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Remedy by Lindelea
First published at Marigold's Challenge 4 quite awhile ago
"Mister Boromir, you're shivering. Come and sit here by the fire and I'll bring you some tea."
The hobbit was not daunted; he simply craned his neck higher to meet Boromir’s eye.
‘Come along now,’ he said in a no-nonsense voice that Boromir had heard often, these past days, when the little one was managing his master or one of the two young gentlefolk who’d been allowed, against all better judgment, to join the Company of Nine Walkers.
He felt his other hand seized in an eager grip and looked down his other side to a pair of bright, mischievous eyes. ‘Come along, Boromir!’ young Pippin said cheerily, tugging with his two hands at the large gloved hand. ‘Come along before you freeze yourself solid!’
‘It is not freezing,’ Boromir grumbled.
‘I can see my breath,’ Pippin’s cousin Merry put in. ‘Come along and be reasonable.’
Reasonable! Boromir huffed to himself. It was hardly reasonable, to be making this desperate journey, to throw away... Firmly he turned his thought. That way lay a long and sleepless night, he knew from experience. Better to accept the decision of the Council, though it rankled. All he said was, ‘We none of us is dry.’
‘All the more reason to sit by the fire,’ Frodo said, coming up to see what the matter was.
Boromir suppressed a sigh. He was surrounded, and there would be no peace until he acquiesced.
‘Legolas is watching from on high,’ Frodo added, pointing to a treetop. ‘You need not stand watch at the moment.’
‘I’ll take your watch, Boromir,’ Pippin piped up, his chest puffing out with self-importance.
Boromir saw a glance pass between the tiny mite’s older cousins, and then Merry nodded. ‘Good, Pip,’ he said. ‘You do that.’ Undoubtedly when the young one began to nod from weariness, Merry would poke him awake, send him to his blankets, and take his place.
Usurping Sam’s hold, Merry took a firm grip on Boromir’s thumb and tugged. ‘Come along,’ he added. ‘Sam, you go pour out that tea.’
‘Yes, Mr. Merry,’ Sam said, turning away and trotting briskly to the fire.
Aragorn watched with concealed amusement as the hobbits worried at the tall Man of Gondor like small dogs, tugging him to a spot by the fire and pulling him down. Gandalf looked up with a nod, a cup of Sam’s tea warming his own hands, and Gimli sat a little apart, muttering to himself as usual. Indeed, his companions had grown used to the noise, rather a rough lullaby, but in truth they’d have trouble falling asleep in its absence now.
And so Boromir sat now half in a daze by the fire in the dawning light, too numb to notice any warmth cast by the flames, his shivers growing in intensity though he tried his best to suppress them. He was in his driest clothes already—their baggage had been dampened by several days of misty rain, and when he’d fallen with a splash (a treacherous rock had tipped beneath his foot as he crossed an icy stream), the damp clothing from his pack had seemed a luxury. After walking the rest of the night, resisting the chilly fingers of wind that sought to breach each crack and fold of clothing, he could plainly feel the dampness, mixed of mist and fog and sweat of effort.
‘Here we are.’ Sam’s voice broke into his reverie. ‘Careful now, it’s hot.’
Boromir took the mug, feeling the heat between his hands. Too chilled to be cautious, he gulped at the contents and felt burning warmth enter him, travelling inward until it lodged somewhere in his middle region. ‘That’s good,’ he said in spite of himself. ‘But this is not the tea we brought from Rivendell.’
Sam ducked his head with a blush. ‘Herbs, it is, Mr. Boromir,’ he said. Boromir had given up trying to correct this novel form of hobbit address; he merely nodded. ‘Herbs as I gathered whilst we marched. More warming, you know.’
‘Indeed,’ Boromir answered, and took another, more cautious sip. Comforting warmth seemed to spread out from his middle, and soon he was feeling much warmer, and drowsy into the bargain. He found himself musing on these small creatures of legend, these Halflings, or hobbits as they called themselves. He leaned back on his pack, propped against a rock, and watched them through half-closed eyes.
Samwise was stirring something in the big pot, adding a handful of leaves, breathing appreciatively the steam that rose. The hobbit’s fingers were nearly healed, Boromir noted with a soft snort. Herb-gathering indeed!
Boromir remembered how Sam had been sucking those fingers as they stumbled into camp a few days earlier, and how the fingers had bled when Aragorn had examined them. The Ranger had had to be stern with the serving-hobbit. Even sitting upon the ground to see eye-to-eye, he’d drawn himself up tall and... Boromir was startled at the thought ...tall and... kingly somehow. No, not “kingly”, he told himself. Commanding, rather. A Man accustomed to giving orders and being obeyed. He was, after all, chief of the Rangers of the North, and though these might be a ragged remnant he seemed to command respect amongst the Elves of Rivendell. In any event, Aragorn had halted Samwise from his duties long enough to examine the bleeding fingers, smear some salve over them and bandage the hand.
‘Thorns, I s’pose,’ Sam had said ruefully. ‘I was gathering herbs, by the smell, you know, in the dark as we walked. You do it yourself, Strider...’
‘Exercise more caution in future, Master Samwise,’ Aragorn said firmly, but his face softened as the apologetic hobbit turned away. He met Boromir’s watching eye, pulled one side of his mouth into a wry smile, and shook his head. Boromir nodded. They were interesting little beings, these Halflings. You’d expect them to be soft as butter, looking at them, but they seemed to be as hard as the butter knife, on further acquaintance. They made for entertaining observation as well.
Young Pippin always threw himself down when they reached a spot to rest, there to rub his sore feet until one of his older cousins nudged him to join in the work of making camp. Not this time, however. He’d watched the washing of Samwise’s damaged fingers with wide eyes, and now he was busily gathering wood by the armload and scurrying back to the fire, racing to complete Sam’s task before the bandaging was done. By the time Strider had fastened the bandages to his satisfaction, Pippin had piled enough wood by the fire to cook the meal and had hauled several buckets of water from the nearby stream as well, and Merry was crouched by the crackling fire, stirring something in a pot, and another pot of water, destined to become tea was coming to a boil.
Now as Boromir watched, Samwise struggled with his bandaged fingers to untie the strings on his pack. The Ring-bearer called him away, to help spread blankets by the fire, and Merry quietly stooped to undo the fastenings while the hobbit-servant was working at the task his master set him. Sam came back to his pack, finding it open and inviting, and looked about in surprise. He met Boromir’s gaze.
The Man of Gondor shrugged. ‘Magic fairies,’ he said, lifting an eyebrow.
Samwise chortled, and covered his mouth with his hands to suppress his laughter.
Boromir smiled. The little folk had infectious laughs, indeed. Odd that they should be caught up with such a venture as this, taking the... He stuffed the thought down as Pippin brought him a plate of stew, settled beside him, and proceeded to do his level best to make the Man of Gondor choke to death while trying to eat, with his amusing stories and inexhaustible supply of jokes.
Boromir jerked awake, smelling something delicious. ‘A bit of Sam’s special soup, Boromir?’ Pippin said, holding a steaming bowl before him.
He inhaled deeply. ‘Smells as good as the best Gondor has to offer,’ he said, taking the bowl with a nod. Pippin waited politely while the Man of Gondor faced the west for a silent moment, before settling to eating. They ate in appreciative silence until their bowls were nearly empty, and finally Boromir chewed the last bit of solid from his spoon and swallowed to clear his mouth. ‘It is good,’ he affirmed. ‘What is it?’ He lifted the bowl to his mouth and tipped it to drink the rest of the savoury broth.
‘It’s Samwise’s famous mushroom soup,’ Pippin said in all innocence. A moment later he was blinking in astonishment, wiping at his face, which wore the remainder of Boromir’s final mouthful.
‘Mushrooms!’ Boromir gasped, and dropped his bowl. Fortunately it was made of metal, for sturdiness while travelling, and furthermore it fell upon moss rather than rock, and so did not clatter loudly and alert any hunters to their presence. ‘Poison!’ he said in dismay. Had the little folk guessed the treacherous thoughts that he’d fought down, and sought to put him away before he could become a danger to them? The Haradrim used poison, he knew, and hid murderous impulses behind elaborate hospitality, but he’d never have suspected the jolly Halflings...
Had he not been so horrified he’d have laughed at the expression on young Pippin’s face, soup streaming from the tousled dark-gold curls and down the rosy cheeks, good-natured mouth open in astonishment.
‘What seems to be the trouble?’ the Ranger spoke from nearby.
‘Aragorn! Poison!’ he gasped.
‘What?’ the Ranger said quizzically. He had to suppress the desire to laugh, looking from the hobbit’s soup-bedewed face to the white-faced lord of Gondor.
‘Mushrooms!’ Boromir said, waiting for the twisting in his gut that would signal his imminent demise. Indeed, the dwarf, yonder, was doubled over, undoubtedly in throes of agonizing death.
‘All is well,’ Aragorn said, his lips twitching. ‘Sam gathered them as we walked, but I checked them carefully before he added them to the pot. Not a bad one in the bag.’
Gasping, the dwarf rose from his hunched position, pointing an impotent finger as he said breathlessly, ‘Your... faces...’
Pippin’s silent “O” of surprise became a chortle and then an outright laugh. Frodo’s face was merry, and Merry’s positively glowed. Boromir looked up and saw the Wood Elf in the tree above him, his face shining with glee.
Sam turned from stirring the pot on the far side of the fire, his attention drawn by the laughter. Boromir saw him ask a question of the wizard, who only shrugged in answer before applying himself once more to his bowl. Sam rose then and walked around the fire, skirting several bedrolls, to the group by Boromir’s rock.
‘Are you feeling better then, Mr. Boromir?’ he asked. ‘Is there aught wrong with the soup, pray?’
Boromir gathered the shreds of his dignity around him. ‘Naught wrong,’ he said calmly, ‘save that perhaps there might be more of it.’
Sam’s plain face was instantly wreathed in smiles. ‘Indeed there is, Mr. Boromir!’ he said, beaming. ‘Would you like me to fetch you some?’
‘Indeed,’ Boromir said. He cleared his throat as suppressed laughter rose about him. ‘Finest soup I ever had, as I was just telling young Pippin here...’
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