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A celebration of March 25 and April 6, 1419.
When Gwaihir, Landroval and Meneldor brought Frodo and Sam back, Aragorn came immediately to take Frodo and Gandalf took Sam. The hobbits were filthy from crown to foot, their hair matted, their faces cut and bruised, their bodies emaciated. Frodo was missing a finger on a right hand liberally stained with blood and was wrapped in an Elven cloak over orc clothing. There was an red, weeping burn around his neck where the chain had bit deep into him. The feet of both hobbits were blistered and bleeding and their lips were deeply cracked and flecked with dried blood. Wizard and uncrowned king looked at each other with grave concern.
“Oh, Frodo,” Aragorn murmured as he took Frodo into his arms and kissed his brow in reverent thanks, while Gandalf kissed and held Sam, giving them comfort and company before anything else. What horrors they had seen and endured, neither hidden Maia nor king wished to imagine. They stank but it didn’t matter. It was a sweet smell for two who had wondered if they would ever see their beloved friends again.
When a full water skin was put to the lips of the hobbits, the little ones coughed and choked and much of the water at first spilled down their fronts in their haste to drink all they could.
Aragorn laughed gently. “You don’t have to drink it all at once, tithen gwador,” he told Frodo. “There’s more where that came from. You need not be so fast for fear of it running out.”
More then made it down their parched throats and the hobbits sighed in relief.
Aragon tended Frodo’s maimed hand first and frowned. “His finger was bitten off. You can see the teeth marks.”
Gandalf bowed his head. “Gollum. My heart told me he would have a part to play at the end, for good or ill.”
The wizard brought a cauldron of water in which Aragorn crushed some athelas leaves and said the invocation. As the healing fragrance filled the air, the man removed the Elven cloak and orc rags from the Ring-bearer and washed away all the ash and grime. As the water turned black and fresh, clean cloths were continually brought, the healer-king made note of all the cuts and bruises that had been previously hidden. The whip marks along the side of Frodo’s body and his shoulders and legs caused the man to blink against the tears that had been forming and now fall unheeded down his cheeks. He kissed his dear friend’s heart in honor of all the sacrifices that had been made.
After he tenderly dried the Ring-bearer’s body, he cleansed each wound and after bandaging it, kissed it, so the violence of the act that had caused the injury, could be somewhat alleviated by an act of reverent love. Last of all, he bound and kissed the feet of both Frodo and Sam in humble appreciation for all the many miles those burned and battered soles had traveled.
Gandalf inspected Sam for wounds as well as he washed him. Frodo’s faithful guardian had the same whip marks on his shoulders and legs, but deeper wounds on his feet. “He must have had to carry Frodo at some time,” he noted and Aragorn nodded. They silently thanked Iluvatar for that blessing and the many others had been given. Once all their wounds were at last bound, they were dressed in overlong nightshirts, all that could be procured at short notice.
Aragorn sent the Ring-bearer and his companion into deep sleep. “Rest now, gwedeir nin. Your bodies gave all they could. As did your hearts and fear. Let them all heal.”
He placed Frodo gently into Sam’s arms. The two curled around each other, sighed, then slept contentedly.
“In all of the ages I have lived,” Gandalf mused, “I have not seen the like. Iluvatar shows His glory more through the small than the great.”
“We have been doubly blessed,” Aragorn said as he sat back to keep vigil.
Gandalf sat beside him. “Indeed we have.”
In the morning, the king rose again, after having stayed awake, tending Frodo and Sam throughout the night. Only towards dawn did he allow himself to fall asleep, sitting up at their sides. He ordered that Pippin’s bed be put near his fellow hobbits for he knew when the tween woke, he would be anxious to know about his cousin and friend. Aragorn knew he’d bounce out of bed to find out, if he could, and the man did not want him to damage his body any worse than it already was.
For days, Aragorn toiled among those wounded at the Black Gate and was humbled by the spirits of the men he tended. Many had received horrific wounds, been blinded, paralyzed, lost an arm or leg or more than one, and each night, there were burials for those who had not survived the day. Within each tent, athelas was cast into water, but not nearly as much as the healer-king wished could be used due to the scarcity of the plant. In part due to its healing properties, the wounded men did not despair that their lives were now so drastically altered. They were glad to have made the sacrifices and they continually asked after the well-being of the Ring-bearer and his companion, whom they had not met, but who they were still proud to boast that they had been wounded in their service. Aragorn assured them that Frodo and his servant still lived and they were heartened themselves to continue their own struggles to heal because of that.
The king was right about Pippin who woke and would have moved to Frodo’s side, if not gently pushed back down. “You are not quite ready for that, my dear fool of a Took,” Gandalf said, keeping watchful vigil over the hobbits during the day.
Pippin reached over instead to touch Frodo’s bandaged hand. “Is he all right, Gandalf? He’s frightfully thin and what happened to his hand? And why isn’t he talking? He always talks in his sleep.”
“Aragorn put them both into a deep, healing sleep, just as he put you. But even if he can’t respond to you right now, he can hear you and it would cheer him to hear your voice.”
The tween smiled at that and his fears for his cousin nearly vanished as he chattered away happily non-stop for quite some time every day after that, stopping only to gulp down some food and drink, before returning to his cheerful monologue.
Each evening, Aragorn returned exhausted to the tent of the hobbits, to rest and revive his own body. He breathed deep of the scent of the athelas that permeated the small place and relaxed at last from his labors, after checking on the Ring-bearer and his companions.
Gandalf looked up at him one night in early April when the man sat down beside Frodo and checked him and then Sam and then Pippin. Merry, who had arrived some days earlier, looked up as well.
“Today is Sam’s birthday,” Pippin said. “He’s going to be most put out when he wakes up and finds that he has slept through it all and not given any presents out.”
Aragorn smiled. “Nay, my young knight, there you are wrong. Look at the two of them. I would think seeing them rest so contentedly is the greatest present for all of us and it is Sam who is giving it to us, for as I understand from a reliable source, that if Frodo can get in a word edgewise, he has begun to talk a bit in his sleep and it’s all about how wonderful Sam is.”
The tween considered these words. He tried to rise, but grimaced in pain. “When can I get up, Strider?”
“Tomorrow perhap, if you don’t strain yourself unduly tonight.”
That only gave the youngest hobbit a half moment of pause. “Then can you carry me to Sam?”
Aragorn obeyed and Pippin leaned down and kissed Sam’s head and whispered into his ear. “Happy birthday, Sam. Thank you for your presents.”
A/N: Tithen gwador is Sindarin for little brother. Gwedeir nin is my brothers. Fear is plural for spirit.
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