless of what was at stake by risking your life so foolishly?"
"But it wasn't foolish, Uncle, "Frodo offered in a low voice. "Aragorn was in need…"
"And did you not think that that was WHY the elves and Deara had left the room...to retrieve the necessary medicines? Did you think they had simply abandoned him perhaps gone to tea or luncheon? Elves do not take tea or luncheon Frodo, it is brought to them when they are treating the sick."
Frodo blushed furiously, the only color his face had had since his being bedridden. "I didn't think…"
"Exactly, and THAT is why I am so upset with you, my lad," Bilbo thundered. He turned his back as he began to pace, "You are the only remaining hope to destroy that foul thing I so carelessly brought to the Shire," Bilbo said as he turned and came nose to nose with his now very pale ward. "You will need to keep your wits about you, you will need to consider ALL outcomes and not jump in willy-nilly as is your usual way." He turned away and continued to pace, "If you do not, all could be lost; all of Middle Earth, the Shire, all of it, my boy. It could be you may even have to sacrifice your very companions for the very good of this world…" Bilbo ranted on. Frodo's head began to swirl with the absolute enormity of what he had promised to do. He could not sacrifice Sam, Merry, Pip, Aragorn or the others, could he? What if he had to choose? He was breathing far too fast as his eyes closed against the spinning room. Bilbo's voice faded away as a rushing filled his ears, then someone was there waving something under his nose as he jerked back to himself. He opened his eyes and beheld the worried faces of Bilbo, Elrond and Gandalf bending low over him while Deara waved a rag of something foul under his nose.
Bilbo looked shaken and worried, his face very pale. Gandalf placed a hand on Bilbo's shoulder, "he is alright, Bilbo, just overcome, I suspect," he said softly.
"Was he in danger, Elrond? Did I cause him injury?" Bilbo asked his eyes wide.
Elrond hesitated, torn between honesty and a tiny half-truth to quell Bilbo's remorse. "He is fine, Bilbo, but the reprimanding is officially over, am I correct?" Elrond said sternly.
Bilbo nodded and turned back to Frodo, "I am so sorry, my dear lad, forgive an old hobbit for ranting, Frodo.
Frodo smiled weakly, "I apologize, Uncle for my brashness and promise to be better behaved. I love you Bilbo," he whispered.
"Oh Frodo, I love you more than anything," Bilbo said, teary eyed. He gave Frodo a careful hug. "I'll be back later. Perhaps we could read that new anthology you've been asking about?"
"Yes, I would love that. I look forward to it, Bilbo," Frodo said with a small smile. Gandalf smiled, took out his pipe and sat down in the overstuffed chair with a groan, glad that the excitement was over for the moment.
Bilbo turned and Elrond followed him out the door but not before Frodo saw the elf lord give a meaningful look to Deara. "Ah, the secret language of the elves," Frodo thought fuzzily. He glanced over at Aragorn and saw that the curtain had been pulled from its rings and lay in a jumbled mess on the floor. The Ranger eyed him with deep concern, breathing as if he had just sprinted across the courtyard.
"I am alright, Aragorn," Frodo said reassuringly.
Deara prepared a mild sedative which was mixed into Frodo's tea. She helped him to take small sips until he turned his head and closed his eyes. She eased him back onto his pillows. She knew he wasn't truly asleep only deeply relaxed. "Thank you, Deara," he whispered. She smiled as she pushed the curls back from his forehead and looked into the blue eyes. Her eyes flickered briefly as she felt the forehead and the lingering fever. Frodo smiled wanly, "Nothing to be concerned about, I am sure," he whispered. She only smiled in return before rising and quitting the room, no doubt to find something awful to banish the fever once and for all, Frodo thought to himself.
Sam, Merry and Pip cracked the door and peered in cautiously. "Is it over? Is Bilbo gone?" Pip asked his cousin. Frodo nodded. "And you survived, I see," he continued. Only Sam saw Aragorn grimace at the choice of words. He looked quickly over at his Master before charging past the other two, to Frodo's side.
"Are you all right, Mr. Frodo?"
"Yes Sam, just a little tired is all," Frodo forced a smile.
Sam looked at him worriedly, not fooled for an instant, before glancing at Aragorn. The Ranger nodded briefly before Sam turned, mumbled something about "something strengthening" before quickly departing, heading towards the kitchens.
Frodo rolled his eyes and his cousins laughed. "You never could fool Sam, Frodo," Merry chortled.
"He will wear himself out trying to see me well again."
"And love every minute of it," Pippin finished with a wink.
Frodo noticed how strangely Pip was dressed and Pip giggled, "Today we start Aragorn's exercises", he said excitedly. Aragorn's eyebrows rose and he looked nervously at the two mischief makers. Pip's usual coat and scarf had been replaced with a loose white cotton shirt that he had rolled the sleeves up on. Frodo couldn't remember the last time he had seen Pip without his cherished scarf. Merry was dressed much the same, his jacket and gold brocade vest gone and a blousy shirt in its place. Both wore their normal impish grins that held a note of heightened anticipation.
"As much as I would love to stay and watch I have other matters to attend to," Gandalf said with a smile. He helped Aragorn to slowly sit up and propped him up by the headboard before leaving. They could hear him chuckling as his staff thumped its way down the long hallway.
Aragorn gulped and gave them a weak smile. "Gentlemen, I assure you I am perfectly able to do my own calisthenics so you need not bother."
"Oh, it's no bother, Strider. In fact, Merry and I have really been looking forward to this," Pip said excitedly.
There was a loud snort and everyone looked over at Frodo who wiped his nose gently, "Excuse me," he said trying to conceal a grin.
"You should know, Frodo, that Lord Elrond has requested we work on you next," Merry said flatly.
Frodo colored, "I don't think I'm ready for any calisthenics yet, lads."
Merry smiled, "Oh, we'll be gentle, I promise, cousin." Frodo gulped.
"Alright then, let's get started, shall we?" Pippin clapped his hands then rubbed them briskly together.
Merry crawled up on the bed straddling Strider while Pip tucked his knees under him and settle beside the ranger. Each took on of Aragorn's long arms, holding his hands. "Now Strider, you should push against me with all your strength and I will push back, all right?" Merry said.
"That doesn't sound too difficult," Aragorn said with a smirk. He stretched out his arms placing each against a hobbit and began to push as they pushed forward. His arms buckled and Merry and Pip fell forward onto Aragorn's chest.
"Sorry Strider, we should have braced ourselves better," Pip said as if it was every day that a hobbit could best a Ranger with simple isometrics.
Aragorn's face turned red as he fumbled for some excuse for his body betraying him, but he need not have worried as Pip and Merry kept up a constant chatter, seemingly not noticing the Ranger's discomfort.
"Again," Pip said. Aragorn braced his arms against the hobbits hands and pushed, concentrating hard to knock his torturers back. His arms shook and buckled, but Merry and Pip were ready this time and didn't fall forward. "Really Strider, you must try harder," Pip whined.
"I AM TRYING," Aragorn snapped.
"Hmm, well why don't we try something different?" Merry said and began looking around the room. He spied two round, smooth leather balls about the size of a man's fist, sitting on the ledge by the window and jumped down off the bed. He picked each up and hefted them to see if they would suit his purposes. Evidently they did as he climbed back onto the bed placing a ball in each of Aragorn's fists.
"Pip took one of the balls and looked closely at it, "what are these for, Strider?" he asked.
"They're weights for holding a broken limb taut for the traction board."
Pip blanched, "That sounds more like torture."
"Many would agree with you but they will be a good weight to start with for my therapy." He bent his arm at the elbow forming 90 degree angle and lifting the balls up to his chest and back down again. He was shocked at how weakened he had become. This mere stone of weight was all but impossible for him to lift. He tried to rein in the panic that he would never be able to use his sword or fight or…
Merry squeezed his arm, "It's all right, Aragorn, muscles remember and in no time at all you'll be cutting heads off of orcs again, I guarantee it," he said with a secret smile. Aragorn sighed knowing Merry spoke true and tried to concentrate on the small movements, feeling his muscles working and knowing that, with diligence, his strength would be restored.
"Thank you, Merry," he whispered.
"Well that's a fine thing…what about me?" Pip yelled.
"Thank you, Pippin," he chuckled.
"And I suppose I am to remain thankless," Frodo groused.
Aragorn frowned, "Frodo what am I to thank you for?"
Frodo stared at him, "That is a good point since I was the one that got you injured in the first place." Aragorn started to object but Frodo just waved him off.
The Ranger's eyes warmed, "Thank you, Frodo, for bravely volunteering to save Middle Earth," he murmured.
Frodo's eyes widened, but his face paled, "You are welcome," he whispered and then looked away.
"All right, that's enough chit chat," Pip declared. "I think that's good for a start, on the arms, how about the legs?" He asked Merry.
They moved to the foot of the bed and uncovered Aragorn's legs. Pip stared at the splinted leg and the black and blue, turning to yellow, thigh. "Strider, is it still painful?" Pip asked.
Yes Pip it is Aragorn thought to himself, but instead he smiled and replied "Not really, Pippin, but it itches horribly."
Pippin nodded, he remembered his own cast causing a similar problem when he had broken his leg climbing farmer Tuttlefish's peach tree. "What if I were to push on your foot while you pushed back, would it hurt?"
"NO," both Frodo and Merry yelled at once, causing Pip to jump. "Erm…Pip, maybe we should talk to Lord Elrond first," Merry said, taking a deep breath. Frodo had a look of terror, thinking of what could happen. He sighed and relaxed as Merry tried the voice of reason on their smaller cousin. He was unprepared for Aragorn's point of view.
"Why don't we give it a small try first, Merry, maybe it won't hurt?" Aragorn said, wanting to be up and about; tired of being weak and bedridden.
Merry looked down doubtfully at the leg and Frodo took that as hesitation. He looked anxiously over at Aragorn, Pip and Merry, "No lads, don't do it. Aragorn's just in a hurry to get up and out of bed; better to ask Lord Elrond first." Aragorn gave Frodo a wilting look. "You would have done the same were our positions reversed, admit it," Frodo said with a smirk.
Aragorn had to admit, he would have. Merry jumped down, turned and ran out the door to find Elrond and ask if the leg could tolerate some small movement. Turning too quickly around the corner, he ran right into the elf Lord's legs letting out an "oof".
"Are you injured, Master Brandybuck?" Elrond said softly. Merry looked up at Elrond thinking that the elf's facial expression seldom varied far from the usual placid serenity that Merry saw on most of the Elves faces. Perhaps after so many millennia the elves had ceased to be surprised by others (doubtful) or they had become experts at masking reactions to others (far more likely, he decided).
He looked up at Lord Elrond and saw that the elf was studying him, a crooked smile touching his lips. Merry blushed. "I was coming to ask you if there were certain precautions Pip and I should take with Strider's injured leg."
"I see. I was on my way to my son's room when you bumped into me," Elrond said with a twinkle in his eye. Merry blushed again. "Let us see how our patient is faring, shall we?" They walked quickly back towards Frodo and Aragorn's room. As they entered they could hear Pippin chattering away and the gleeful giggles of Frodo in the background. Elrond couldn't help chuckling as well when he saw Pippin lying along the length of Aragorn's good leg as the red faced Ranger, struggled to slowly lift his leg up and down. Each time the leg went up Pippin's eyes would widen and he would call out the count. Frodo was slumped against his pillows, eyes dancing, as he giggled at the sight.
"Very good, Strider," Pippen exclaimed as Strider's leg crashed to the bed.
Aragorn heaved a huge sigh and closed his eyes. "I think…"pant…"that is enough" pant "Pippin", he said breathlessly. His face was florid and damp with perspiration. He was mortified at how difficult even the smallest efforts seemed to be.
Elrond smiled at Pippin, "It seems you have Aragorn's therapy well in hand, Master Took." Pip puffed up his chest and beamed at the elf lord. "As to the right leg, we should tread slowly while it heals," he continued with a small frown. He pulled back the covers and slowly began to unwrap the bandages. Ballorian magically appeared at his side, tray in hand, loaded with clean bandages, antiseptic and oils to calm Aragorn's itching skin. The leg was finally exposed and the hobbits gasped in empathy. The leg was a quite colorful array of blacks, blues, purples and yellows. The stitches stretched out under the knee in a sinister grin, but there was no drainage and no redness. "How long since we placed the stitches, Balorian?" he asked quietly.
"Twelve days, my lord," Balorian answered.
Elrond nodded, "So much has occurred since that time, I had forgotten. I will remove the stitches in one more week," Elrond murmured. Balorian nodded in agreement. Elrond felt around the knee cap and below then he slowly moved downwards, grasping the leg beneath and on top, he slowly bent it a small amount. Aragorn gasped and paled. The movement was infinitesimal but enough to satisfy the elf Lord that the leg was all but healed. "Excellent," he said. The bone has healed and I feel no inflammation as the movement was smooth." He lay the leg slowly back down. "Was there much pain, my son?"
Aragorn sighed. "More from the bruising than the broken bone, Ada," he said with a grimace.
"You will remain casted for many more weeks to ensure that the limb can withstand full use," Elrond said.
Aragorn's face flushed and his eyebrows rose, "That seems excessive, Father. Could we not test the leg and see if it could hold my weight?" He all but begged.
Elrond smiled, "It is too early for such experiments, but I will consider your proposition in a few more weeks. Consider were you the healer and Frodo, Merry, Pippin or Samwise the patient. When would you remove the splints knowing how serious the injury was?"
A trap, Aragorn thought, "I would wait," he said grudgingly.
"As will I. You must be patient to assure that you will have no limp or loss of motion in the future. You were fortunate to have survived your injuries at all, Estel, you were very lucky." Elrond said seriously.
Frodo looked at Aragorn in concern realizing that because of him, Aragorn's life could have ended; his future reign as King never to be, Gondor's future and any promise of a life with Arwen, struck down before it had a chance to take root; all because of a clumsy hobbit. He gulped, his eyes flying open in horror as he stared at Aragorn's leg anxiously.
"…a washing and simple massage is all we will subject the leg to at this time," Elrond was saying. "Will you finish the care of Aragorn or should I call Deara, gentlemen?"
Merry smiled, "We can do it, my Lord," he said. Elrond nodded then walked over to Frodo's bedside.
"How are you feeling, Master Baggins? Frodo?" Elrond asked seeing how pale the hobbit had become as he stared at Aragorn's leg. He noted that Frodo's eyes were bloodshot and tremors shook the small body. He frowned and sat down near Frodo's shoulder. His back turned to the others; he spoke lowly "Deara, what occurs?" Merry and Pip stopped their chatter upon hearing the concern in the elf lords voice. Sam moved closer to his Master and took his hand. Deara appeared at Elrond's shoulder, alarmed.
"He was fine a few moments ago save for this persistent, low grade fever, my Lord." She touched Frodo's forehead before resting her hand against his neck. Frodo turned away, not wanting the extra attention. …he could have died… Frodo kept thinking.
Elrond's eyebrow rose at the grimace of frustration on Frodo's face. He looked up at Deara and motioned for her to exit. He looked over at the others; four worried faces watching him anxiously. He smiled and nodded, "My error, gentlemen, a trick of the light, no doubt. Master Baggin's appears well. Perhaps you three gentlemen should adjourn for luncheon; I believe I heard the bell. Merry and Pip assured Aragorn they would return shortly and grabbed Sam's arm steering him towards the door. Sam looked torn as to what to do before Elrond waved him off with a smile. Even Frodo tried to smile at him but it looked more like a grimace of pain than anything else.
"Mr. Frodo? I can stay…" Sam began.
"Nonsense, Sam," Frodo whispered. "I'm just a little tired is all. Go to dinner and bring me back some of that carrot juice, all right?"
Sam's eyes lit up seeing that his Master wanted something nourishing. "Yes sir," he said cheerfully, before turning down the corridor and joining the echoing stampede of hobbit feet heading towards the dining area.
The smile fled from Frodo's face as Sam exited the room, and Elrond's attention fixed on the hobbit's face. Were he able, Frodo would have rolled away from that penetrating stare. Aragorn's stare was equally direct. "What is it, Ada?" Aragorn asked anxiously.
Frodo gave them both a withering look. Elrond's eyebrows rose, "Frodo, what is upsetting you? You can ill afford anything that will rob you of energy or cause you worry. All of your energies need to be funneled towards your recovery.
Frodo closed his eyes, "I am weary, Lord Elrond, and there is nothing bothering me, I assure you."
Elrond waited. "Frodo…"he began.
"Why did you have to push me out of the way and get hurt instead?" Frodo blurted at Aragorn, his face showing the first mark of color in many days.
Aragorn's mouth dropped open in surprise at the anger radiating off of the Ringbearer. "I would have done the same for anyone Frodo, wouldn't you?"
Frodo colored, "Yes, I would have, but now…look at you. You're weak and thin and you'll probably always walk with a limp because of my clumsiness."
It was Aragorn's turn to blush, "I think you are underestimating my abilities, Frodo. I will recover, regain my weight and strength and WILL NOT LIMP," he said emphasizing each word. "It wasn't your fault, Frodo. It was mere happenstance that we got caught under that tree. Why do you think that you are the cause of anything bad that occurs?"
Frodo looked over at him sharply, "I don't," he whispered.
"Yes, you do. Whenever someone is injured you place the blame on yourself, Frodo."
"Because none of you should be here, wouldn't be here, if I weren't dragging you all into peril. I AM TO BLAME…everyone's life is in jeopardy because of this thing I wear," he fairly shouted, tears spilling down his cheeks.
Aragorn smiled wanly, "Frodo, sometimes bad things happen for no reason." He didn't mention that once Frodo began carrying the Ring the Ringbearer had seemingly become the target for an increasing number of strange mishaps. "As to the 'dragging us into peril', we go willingly to help you achieve the shared goal to bring a peaceful, better world into being. It could have gone much worse than it did, Frodo someone could have been mortally injured…"
Frodo's head jerked around, his eyes fairly shooting daggers at Aragorn, "EXACTLY. Someone could have been killed. Perhaps the only chance for a King on the Throne of Gondor to rule the new world after I supposedly, SAVE us all," he said sarcastically.
Aragorn jumped and pulled back, shocked at the vitriol pouring off of the slight Ringbearer. "Frodo…" he began, trying to take back his poor choice of words.
"No. I cannot have others be injured or killed because they gallantly volunteer to travel with me into certain peril," Frodo said sadly. His eyes held a look of steely determination and total stubbornness. "I will travel with the Fellowship to the borders of Imladris, but then I shall fare you all well and continue on my own. My decision is final," he said resolutely, turning away from a stunned Aragorn.
"Master Baggins you forget that you are not the only one to choose how we proceed on this quest," Elrond began solemnly.
Frodo gave a bitter chuckle, "I beg to differ, Lord Elrond, and pardon me if I sound unduly harsh, but I am the one who carries the Ring about my neck. By your own words, no one else can do this thing, therefore, I and I alone dictate how we shall proceed," he sighed and closed his eyes, "I am weary, please let me rest."
Aragorn had never truly seen his foster father's mask of composure slip as it did now. "Frodo, you cannot mean to…" he began.
"I can and I will," Frodo whispered, his eyes still closed. He heard the elf lord rise and slowly leave the room. He knew that Aragorn was staring at him trying to think of some way to convince Frodo that he would need the Fellowship to protect, defend and succor him on his long, lonely journey, so Frodo rolled as far as his shoulder would allow, away from the penetrating gaze. Once he was facing away from Aragorn he opened his eyes allowing the tears to come at last, dampening the pillow. It would be treacherous and lonely, he knew, but he would rather die a thousand deaths than see his kin, Aragorn, Gandalf and the rest of the Fellowship perish protecting him.
Deara entered the room quietly, looking more than a little distressed, no doubt she had heard the news, Frodo thought. She held a flask gently in her hand and sat near Frodo's bed. "Lord Elrond wanted you to drink this cordial, Frodo," she said simply.
A hint of suspicion flicked across his face, "May I ask what it is, Deara?" He whispered.
Deara smiled sweetly, "He said you were very weary and prepared a more powerful sleeping draught. You should have a dreamless sleep, if you drink this," she said softly.
Frodo sighed, closing his eyes, "I feel it is time I weaned myself of these sleeping draughts and simply sleep like everyone else does, Deara. I am sorry, but I prefer to forgo the cordial, my lady. I am exhausted, I do not think it will be necessary this time," he said sadly.
Deara's forehead wrinkled in worry, "Are you sure you do not suffer needlessly, Frodo. Your body is not yet strong enough to go without the medicines for sleep and pain, Ringbearer. Please allow me to at least see you to full health before you choose to dispense with the cordials."
Frodo's eyes slipped open, studying Deara. She had only been concerned for his welfare; they all had, and he was grateful for their care. He knew, despite his decision to go it alone, that he could trust all of these good people and elves. He smiled wanly up at her, "Very well, but only because you will worry otherwise, Deara."
Deara smiled and helped Frodo to slowly sit up and drink the cordial. It was fruity and Frodo was thankful it wasn't one of the nasty bitter draughts that were his usual fare. He shot a furtive glance over at Aragorn and saw that the Ranger was studying him closely. Deara slowly lowered him back to his pillows and Frodo felt his eyelids becoming heavy faster than usual. He wanted to escape into oblivion, so he welcomed the drifting, floating feeling with open arms. If only he could stay this way always, never waking, never to have to make difficult decisions. This was his last thought before the room vanished into nothingness and he sank into a deep sleep.
The characters in this story are not mine, I receive no renumeration only the happiness of revisiting Tolkien's universe
“Is it alright to come in?” Merry asked, poking his head around the door. Strider turned to look at the two, Pippin having pushed his head in below Merry’s. Pippin stared over at Frodo and saw that his cousin was asleep, a furrow between his eyes. ‘Another bad dream,’ he thought with a sigh.
“Come in you two,” Aragorn said, eyeing them both warily. They were followed by a seemingly endless line of elves carrying steaming buckets of water. They filled the large copper tub then exited. Another elf carried two buckets of cold water which he poured into the tub slowly; testing the temperature to be sure it was still hot enough. Merry produced a flask of lavender oil and poured a generous amount into the tub.
“Time for a wash, Strider,” he said with a smile.
Aragorn flushed a bright red, “I am sure I can manage on my own, Merry.”
Merry raised an eyebrow, “Now that would be foolhardy since you haven’t been up for weeks except for that brief excursion on your crutches. You’d fall flat on your face, you’re so weak.”
Aragorn flushed but this time, not from embarrassment, “I am not weak!” he fairly shouted.
Pippin jumped, giving Merry a sidelong glance, “Well, you did struggle doing our exercises so you can see why we’re confused,” he chirped.
“I…I wasn’t warmed up when you came in, Pippin,” the ranger stammered, looking away.
“It’s alright, Strider, we know you’re not really weak, just still recovering. Anyway, Lord Elrond would skin us alive if we let you try to get up, so we brought help. Two additional elves entered the room and unceremoniously pulled back the blankets as Merry and Pip crawled up onto the bed.
“I do not need help undressing, gentlemen. Please, at the very least, allow me to do that,” Aragorn said with a tight smile.
“Very well, Strider,” Merry said with a grin. “Go ahead, let’s see you remove your nightshirt,” he said with a wink to Pippin. Strider pulled the right sleeve to remove his arm, but the arm felt like lead and resisted. He grunted, breathing hard, but finally the arm fell back to the bed.
“This is ridiculous,” Aragorn heard from the doorway. He glanced around seeing Sam standing there watching the battle, arms crossed across his chest. He marched to the bed, grasped the left sleeve while Merry grabbed the hem and pulled the nightshirt one movement over Strider’s head. Two surprised eyes looked at them. “The water’ll be cold afore you even get in if we dillly dally anymore,” Sam nodded to the elves and the surprised ranger was quickly lifted, one holding the broken leg while the other carried the ranger, to the awaiting tub.
Merry smiled, “There is nothing like a hot bath after a little exercise, is there Strider?”
Aragorn smiled widely, “It does feel wonderful, I have to admit.” The hobbit’s grinned as they gathered flannels and began to lather chatting back and forth about which ‘parts’ each would be scrubbing. Aragorn thought he might hyperventilate as they bent to their tasks.
“Gentlemen please, I can wash myself,” he objected with a sputter.
“Here now, are we really going to argue about all the details, Mr. Strider? You’re bein’ a mite silly, if you don’t mind me sayin’ Sir. After all, we’re all males here, nothin’ we ain’t seen before, I’ll warrant,” he growled as he began lathering the ranger’s hair.
“That’s right, Sam, just not so large,” Pippin said, diligently scrubbing the exposed part of Strider’s injured leg and foot. Aragorn didn’t think he could blush any darker but as Sam washed his hair he began to relax as the subdued voices of his friends reassured him and described their actions while they worked. Merry washed his torso and as he got lower towards Aragorn’s nether regions, began to tell a story about how Pip had once got stuck in one of Bilbo’s round windows by the door.
“Now, I only got stuck because you had left the key inside,” Pippin chortled.
Sam giggled, “All I remember is that my Da’s goat Maybell chose just that moment to wander over and start nibblin’ at yer toes, Mr. Pippin.”
Pippin smiled, “It really tickled,” he giggled. Aragorn smiled widely picturing Pippin’s hind end hanging out of the window as the curious goat investigated. “Well, it wouldn’t have been so bad but Frodo had to start popping stones at my arse. But oh, did Bilbo get mad…made him miss out on the party at the Green Dragon. They all grinned and glanced over at their cousin who lay watching them dreamily, a smile on his lips. “Oi, Frodo, you’re awake!” exclaimed Pip.
“How’s an old hobbit to sleep with all the noise you’re making?” he mumbled sleepily.
“Oh, Mr. Frodo, we’re sorry we woke ya, Sir. ‘Guess we forgot you were there what with you bein’ so quiet and all,” Sam said apologetically.
“Nonsense, all I do is sleep, it seems. I enjoy that story about Pip; always makes me smile,” he said with a wistful grin.
“It is good that you have such friends and kin to make your heart light,” Aragorn said pointedly.
Merry smiled, “Yes, well, there are more stories than we have time concerning our Pip,” Merry murmured, studying Strider’s suddenly serious countenance.
“I can’t help it. Sometimes ideas just come to me and before I know it, I’m acting on them. It always seems like a good idea at the time,” Pip whined.
Frodo’s smile had fled and he was staring at the back of the ranger’s head, “yes,” he said slowly, “That is why we should preserve and protect that innocence. It would be a horrible thing to lose such a carefree outlook on life, wouldn’t it?” Frodo said slowly.
Sam frowned at his Master in confusion then glanced over at Merry who looked at Sam in puzzlement then simply shrugged his shoulders. Pip was the only one who seemed oblivious to the change in the room.
“All finished, Strider, let me just get some towels on the bed so we can get you dried and back in a clean nightshirt,” Sam murmured slowly, his thoughts obviously elsewhere.
Merry left the room to bring in the two elves to carry Strider back to his bed. The bed had been freshly made with the boards getting new padding and wrappings as well. They easily lifted the Ranger placing him on the boards such that the bedsores weren’t touching the bed. Sam studied them, “Why, they’re almost completely healed. Hold off on the nightshirt a minute sirs, we got somethin’ else we gotta do first,” Sam said. The elves nodded and bowed before they left the room. Aragorn folded his hands carefully over his groin until Sam brought him a dry towel with a shake of his head. “I never figured you as the shy type, Mr. Strider,” he said quietly.
“Only when I am around three or four curious hobbits, Samwise”, he murmured. Sam grinned as he looked over at Pippin who’s mouth was hanging open. Sam threw a towel at the tweenager bringing him out of his shock. Pip gave them all a guilty blush and began drying Striders legs and feet briskly.
“Look at this!” He suddenly exclaimed. Sam and Merry leaned over Strider’s legs and gawked.
“Never seen the like,” Sam said in hushed fascination. “They look kind of pale and delicate, don’t they?” Two nods answered.
“What?” Aragorn burst out nervously. “What are you three staring at?” He tried to sit up but couldn’t get his arms under him, to see what was so fascinating about his very naked body.
Pippin reached out and poked at the lily white foot.“The skin is so soft; like a maids”, he exclaimed. Sam and Merry both poked at Aragorn’s foot to see for themselves.
A bark of laughter made everyone’s heads turn and look at Frodo who was holding his stomach as he laughed, occasionally wiping his eyes. “Oh Aragorn,” he gasped, “the look on your face…”he giggled. Aragorn smiled. It had been so long since he had seen Frodo’s eyes dance in glee, he had forgotten how much he had missed the hobbit's usual lightheartedness.
“But there’s not a lick ‘o hair on them, Mr. Frodo”, Sam said in a hushed voice, looking at Frodo as if this was the most scandalous thing he had ever seen.
“No, here’s some,” Merry said, pulling on a few hairs on the large toe.
“Ouch! Gentlemen please give me a towel and stop poking at my decidedly MANLY feet,” Aragorn fairly shouted.
“Oh, sorry Mr. Strider,” Sam said as he placed a towel over Aragorn’s groin. “We’re just not used to seeing a man’s foot up close is all,” he said it with a smile.
“HOW do you walk on them? They look so frail”, Pippin asked, eyes full of green eyed innocence.
“They are not frail and I walk on them just like you walk on your oversized hairy feet,” Aragorn answered with a wink. Merry grinned as he toweled Strider’s torso down then vigorously dried the man’s hair. When he pulled the towel away, the man’s hair stuck up all over and Frodo burst into new gales of laughter at the sight.
“What?” Aragorn asked him pointedly.
Frodo just pointed at him and giggled until at last, he was spent and fell back onto the pillows with a huge sigh. “Ah, that felt good,” he whispered.
Grinning, Sam took a brush and began to comb out the man’s hair. “It’s mighty long, sir, we could give it a cut if…”
“NO,” Aragorn exclaimed. “Sam, with my people longer hair is a sign of strength,” he said softly.
“But not on the feet, it seems,” Pippin quipped, which set Frodo into another bout of belly laughs and everyone else chuckling.
Aragorn smiled, “No Pippin, only on the head and face,” he said quietly.
“Frodo, we were going to start with your exercises if you aren’t too exhausted from laughing,” Merry said with a grin.
Frodo smiled, “No, I have the energy to do some stretches if you and Pip will help me,” he grinned.
“Once we get Strider settled we’ll do that,” Pippin said happily.
“Alright Strider, we’ve only got one thing left to do,” Sam said. Aragorn looked up at the three hobbits sleepily. The bath had done wonders for his sore muscles and he was ready for a nap.
“What would that be, Sam?”
“We’ve got some oil and we’re ta give you a massage. Your skin’s right dry from layin’ about and it should feel awful good.”
Aragorn blushed, “It’s really not necessary, Sam…” he started.
“Yes it is,” Sam said dismissing any argument out of hand. “You jes’ lie there and we’ll do the rest.” Sam poured oil over the man’s torso and then handed the jar to Merry who took the left leg before handing it to Pip who took the injured right leg. Sam’s strong hands kneaded the oil into Aragorn’s shoulders and chest causing the ranger to groan as he closed his eyes in bliss. Small hands carefully massaged his long leg muscles as the three accompanied their ministrations with the ever present soft chatter typical of hobbits. He had almost fallen asleep when he felt Sam pulling a clean nightshirt over his head, settling it around his hips before covering the man in a comforter.
“I wish to thank all of you,” Aragorn whispered. “You have been diligent in your care of me and the bath and massage were wonderful,” he smiled sleepily.
They all blushed, “Weren’t nothin’, Mr. Strider,” Sam said. “You woulda done the same for us, after all. You’re one of us, you know, and we all need to watch out for one another.” Aragorn’s eyes darted over to Frodo, who sobered and blushed before looking away.
“I agree wholeheartedly, Sam,” Aragorn murmured.
Pippin and Merry placed a few pillows behind Strider’s head then climbed down from the massive bed and went to Frodo’s bedside.
Frodo gulped but forced a smile, “wonderful Sam, I can’t wait to see what you come up with,” he lied. Sam beamed and ran out of the room.
“You ready cousin?” Pippin asked with a decidedly devious glint in his eye.
Frodo swallowed hard, ‘What have I got myself into?’ he thought uneasily.
“Don’t worry, Fro’, we’ll be gentle,” Merry said with a grin. They uncovered his legs and a shiver passed through him.
Pippin glanced worriedly over at Merry, “Once we get your blood pumping, you’ll warm up in a thrice, cousin,” Pippin whispered.
Frodo gave him a small smile. “Alright Frodo, first let’s raise you up a bit on your pillows,” Merry murmured. He slowly helped his cousin lean forward and placed two plump pillows behind his back. He didn’t see how pale the hobbit had become or that Frodo had closed his eyes and clenched his jaw, but Pippin did.
“Frodo, we can come back later if you’d rather,” Pippin said softly. “Merry, maybe we’re rushing things and he’s not healed enough to do this,” he continued a bit frantically.
Frodo slowly opened his eyes and looked at his little cousin. “No, I want to do this. I want to get stronger so I can get out of this bed, Pip. I am so very tired of being weak and sickly,” he said almost to himself. He darted a glance towards Aragorn and saw that the ranger was studying him closely. “Let’s start, shall we?” Frodo said, looking back at Merry and trying to force his voice to be strong and cheerful but failing.
Merry gave him a nod, “All right Frodo, I’m going to push your leg towards your chest and you try to stop me by pushing back towards me.” He began to push, bending the knee and moving it towards Frodo’s chest. He didn’t use his full strength as with Aragorn, knowing it was unlikely Frodo would be able to match his effort. Frodo struggled to push back at Merry but his leg shook with the effort. Perspiration bloomed on his forehead and he groaned, throwing his head back, before the leg collapsed. He blew out a breath.
“Again,” Frodo said tersely, determined to best Merry if it took all of his energy to do so.
“Easy there, Frodo, don’t expect to be like you were before being hurt…sick,” Merry said. “All right, ready?” Frodo nodded, wiping his forehead. Merry leaned forward and Frodo pushed back towards him with everything he had, but the leg faltered causing Merry to fall forward. “That’s all right, cousin, it’s only natural that you’d be weakened by your illness. It just takes a little time to get the muscles working again,” Merry said trying to reassure his cousin.
“I know, Merry, it’s just…” Frodo panted harshly, “it’s just I feel so useless. I hate this room. I hate this bed. I want to hike around Rivendell and see some of its beauty before I have to continue on,” Frodo said, his eyes becoming distant and damp with tears.
“Let’s try the other leg Fro’. I’m sure each day we do this you’ll grow stronger and stronger until you push both of us right off the bed,” Pippin beamed. Frodo smiled at his little cousin and began again with much the same results. By the time they finished Frodo’s nightshirt was stuck to his skin with perspiration and his face was flushed. His muscles trembled in exhaustion.
“Do you think Lord Elrond would let me have a bath, Mer’? A real bath?” Frodo asked hopefully.
Merry shot a look towards Aragorn who looked skeptically back at him. “I could always give you a sponge bath, Frodo,” he whispered.
Frodo sighed, “No thank you, Mer’, they always leave me feeling sticky and still dirty.” He looked up at Merry hopefully, “Could you ask Lord Elrond for me?”
“And what exactly would you ask of me, Master Brandybuck?” Elrond said quietly as he entered the room. Frodo blushed.
“Oh, well, Frodo wants to take a bath, would that be all right, my Lord?”
Elrond studied Frodo and frowned, “Why is your color so high?” he asked crossing quickly to Frodo’s bedside. “You’re perspiring,” he added, as he placed his hand on Frodo’s forehead.
Frodo smiled, “Merry and Pip have been helping me with some exercises,” he explained.
“Masters Took and Brandybuck, please consult me in the future before proceeding with an exercise regimen for the Ringbearer,” he said quietly.
“I am sorry, my Lord, I thought it would be all right,” Merry stammered.
“I am not angry with you, Master Brandybuck, after all I did mention earlier it would be good to start some light exercise therapy for Master Baggins. It is my fault completely. The Ringbearer is still running a low grade fever and needs his energy to regain his strength so I would have cautioned you to wait another few days before commencing with this activity. How did he do?”
“Excellent! He’s still weak but he is very stubborn so he gave it his best effort. Frodo’s got a long line of stubborn in him,” Pippin said as if not everyone already knew this fact.
“Do not talk about me as if I am not here, please,” Frodo said testily.
“My apologies Ringbearer…”
“And please stop calling me Ringbearer, my name is Frodo!” the hobbit fairly spat.
“Again, my apologies, Frodo,” Elrond said courteously but Frodo saw a twinkle in his eye. No doubt the elf Lord found the whole conversation quite amusing, Frodo thought.
“About the bath?” Frodo continued trying to direct the conversation back to his original inquiry.
“Allow me to examine the wound first, then I will decide,” Elrond said simply.
Frodo stiffened, but allowed himself to be straightened on his pillows. The elf Lord turned to see if there were a tray nearby and, as if by magic, Balorian entered with what was needed.
“How does he do that?” Pippin whispered to Merry.
“How does he do what, Master Took?” Elrond asked smiling at the youngest hobbit.
Pippin blushed but continued, “He always seems to know when you need something and appears. Can he read minds?”
“Ah well, Master Balorian has been around me for many hundreds of years and has become attuned to my needs, Master Took.” Pippin didn’t look convinced. “Also elves are able to speak mind to mind and even though I didn’t ask for a tray he may have “heard” me thinking to myself that I needed one,” Elrond finished with a smirk directed towards Balorian. Pippin stared at Balorian for a long time, thinking for the hundredth time that the elf really didn’t look much like the other elves. Elrond inclined his head towards Balorian, “Thank you, Balorian,” he said softly. Balorian merely grinned at Pippin, giving the elf Lord a small nod.
Elrond selected a pair of scissors from the tray. While he had been talking he had released the knot in the sling and removed it. Frodo had remained utterly silent, concentrating on controlling his breathing. He was determined not to show how much the wound still pained him. Aragorn was sitting up against his pillows watching as Elrond carefully began to cut away the bandages. Frodo flinched as the gauze was pulled away from the wound.“I apologize, Frodo,” the Elf lord murmured.
“I am fine,” Frodo whispered, although he had lost all of the color in his face. He kept his head turned away and his jaw clinched so tightly that Elrond saw the muscles jump.
“He is determined to show no weakness,” the Elf lord thought with admiration.Elrond bent low over the wound and studied the still livid mark. When he frowned, Aragorn sat up straighter.
“What is it, Ada?”
“This wound is the most unusual I have ever treated. It seems to resist all attempts to knit properly. Aragorn leaned out over the edge of his bed, placing one hand on the side table to get a closer look.
“It appears as if you just placed the stitches; the wound still looks fresh,” in whispered in wonder, reaching out to palpate the area around the puncture. Frodo hissed with a jerk, then quickly bit down on his lip. He began to tremble violently.
“I am sorry, Frodo,” Aragorn whispered.
“It is nothing,” Frodo said flatly, but Aragorn saw a single tear run down his right cheek before Frodo hurriedly turned his face away.
“The stitches are holding,” Elrond said after studying the wound. “You may have your bath, Master Baggins, as long as you do not get the wound wet. Keep the arm as it is, in a sling with the water no higher than the elbow. I may have to do some additional work to reinforce the stitches later, Frodo,” he added softly.
Frodo gulped, his face going even whiter, then gave Elrond a short nod. Then, realizing what he had said, his face brightened and he grinned, “Really? A real bath? Oh thank you, my Lord, I promise I will be very careful,” Frodo gushed, his blue eyes shining in anticipation.
“I hardly think that is necessary, Lord Elrond, after all I did walk just a few days ago,” Frodo argued. He regretted the words even as they left his mouth. Everyone in the room stilled. Frodo slowly looked up as Elrond turned slowly back to him. He glared down at Frodo and the hobbit felt a shiver go down his spine.
“I have not forgotten your “walk”, Master Baggins. I contend had you had more restraint you would have quite possibly been out of your sick bed and able to see all of the wonders of Imladris many days ago and taken as many hot baths as you had desired,” he said, his quiet voice cut the quiet like a steel blade. “Perhaps, if you can follow my instructions without further debate, you may yet achieve that goal.” He turned and walked from the room without waiting for Frodo’s reply.
Frodo exhaled a huge breath. Merry’s and Pippin’s eyes were perfectly round, their mouths hanging open, “Are you daft?” Merry exploded.
“I cannot believe I said that,” Frodo whispered blushing. Then he remembered the proffered bath and grinned widely.
He looked over at Aragorn who was chuckling, “I almost thought he would rescind the bath, luckily Elrond is not prone to holding grudges.
Frodo smiled at Aragorn, “I am very lucky to have such gracious hosts,” he said, looking slightly guilty. Balorian returned a few minutes later along with a contingency of elves. Some carried coppers that were empty while others held steaming vessels. They watched as the dirty water was bailed out of the open doorway and then replaced with hot and mixed with cold water until the temperature was deemed perfect. Frodo’s eyes shown in anticipation of one of his favorite pass times. A bottle emerged from Balorian’s pocket and the elf emptied it into the steaming water. The rich fragrance of eucalyptus and bergamot filled the air, causing all to close their eyes and inhale deeply. Aragorn was fully awake now, watching intently as an elf approached the bed, removed the covers and smiled down at the Ringbearer.
“May I assist you, Ringbearer?” he asked softly. Frodo looked confused but nodded anyway. The elf took the hem of Frodo’s nightshirt and began to pull it upward to remove it. Frodo yelped, comprehension dawning at last. “Did I cause you pain, Ringbearer?” the elf asked in concern.
Frodo blushed, “No…no er, perhaps my cousins should assist me, if that is all right?” he whispered.
The elf smiled widely, “Of course, I understand,” he said with a small bow and motioning to Pip and Merry.
“Frodo, I’ve seen you lots of times, you’re not normally so shy,” Pippin giggled.
“Shut up, Pip,” Frodo growled. The smiling cousins began to maneuver the shirt up to Frodo’s chest but jostled the injured arm causing him to cry out. Pip and Merry froze and Aragorn jolted forward.
“I am sorry Frodo, I must have moved too fast or jerked or...” Pip babbled, tears in his eyes.
Frodo placed his good hand on the back of Pippin’s head and touched his forehead to Pip’s. “I am all right Pip, you didn’t hurt me,” he crooned. Frodo’s face was very pale and tears stood in his eyes.
“But you cried out!” Pippin insisted. “Why am I always doing everything wrong,” he cried.
Frodo smiled, “Because you are young and…Pip, if you didn’t do the things you do you wouldn’t be my Pip. You’d be boring like Merry,” Frodo said with a forced smile.
“Oi!” Merry exclaimed with a grin.
Pippin grinned up at Frodo, “Thank you cousin,” he said quietly.
Balorian bustled over, pulled the nightshirt back and examined the wound. “No harm done, little Master’s,” he said with a smile, “but perhaps I should assist the Ringbearer.”
Merry and Pip stepped back and watched as Balorian first extracted the right arm then slowly slipped the shirt over Frodo’s head and down the left arm. Frodo’s jaw was tightly clinched and one could see he was in great pain, despite Balorian’s careful movements. The offending shirt removed, the first elf stepped forward and holding Frodo’s uninjured side to his chest, he slowly rose and carried Frodo to the bath.
“Yes, thank you, Mer’,” Frodo managed to murmur.
The water came up to Frodo’s waist and his arm rested on a thick towel fashioned into a bolster. While most of the arm was submerged, the shoulder was well above the water line. Frodo closed his eyes and laid his head back on the edge of the tub, relaxing to the sound of his cousins’ chatter and tender ablutions. All too soon they were rinsing his hair and body with hot water that made him shiver in delight.
Frodo’s eyes remained closed as he smiled, “Oh yes, Pip, that sounds lovely,” he mumbled sleepily. Pip grinned and jumped up, fetching a kettle by the fire and pouring the contents carefully as he mixed the hot with the tepid water. Frodo groaned in pleasure causing Aragorn to chuckle.
After a few moments Balorian re-entered the room and ran his hand through the cooling water. A team of elves had followed him in and they stripped Frodo’s bed, remaking it in clean linens, comforters and pillows. Balorian nodded to them as they bowed and departed. “Master Baggins, it is time to return you to your bed so you may rest.”
Frodo groaned loudly, this time in displeasure, “Must I? So soon?”
The elf grinned, “You have been in the bath for over an hour. You will have other opportunities to bath whenever you wish, should you follow Lord Elrond’s instructions and continue to recover,” he said carefully.
The same elf who had borne him before materialized and carefully lifted Frodo from his bath. His hair and body were briskly dried and Frodo was surprised to realize that he hadn’t felt the stabbing pain in his shoulder as much when they had moved him, he was so relaxed.
Balorian grinned, “One of my assistants came up with a brilliant idea of how to re-dress you without causing your arm so much pain. Let me demonstrate.”
Merry and Pip moved closer, curious. The elf pulled the night shirt over Frodo’s head, pulling the right arm through the sleeve as normal. The left shoulder and sleeve had been cut down the middle and ties now dangled from the edges. Balorian tied the garment on up the arm and shoulder then stepped back. Frodo beamed at Balorian, “Why, that didn’t hurt at all. What a wonderful idea, you must thank your assistant for me please, Balorian,” Frodo said gratefully. “Perhaps I won’t dread the daily nightshirt changes so much now. So very clever, thank you,” he said again.Balorian smiled, bowed and left the room.
“That really his ingenious,” Merry said touching one of the ties. “Why, even one of us could get you dressed now,” he grinned. Frodo looked at his cousins in trepidation.
“And why would you want to do that Merry?”
“Because my aged, wise cousin, we weren’t finished with you when Balorian came in to show you his new invention,” he said pulling the ties loose on the arm of the left sleeve.
“It’s something you’ll really like Fro’, don’t worry,” Pippin said sweetly. Frodo smiled in confusion.
“I suppose I am not really in a position to resist, am I Pip?”
The garment folded over to the right side, Merry and Pip poured lavender oil into their palms and began to massage it into their cousin’s dry skin and muscles. Frodo groaned in ecstasy. “I shall never doubt you again,” he mumbled.
Merry, Pip and Aragorn laughed, “Now why do I think otherwise, I wonder?” Aragorn snorted.
Frodo laughed, “True. What was I thinking?”
“We aren’t that bad. What have we done lately? I believe we get blamed for things that we never had anything to do with, don’t you Pip?”
Pip was snickering, “Oh, oh yes Merry, just misunderstandings.”
“I’m sure,” Frodo mumbled sleepily. Merry pulled the shirt over to the left and tied it back up. He smiled as he covered his cousin in a fluffy comforter and was turning to leave when he heard the sound of hobbit feet running down the corridor towards them.The door slammed open, hitting the wall and Frodo jumped straight up from the bed, gasping in pain as he wrenched his arm;in front of him stood Samwise Gamgee, his face livid. Frodo drew back in shock. He had never seen Sam angry with HIM (although he was certain it happened often), but THIS Samwise Gamgee seemed to be so upset that all issues of class and ranking had fallen to the wayside and for the first time, Frodo was happy to have Sam as a friend and not an enemy.
“And just when were you going to tell us your plans, Frodo,” he nearly shouted at his Master.
Frodo’s eyes flew open. He had never seen his humble gardener and friend so irate. “Sam I…” he began but was quickly shut down by a raised hand, shaking with rage. Frodo had always fought against the idea of “class” when it came to his best friend and the gardener’s family. He had tried and tried to get Sam to call him simply “Frodo” and to treat him as an equal and suddenly he realized that the wrath being directed at him had finally accomplished what he had been unable to achieve all those years. Although Frodo wanted Sam to dismiss the antiquated idea of “place” in the Master/Servant hierarchy, he had to admit that sometimes that engrained sense of “class” had come in handy in manipulating his friend in agreeing to do something that Sam would have normally resisted or disagreed with. The instances were rare as Frodo far preferred Sam as an equal, and he used the manipulation only under the direst of circumstances. Now was one of those times where he would be forced to pull rank on the agitated gardener and threaten to erase any progress he had made over Sam’s lifetime. He glanced over at Merry and Pip, who gawped at Sam’s loss of the ever present acquiescence, and gave them a sly wink. Frodo’s face tensed, brows drawing down sternly and jaw clamped, and he realized that this was no act. “Samwise Gamgee, remember your place, lad,” Frodo said quietly. A tiny flicker of doubt sparked Sam’s hazel eyes, but was gone as fast as it appeared. “I am still your Master though we be far removed from Bag End,” he continued.
Sam normally would have apologized profusely, but not this time. “I mean no disrespect, Mr. Frodo” but I am that angry with you, I am, sir. What are you thinkin’, sir? You can’t mean to leave us all behind, unless you truly are a “Mad Baggins”, Sam exclaimed. Merry and Pip gasped at the insult and Sam to gulped, wondering if he had gone too far.
Frodo’s eyes glittered dangerously, “Careful Sam,” he said softly. It was all well and good to call him “Mad Baggins in jest, something else completely to be so disrespectful and say it to his face.
Aragorn frowned, not understanding the descriptive. Pippin opened his mouth to explain but Merry elbowed him and mouthed “later”, and Pippin’s mouth snapped closed. The ranger studied the group calmly, a slight grin on his lips that Frodo had been found out. Aragorn hoped the hobbit’s kin and friend could talk him out of such foolishness. Suddenly, Merry realized what Sam had said and spun Sam around, pulling him closer and forcing the gardener to face him. “What are you talking about, Sam?” Merry fairly shouted.
“I jes’ overheard two elves a talkin’ about how Mr. Frodo is plannin’ on leaving us all---everyone---at the edge of Rivendell’s border, and goin’ it alone to Mordor on a count of what happened to Mr. Strider, sirs,” he exclaimed, his voice cracking as tears filled his eyes.
Merry and Pip spun on Frodo. Frodo had laid back and closed his eyes, knowing what was coming. “Are you daft? You can’t do this alone! Frodo, use your hobbit’s sense for Eru’s sake,” Merry exclaimed stepping forward, wanting to shake his stubborn cousin.
Frodo’s eyes cracked open and he studied each of them before speaking, “I have thought of nothing else, Merry,” he said calmly. “I mean it when I say I could not live with myself if anything were to happen to any of you. How would I explain to your parents and family that, because of my actions, the future Master of Buckland had perished,” he cried. Then he looked over at Pippin, “How would I ever face Aunt Esme if the future Thain, her only son, were never returned to her, having been struck down because of their “crazy” cousin?” he almost shouted. “I forbid you to come!” he finished forcefully.
“You can’t stop us, Frodo,” Merry said, straightening, his jaw clenched in outright mulishness and his eyes glittered dangerously. “We will follow you.”
“I FORBID it!” Frodo shouted, his face florid as adrenaline pushed him up to sitting, the wound forgotten as he surged forward towards the three. All three jumped back but stood all the taller facing their elder cousin.
“You cannot stop us, Mr. Frodo!” Sam exclaimed.
“We could help you, Frodo,” Pippin plead, his eyes welling with tears. “We aren’t afraid, we could do our part.”
Frodo’s face softened as he looked at his baby cousin, “Oh Pip, I have no doubts as to your bravery and steadfastness, but I will not take you into certain death.”
“Then I must side with Sam and Merry,” Pip said sniffed, turning resolutely.
“I am still your elder, young hobbits, and what I say goes. You will return to the Shire and prepare the defensives in case I fail, that is all there is to it”, Frodo said sternly.
“No Frodo, not this time,” said Merry calmly.
“You cannot stop us from following,” Pip muttered.
“I ain’t leavin’ ya”, Sam swore.
Frodo looked exasperated and, for a moment, Aragorn was heartened that perhaps the hobbit would concede defeat, but then Frodo’s face became closed and resolute and the ranger groaned inwardly.
“Then you leave me no choice,” he said quietly. “I will have to wear the ring in order to escape unseen.”
“WHAT? You ARE mad! If you put it on, Sauron will see you; his wraiths will find you and take both you and the Ring to Baradur. You will be tortured though you beg for mercy, for he has none. He will take the Ring and all of Middle Earth will fall, devastation will reign and your loved ones will perish despite your NOBILE sacrifice to leave them behind,” Aragorn’s voice dripped with sarcasm as he lurched to a sitting position, his good leg swinging from the edge of the bed as if to leap forward to prevent his diminutive friend from placing such evil on his finger.
Frodo smiled wanly at Aragorn, “To prevent that from happening I would suggest you allow me to leave unseen. Otherwise, I will be forced to take such drastic measures.”
“Of all the selfish, manipulative, stupid things to do…”muttered Aragorn.
“Call it what you will, I will not risk anyone else’s life in protecting one duty bound hobbit,” Frodo said with finality. “We came very close to losing our one chance for a new King by you, Aragorn, selflessly pushing me out of danger. You could have lost your life and then Middle Earth would have been leaderless. I will risk no further harm to the company,” Frodo said resolutely.
“Nonsense, I have been through much worse. You cannot stop us if we wish to fight against Sauron, Frodo. And there are other ways to achieve what we need to do, I suggest you do not test us to resort to such unpleasantness,” Aragorn said, his voice lowering dangerously as he leaned in towards the hobbit.
Frodo forced himself not to shrink back or show any fear, although truthfully, the Ranger’s husky voice and facial expression was more that intimidating. “Just try,” Frodo said flatly, locking eyes with the Ranger and calling his bluff. They held each other’s gaze for some moments before Frodo closed his eyes and slumped back against his pillows. His face was pale save for two red splotches on his cheeks. Aragorn reached over in concern and felt for Frodo’s pulse. “I am all right, Aragorn, just…tired,” Frodo whispered and sighed.
Aragorn motioned for Pippin, “Go and retrieve Lord Elrond please,” he said, trying to sound calm for Pippin’s sake.
“Is he all right?” Pip asked, frightened.
“He is fine Master Took, I only wish to consult with Lord Elrond.” He forced a smile onto his lips and grinned up at the hobbit. Pip returned the smile and raced from the room. The smile immediately fled from Aragorn’s face after Pip was gone.
“Is he all right, Strider?” Sam asked quietly.
Aragorn looked over at the hobbits, “I am uncertain that is why I wish for Elrond to examine him. He has expended a large amount of energy within the last half hour or so, and that may be all, but I want to be sure there isn’t some other reason he is so weak,” he had decided to be honest about his worries, knowing the two older hobbits would likely be able to handle the news.
Frodo was completely drained, barely able to turn his head away from Aragorn’s hand. The Ranger slowly moved his hand to the injured shoulder and felt Frodo tense, and begin to tremble. The shoulder was ice cold, “Relax Frodo, I will not harm you,” he whispered comfortingly.
“I am relaxed,” Frodo murmured, and Aragorn smiled as the tension slowly loosened in the small body.
“Sam, please warm a blanket by the fire,” Aragorn said simply.
“I am perfectly fine,” Frodo said grumpily, “Just very tired,” he added in a whisper. Sam looked worriedly at Aragorn.
“I am certain he will be fine, Sam. Arguing and fighting with others with such vitriol is exhausting work,” the ranger said with a forced grin. In truth he was alarmed at how quickly Frodo had weakened. He knew the hobbit had lost a lot of blood in his foray to Aragorn’s bedside, but this should have quickly been restored with all of the soups and liquids that had been forced on his friend. Unless he is still bleeding from somewhere, he mused. But Elrond had re-stitched the wound, surely he would have seen if it was bleeding unduly, he ruminated. He decided to discuss the issue with his foster father. Frodo’s coloring was still quite pale but he had become more relaxed as he grew used to the ranger’s hand resting lightly on his shoulder. Sam returned with an almost too hot, blanket and draped it over Frodo’s torso and left shoulder.
“Ahh…oh, Sam, that is lovely,” he whispered.
“Mr. Frodo…I …I hope I haven’t given ya a turn, sir?”
Frodo tried to smile and tell Sam that he was fine, but his eyelids were so heavy. He heard some mumbled, unintelligible words, before allowing himself to escape into sleep. “Mr. Strider, it weren’t because o’ us, were it that he’s so suddenly tired?”
“Frodo’s wakeful moments will increase as he recovers, Sam,” Aragorn dodged. “He carries a heavy burden.”
Sam frowned at his Master and Strider, “What aren’t you tellin’ me, sir?” he asked pointedly.
“Allow me to confer with Gandalf and Elrond, then we will talk further,” he said quietly.
Elrond and Pippin entered followed by Gandalf. “You asked for me, Estel?” Elrond greeted his foster son.
Aragorn switched to elvish and the hobbits scowled as they listened. Elrond turned and said, “Gentlemen, would please excuse us while we discuss Frodo’s treatment,” Merry looked as if he would refuse but the elf Lord’s sharp, steady stare convinced him he would lose that argument. He gathered the others and they quit the room, sparing Frodo a last look before closing the door.
“Ada, does it not seem odd that Frodo’s strength has yet to recover? We have been safely back at Imladris for two months now and while I am beginning to return to health, Frodo is as weak now as he was when we were rescued.”
Elrond studied the hobbit’s face, noting the paleness; the thinness of his frame. He placed a gentle hand on Frodo’s forehead and the hobbit sighed. “He still is not eating as much as he should,” Elrond murmured out loud. “We have so little experience with wounds of this type; none have survived before for us to study.” He turned to Aragorn, “I must confess, I do not know how to stop this malaise.”
Aragorn’s eyes widened, he had rarely heard the elf Lord admit he was unable to cure an ailment, not that there had been many. The look on Aragorn’s face must have been comical as Elrond broke into a broad grin. “Yes, even I have doubts and shortcomings,” he laughed. “We have not been idle, my son. Balorian has been working on a promising curative but getting Frodo to take it willingly will be a challenge,” he said with a smirk.
“If he continues to weaken it may not be an issue, Ada,” Aragorn said softly.
Elrond frowned, “I have not mentioned this to anyone save Balorian,” he said speaking elvish in a low voice and locking eyes with both Aragorn and Gandalf, “The wound is not healing well. It looks much like it did when Frodo was first injured. I may have to open it a third time.”
Gandalf looked sadly down at his dusty boots and heaved a great sigh, “How many of these procedures can he endure? What do you suspect is the problem?”
“I am uncertain. Frodo shows no external signs of bleeding—there is no swelling, which I would expect if his tissues continued to fill with blood. It could be that his impaired immunity is preventing his mending; it could be depression or worry, it could be he is not resting because of his nightmares, therefore, not thriving. It is possible that some residual artifact may have been overlooked and is still within the wound. But mostly….I believe it is the Ring itself that is robbing Frodo of his energies and keeping him from healing. As the Ring‘s power grows in strength, Frodo becomes weaker. It is a parasite, robbing him of sleep, peace and appetite. It feeds him lies that foretell of dire consequence to befall all he cares for should he include them in his journey.”
Aragorn’s eyes flew open, “It is the Ring that has convinced him that should we accompany him, we will perish!”
“I am not certain, but this seems to be the most logical of explanations for his continued lethargy. Frodo already harbors this fear and the Ring has twisted it into a certainty in Frodo’s mind. I believe the Ring and Frodo are engaged in a great war of wills with one another and it is this that has robbed him of any progress he should have made in his recuperation. After re-injuring his wound, draining the Ringbearer’s strength would be easily done, as It continues to prey on his self-doubt and worry.”
“How can we help him? There must be something we can do!” Aragorn asked worriedly. He looked at Frodo who was frowning as he slept, and placed his hand on the hobbit’s forehead, smoothing the frown away as Frodo sighed.
“His body needs to grow in strength in order for Frodo to fight back against the power of the Ring. And,” he hesitated, “we will need to remove the Ring from Frodo’s neck,” Elrond said softly.
Gandalf’s bushy eyebrows climbed to his hairline. “You will break him should you take it from him. I cannot allow that,” he said with authority.
Elrond gave the Istari a wan smile. “I have no intention of taking the Ring from Frodo, but I think we should consider placing it perhaps, under his pillow or somewhere that is not directly against his skin.”
Gandalf seemed to consider this for a moment. “I would not like to see Elves tunneling through piles of laundry searching for the Ring, should it be taken out with the dirty linens,” he mused. Both Aragorn and Elrond broke into wide grins. “Perhaps a small pocket could be sewn on the underside of the pillowcase to keep it secure, yet remain close by the Bearer.”
Elrond nodded, “As I thought as well. Perhaps, if it has some small distance from our dear hobbit, its voice may “dim” slightly, allowing Frodo the rest he needs.” He looked over at Aragorn, “We need to test the new medicine that Balorian has been working on. It is an elixir that has promise and I believe it will finally get our Ringbearer on the path to wellness. However,” he turned away, rubbing his temples, “it is quite unpalatable. Balorian is striving to improve the palatability but thus far we have had little success.”
Aragorn’s eyes twinkled, “It is hard to cure a morgul wound if the patient will not take the medicine.”
“Indeed,” Elrond said with a smile. “We have one last option and that is to make the elixir into a powder by boiling and evaporating the supernatant. Since it smells utterly foul, Balorian has moved his laboratory temporarily downwind of Imladris, into the woods a few miles off.”
“It must be foul indeed!” exclaimed Gandalf.
“The elixir is quite amazing in its curative properties as an antibiotic, a blood cleanser, appetite stimulator and a soporific all in one. The soporific qualities should allow Frodo to finally get the dreamless rest he so desperately needs.”
“It sounds like a magical curative indeed! I should very much like to know what the ingredients are,” Aragorn exclaimed.
Elrond studied Aragorn carefully, an idea taking shape on how to test this new medicine. “My son, to what limits would you go to see Frodo returned to health, making a full recovery?” he asked softly.
“Why Ada, I would do anything for Frodo,” he said without hesitation. Then he saw the look in Elrond’s eye and heard the soft chuffing coming from Gandalf in the corner. He looked between them, both smiled back at him and Gandalf gave him a wink. “Oh…nonononono….I am sure there is another elf or member of the delegation…perhaps Merry or Pippin? It would keep them from causing havoc for a few days,” he said hopefully, looking imploringly at Elrond.
Elrond smiled, “Although that is tempting I prefer to test its effectiveness on someone else who could reap the curative’s benefits and since you are also a healer, you could give us further insights as to how the formula is working and offer suggestions on improvement.”
Aragorn sputtered, “Ada, I am much better. I hardly need improvement and you should concentrate on Frodo’s health. I would worry that the size difference between us would give you erroneous data and I wouldn’t want you and Balorian to not have enough to treat Frodo by using it all on me…” He looked quite frantic as he tried to give Elrond pause.
Elrond gave him a rare, huge smile, “I appreciate your concerns, Estel, but trust me, I have more than enough elixir for both of you, and anyone else who should need it.” The elf Lord’s face changed, returning to its normal solemn and grim mien, as he knelt down in front of Aragorn, “What would you do to assure Frodo made a complete recovery, my son?” he asked again.
Aragorn looked steadily into Elrond’s eyes and said without hesitation, “I would give my life for his, Lord Elrond.”
Elrond nodded in satisfaction, “Then you will agree to test the elixir?”
The ranger blanched, “I will,” he said simply, looking over at his restless comrade. “I will,” he whispered firmly.
Tricks and Duels
Elrond walked slowly down the long hallway towards the sickroom, his face drawn into a tight frown. In his right hand he steadied a tray containing a delicate crystal vial of rose colored liquid. He heaved a heavy sigh, knowing that despite all the collective efforts of his medical staff, the medicine was still barely tolerable; so much depended on the elixir initiating a lasting healing in the young Master of Bag End. His mouth twisted into a small smile. The medicine would do only good for his foster son as well. Aragorn needed to regain his weight and strength even though he had been eating and exercising, this might be just the thing to give the extra energy needed to accomplish that goal. As to Frodo, he frowned thoughtfully, they might need to have additional help to get the hobbit to imbibe the elixir. The elf lord hoped Barlorian would be successful in creating the powder derivative soon or they would all have a fight on their hands. He swallowed thickly, pasting a smile on his face, and opened the door. Frodo sat upright, a nearly full tray of supper in front of him. He was pale except for two bright blotches of color on his cheeks. Elrond realized with a start that he had never seen Frodo with a healthy glow, which saddened him. The elf lord placed the tray on a nearby table and bent over his smallest charge, peering into the tired blue eyes, and slipped his left hand onto the small forehead. He scowled and pulled his hand away quickly, “Your fever has increased!” he stated accusingly.
Frodo couldn’t help smiling, “I assure you, my Lord, I have done nothing to cause that,” he chuckled. He rubbed at his shoulder, lifted a corner of the bandages and peered beneath.
Elrond lifted an eyebrow, “Is your wound bothering you, little Master?” he asked quietly, trying to avoid unwanted attention from his well-meaning son. He was unsuccessful as the Ranger’s eyes popped open even though he had been in a near doze from his full stomach.
He frowned and stared over at Frodo, “Why did you not say anything, Frodo?”
Frodo smiled wanly, “To what end, Aragorn? It is only more of the same and is of no matter, I assure you.”
“I did not realize you had medical expertise, Master Baggins,” Elrond said sarcastically.
Frodo blushed, “Well, I don’t, but it seems to me to be simply a continuation of the same pain and fever I have had, was all I meant.”
“Hmm…is the wound aching?”
“To be honest, it is causing me some pain and it is so itchy,” he said as he again, peeked under the bandage.
Elrond and Aragorn were immediately concerned. For Frodo to admit being in pain or discomfort was unheard of and could only mean that he was in a great deal of pain and needed attention immediately.
Elrond pulled a chair to the bedside and began removing Frodo’s modified nightshirt. Frodo grimaced and the elf Lord slowed his movements. He began carefully removing the gauze and as he got down to the wound, he saw what he had dreaded all along. The wound was swollen and red as streaks ran from the incision across Frodo’s chest towards his heart.
Elrond sighed, “I do not understand how this could have become infected so quickly,” he exclaimed. Aragorn leaned forward, looking at his friend in concern. Frodo reached over with his other hand and pinched at the arm below the wound. The healer snatched Frodo’s hand away, “Frodo, have you touched the wound?” he asked tersely.
Frodo’s eyes widened, “It itches. I reached under the bandages to scratch at it a bit, but it was too sore to really itch. I was careful not to touch the wound,” he added.
“You touched the bandages?” Elrond asked.
Frodo looked at Elrond as if he was daft, “Well, of course. How else would I have been able to scratch the spot,” he said irritably as if this was the stupidest question he had ever heard.
Aragorn rolled his eyes and looked at Elrond. “Frodo, if the bandages were touched by you and then they touched the wound it is as if YOU touched the wound.
Understanding suffused Frodo’s face and a cold dread began to twist and turn deep down in his stomach. He did not want to go through another opening or flushing of the wound. “I see, I did not realize. I am sorry, my Lord. Can we not apply a salve or perhaps we could use some athelas to eliminate the problem?” he asked, his voice trembling. He looked hopefully up at the imposing elf Lord.
“I am sorry, Frodo, but we will need to drain the wound which means I will have to reopen it, what? Is this the fourth time now?” Elrond said exasperated. “I will sedate you, Frodo, so you will feel nothing.”
“Until I awaken,” Frodo whispered tiredly. He looked away and let the tears fall. “I will never leave this bed, will I?” he said flatly. “How could I have been so stupid,” he bit out angrily. Aragorn studied him in concern.
“It happens more often than you know, Frodo. Non-healers do not realize how important it is to not touch a wound.” He looked over at the slumped figure, “It will heal in no time and then we can perhaps, attempt another outing. I have been wanting to camp near Hanging Lake. It’s a jewel in the trees that you will truly appreciate. There will be no storms or dangerous situations this time, you will see,” the Ranger said, trying to sound upbeat.
Frodo leaned his head back against the pillow. Ringlets lay damp across his forehead as he chuffed a single laugh, “if you say so, Aragorn,” he said without emotion.
Elrond placed his hand on Frodo’s head and gently moved the curls out of his eyes, “I will assemble my tray and we can proceed,” he said regretfully. Frodo’s only response was a stare filled with defeat and exhaustion as Elrond left the room. Deara and Balorian entered next and looked sympathetically at their Ringbearer. Deara slowly lowered Frodo until he was prone, speaking gently to him as she did so. Balorian patted his hand gently and slipped what looked to be in Frodo’s mind, a large dollop of poppy under his tongue. Frodo sighed in resignation as he closed his eyes waiting for oblivion to claim him. He liked this feeling; he had been in so much pain and for so long that it was a welcome relief to feel everything slip away as he floated painlessly. He wished he could stay in this world forever; no Ring, no responsibility, no pain. He imagined he was sitting on the bench outside of Bag End smoking his pipe. The day was unbelievably beautiful, not too hot or too cool. There must have been a storm as everything had a bright, sharp look to it and the air smelled clean and loamy. He closed his eyes and basked in the Sun, I don’t see why I have to leave, he mused to himself. I belong here not in some bed so far away. Why not stay here and live pain free, worry free and simply happy? He resolved to do just that and smiled dreamily. When it came time to awaken, he would simply refuse to do so.
Balorian poured the acrid solution over his Lord’s hands, then did the same for himself. Elrond felt he could almost do the surgery in his sleep, he had performed it so many times. He was pleased to see that the wound showed clear signs of knitting before Frodo had infected it. Removing the Ring, he felt, had been the key to it finally beginning to heal. The wound was currently a frothy mess and made a ‘pop’ as he cut the perfect sutures and it split open. Balorian handed him a wad of gauze saturated in tincture of iodine. Over and over they mopped up the exudate. Elrond pressed the sides of the wound forcing out any trapped infection. After sluicing the wound several times with the iodine solution, Elrond leaned over the wound, examining it then gave it a careful sniff. He sat up slowly before asking for some silk thread and a needle. He sutured the wound making small delicate knots that would leave a barely visible scar on the alabaster skin.
Finally, finished, he rose and stepped away from the bedside with a sigh. He gave Balorian a nod and the healer stepped forward and began to pad and wrap gauze around the shoulder. Lastly, he placed the arm in a sling and lay it on a pillow even with Frodo’s chest. All evidence of the surgery was removed from the room as Elrond watched silently. He turned to Aragorn, “I am concerned not only for Frodo’s physical health, but for his mental well-being,” he stated simply.
“I am as well. He sounds as if he has given up. We will have to have the other hobbits try to lift his spirits. I cannot think of anyone who could remain melancholy if Peregrine Took is present,” he smiled.
Elrond smirked, “Perhaps. Let us hope it doesn’t entail the use of honey or firecrackers,” he said with a chuckle.
Aragorn frowned, “What of his intent to press on alone once we reach Imladris’s borders, Ada? He even suggested he would put on the Ring in order to slip past us,” He said worriedly.
Elrond placed a hand on Aragorn’s shoulder and smiled slyly. “Do not concern yourself, my son, this ancient elf has a few tricks up his sleeves, I assure you.” He turned and walked out of the room not seeing the quizzical look on Aragorn’s face.
“Tricks and duels,” the Ranger muttered. “My foster father is spending wholly too much time with Gandalf, I think,” he sighed.
Day slowly became dusk as the Ringbearer slept. Sam and the other hobbits were constantly sticking their heads in the door to see how the hobbit was doing, then leaving with a sigh once they saw that he still had not awaken. “Shouldn’t he be awake, my Lord?” Sam finally asked Lord Elrond.
“He was exhausted, Samwise. His body needs the extra rest.” He placed his hand on Frodo’s head and slowly his face darkened. He turned to the other hobbits, “Perhaps you could be of help, Samwise,” he said softly.
Sam stood up straighter as Merry and Pip rushed to his side. “Anything, anything at all, my Lord,” they all chattered excitedly.
Elrond smiled despite himself, “Frodo has been feeling a bit depressed. There must be something you could do to lighten his heart,” Elrond said.
“Well, Mr. Frodo REALLY wants to hear the music and songs in the Hall of Fire, sir. Could we perhaps somehow bring some of the Hall to him?”
“Very good, Sam, I will speak to my head minstrel about performing for him later. Anything else?
What if we put on a play with swords and damsels in distress like in the books he’s always reading?” Pip asked excitedly. “Merry, you will play the damsel in distress while Sam can be the sturdy hunter that charges to your aid.”
“Why should I be the damsel? You look more like a lass than I do,” Merry huffed.
“What do you mean by that, I’d like to know?” Pip screeched.
“I just meant you have no facial hair like most of us adults, is all,” Merry said.
“None of us do! We’re hobbits, for pities sake,” Sam said with a laugh.
“Alright Pip, let’s go see if we can find some costumes and then sit down and write something up.” Excited about having something to cheer their cousin, they left the room, laughing and chattering. Sam followed after telling Lord Elrond of some of Frodo’s favorite songs that the minstrel could add to his repertoire.
Aragorn had a wide grin on his face, “Bless them, they make me cheery whenever they’re about. Well, almost whenever they’re about,” he laughed. He looked over at his foster father. “What is it, Ada?” he said noting the scowl on Elrond’s face.
“I am uncertain. I sense Frodo’s consciousness is further from us than it should be. Granted we gave him a large dose of poppy but no more so than before. Yet he remains unconscious and I cannot bring him closer to wakefulness.”
“You have felt this with a touch?”
“Yes. He is aware of me but refuses to join me and return to this realm.”
“Perhaps you could join with Gandalf and between the two of you, bring him to wakefulness,” Aragorn offered.
“I am becoming more and more concerned for Frodo’s mental wellbeing. We have to get him out of this sickroom and restore some small amount of joy into his life.” Elrond left the room abruptly in search of Gandalf.
Aragorn studied the profile of his sleeping friend and sighed. He agreed with Elrond about getting Frodo out of the sickroom. Who would not be depressed to be confined, since entering Imladris, to a sick bed? Soon he could hear the thump, thump of Gandalf’s staff as the Istari and elf Lord made their way back towards the sick room. Gandalf smiled at Aragorn as he entered, “Why Aragorn, you look very well. I am surprised they have been able to keep you in bed, my friend,” he said with a chuckle. He crossed to Frodo, “There’s my young friend,” he said softly, as he laid his hand on Frodo’s forehead and closed his eyes. He frowned slightly, looking over at Elrond. “Most stubborn these hobbits,” he muttered. Elrond smiled as the two of them placed their hands on Frodo’s head and closed their eyes. Aragorn watched intently as he saw a struggle on both of the powerful figures faces.
Frodo’s forehead creased but then his eyes popped open suddenly. “All right, for pities sake! Can’t a hobbit have a little peace and quiet,” he said grumpily. He looked up at both Gandalf and Elrond with an aggravated sigh.
“That’s better,” Gandalf said simply, before thumping out the door.
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