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Disclaimer: Lord of the Rings is owned by J.R.R. Tolkien, his family, New Line cinema, etc. I have written this story for my own enjoyment.
Note: This chapter updated on 11/07/2012
Frogmorton, 1435 Shire Reckoning
Merry sighed infrustration as he continued his vigil at Sam's bedside. Exhaustion gnawed at his eyes. There had been no word yet from Pippin and he’d barely rested by the time Tubbit returned at midday to check on his patient. The healer remained for an hour while Merry went to his own room to wash and change clothes.
Now it was late afternoon, and other than taking a small bite of lunch brought up by Farlibar after the healer left, Merry had spent the day sitting by his stricken, trying to rouse him with no success. The only times he showed any sign of animation were when caught in another of his disturbing dreams. Sam would thrash about the bed, clawing at his head, yelling about traitors and liars, or sob desperately as he called for Frodo and begged forgiveness for some unknown deed.
The Master of Buckland could not bear to see his friend like this. It was difficult to watch him struggle and remain powerless to help him. He had tried cajoling Sam back to awareness with talk of his Rose. “Think how angry she’ll be with me if I can’t take care of you for even one day!” he joked desperately. “And remember how Estella told me not to corrupt you? Well, she’s sure to blame this on me too! Come on Sam, you can‘t do this to an old friend. Two hobbit wives out for my head; I‘ll be lucky to see the end of the week!”
But no matter what he said, there was no response. Sam lay still, trapped in some nightmare where he couldn’t reach him, and Merry was becoming more desperate as the day wore on. He was tired and very upset. After yet another attempt to rouse the unconscious Hobbit met with failure, his concern rocketed.
“Come on, Sam. This isn’t funny anymore. Wake up!” Merry demanded in frustration. Yet again, no response. He grabbed Sam by the shoulders and shook the gardener.
“Wake up, wake up, wake up!!”
“Merry! Stop it!”
Releasing Sam, Merry whirled around. “Pippin!” he cried, caught off guard to find his cousin standing in the doorway. Pippin's face was a mask of shock, and he knew he must look like a monster, shaking an invalid.
Dropping his travelling pack, Pippin shut the door behind him, strode over to the bed and, rather than start berating him, enveloped his cousin in a warm embrace.
“It’s all right Mer, I’m here now. Don’t worry, he’ll be fine. Sam will be fine. He’ll wake up soon. He can’t ignore us forever: we’ll just annoy him back into the waking world!”
Pippin released him, took off his Lothlórien cloak and threw it over a chair before facing the bed.
“How is he?” he asked, rearranging the rumpled sheets before clasping one of Sam's hands.
Merry sighed. Plodding toward the table, he took a seat and rubbed his tired eyes before relating the previous day's events. Beginning from his arrival at the FLoating Log, he told of Sam’s distraction and short-temper during dinner; of his own unsuccessful attempts to gain his confidence all evening; of how he’d found Sam lying on the floor that night after being awoken by his screams, and finally of the hallucinations he seemed to be having.
“Hallucinations?” asked Pippin.
“Yes. He keeps yelling and trying to gouge lumps out of his head. That’s why it’s bandaged, Pip. He’s ripping his hair out. His head’s in an awful state.”
Troubled by the news, Pippin regarded the dishevelled bandages in concern. “It must be his fever Merry. He’s burning up right now,” he said, laying his hand on Sam's forehead.
“I know. We can change his cold cloths and I’m supposed to try to get some marigold tea into him, but I’ve stopped doing that.” He shrugged helplessly at the younger Hobbit when Pippin frowned at him. “I don’t like forcing liquids down his throat when he’s like this - he chokes. Did you bring the athelas, like I asked?”
“Yes, hold on a minute. It’s in my pack. I brought a fair bit so it should last us for a while.” He let go of Sam’s, grabbed the bag he’d dropped at his feet upon entering the room and brought it to the table where Merry sat. From it he withdrew a large wrapped packet. "There we go."
Relieved, Merry quickly heated some water and asked Pippin to crush a leaf into a bowl. Pouring the hot liquid into the bowl, he then placed it on the dressing table, by Sam’s head. “We should have enough leaves here to last through the night.” he said. “But I’m going to speak with Healer Tubbit when he comes back and see if we can’t find some other way to get that tea into his stomach!”
He smiled weakly at his younger cousin. “I’m glad you’re here Pip. I’ve been really worried about him. There’s not much the healer can do except treat his fever, but I don‘t think it‘s just the fever that‘s bothering him”
They sat down at the table again where Pippin asked him to elaborate.
“It’s what Sam’s saying when the fever grips him,” explained Merry “He’s yelling about not being a traitor; saying that he tried to save Frodo, and screaming at someone - or something - to stop lying."
"Yes. Pip, I think it’s the Ring. I think it's hurting him.”
“The Ring?" exclaimed Pippin, ashast. "But Merry! Do you really think that’s what the problem is? Because if you’re right, what can we do to help him? We need Strider for this!”
“I think it is Pip. I don’t see how it can be anything else. Unfortunately Strider’s too far away to do much. I’ve written to Rivendell for advice, but it’ll be weeks before we hear anything from there." He glanced toward the bed. "I don‘t know how much longer Sam can last like this if he doesn‘t get proper help soon. He might pull out of it by himself any time now, but what if he doesn’t? Frodo was affected for several days at a time near the end, and was always weaker after each … each …”
He faltered, trying to arrange his tumbling thoughts. Pippin squeezed his hand, regarding him with knowing eyes. Taking a deep breath to calm himself, Merry continued. "I just didn't expect this to happen to Sam. I don't know if I can go through this again," he confessed fearfully.
Pippin threw a glance at the bed and thought of Frodo's struggles with the demon Ring. “What do you think it's doing to him, Merry?” he asked in a subdued voice.
“I wish I knew,” his cousin answered. “But if it is the Ring, we can be certain that it’s not pleasant - not if it's making him think he‘s some sort of traitor.”
“Why on earth would he think that? He must know he's anything but!" exclaimed Pippin in frustration. "Oh, this isn’t fair! He didn't carry it very long. Why can’t it leave him alone? Why is it bothering him now?”
“I don’t know," admitted Merry. "When I first saw him yesterday, I was shocked. He didn’t look like he’d been keeping too well; he’s thinner and paler than I’ve seen him since the end of the War. We have no idea what’s been happening to him since we saw him last. Come to think of it, he did look a bit drawn when you were made Thain. This might have been slowly getting worse since then for all we know.”
“But that was in April!” exclaimed Pippin in horror.
“It’s only a guess, Pip, I don’t know for sure. We know he usually has bad nights round about the time Sauron fell and that anniversary was not long before your ceremony. Maybe it was just the after-effects of that. But if it wasn’t and this has been slowly worsening since then, Sam would’ve been more open to an assault from the Ring without knowing it.” Merry rubbed his face tiredly.
Pippin frowned at this possibility, deeply upset that Sam might be experiencing anything akin to what Frodo had endured when they returned to the Shire. Was this to be his payment for saving Middle Earth? If he survived this, would they have to worry about other such attacks for the rest of Sam’s life?
“What about Tom Bombadil?” he suggested suddenly. “There must be something he could do to help - after all he seemed to know about the Ring. He must have some knowledge on how to counter its effects on Sam. He could be here in under a week.”
Merry hadn’t thought of this before and saw how his cousin was excited by the idea, but after thinking it over he had to reject it.
“Pippin, he’s not a healer or a Wizard of any sort, not that we know of. All we do know is that he didn’t seem to be personally affected by the Ring. I don’t really see how Tom could help us, even in the unlikely event that he would be willing to leave the Old Forest.”
His cousin's hopeful expression dimmed. “Regardless of what else we do Mer, if Sam’s no better by morning I think we should take him home to Bag End. He needs to be around his family and in familiar surroundings.”
“I’ve already sent a note to Rose at Healer Tubbit's request. She'll arrive here before we can even think about moving him anywhere,” explained Merry.
“Still,” insisted Pippin, “I think more good can be done for him at home than in a strange room at the Floating Log, and I think Rosie will agree with me. She can speak to Healer Tubbit when she gets here and tell him anything he might want to know. I'll arrange a coach to take us to Hobbiton after first breakfast tomorrow, and if Tubbit gives us a letter outlining Sam's treatment we can give it to the local healers as soon as we arrive at Bag End.”
This seemed to make some sense to Merry, and he nodded his agreement, marvelling at how much Pippin had matured in these last years, particularly since that April.
“You’re right Pip,” he said. “This is no place for Sam to be. I should have thought of that sooner.”
Pippin smiled at him sympathetically. “Well, you did rather have your hands full, Mer.”
The Thain rose. “I’ll ask Mistress Goodenough to let me speak with the healer, to make sure it‘ll be all right to move him, then have a coach made ready to transport us to Bag End in the morning. Until then we can take shifts watching over him ‘til Rose comes. I‘ll get some food sent up too, because we‘ll need to keep up our energy if Sam‘s going to be flailing about as much as you say he does.”
With that, he left the room and Merry had to grin at how the foremost Hobbit of Tuckborough still managed to think of his stomach at a time like this. Sam would have rolled his eyes and declared that some things never changed, if he‘d heard him.
Roused from his thoughts by a low moan, Merry found that Sam had become restless once more. The Mayor called out feebly, trying to free himself from his covers. Merry went to him and laid a hand on his friend’s forehead. The fever had not worsened, but it was still burning away relentlessly. Removing one of the sheets, he pulled the other halfway down Sam’s torso, frowning as it uncovered loose skin in place of a round Hobbit stomach.
Wetting a cloth, he began to wipe sweat from Sam's head and upper body in an attempt to keep the gardener cool. Once finished, he covered him with a single sheet and debated opening the window a bit wider to let more fresh air circulate. But he didn’t want to lose the benefit of the athelas infusion, which was still gently steaming away, so he left the window only slightly ajar. Hearing raised voices drifting through the small opening, he was glad of his decision, unwilling as he was to have Sam disturbed by rowdy patrons from the entry hall.
It was a great relief to him that Pippin had brought plenty of athelas, for the one he'd crushed that morning hadn’t lasted as long as the time when Aragorn had used the plant on him in Minas Tirith - when he had been affected by the Black Breath - and they might have to go through more to make up for that.
Pouring himself a glass of water, he resumed his seat at the table, hoping Pippin wouldn’t be away too long. He wondered how long it would be before Rose arrived in Frogmorton, and regretted that she had to make such a journey in the first place. It would be unpleasant enough in her condition, but the worry of her husband’s illness must surely have her frantic by now.
All at once, he heard his cousin’s voice in the hallway, sounding quite excited. Wondering what had brought him back so quickly, he stood up in anticipation of perhaps seeing Rose Gamgee walk through the door.
But Pippin did not enter with Rose. Instead he brought in two very tall, very elegant and very concerned looking Elf lords.
Merry was taken aback to see the twin sons of Elrond execute a quick bow in his direction before making their way swiftly towards Sam.
“Look who I found downstairs Mer!” exclaimed Pippin in relieved excitement. “I was just about to go out in search of the healer when they walked in.”
One of the dark headed elves left the bedside.
“Mae Govannen, Master Meriadoc,” he said, coming to a halt before the stunned hobbit. “Forgive our unexpected arrival; we had word that Master Gamgee may be ill, and have travelled for almost two weeks in our haste to reach him.”
Merry looked at the graceful being in wonder. “Well met Lord Ella ... er, Lord Elroh ... er, well met my Lord.”
The new arrival smiled gently as his confusion. “I would be honoured if you would once again address me as Elladan, my friend.”
Still somewhat perplexed at their sudden, but welcome appearance, the Master of Buckland nodded in relief, grateful that they were there and wondering what twist of good fortune had brought them in the first place.
Correctly guessing the reason for his puzzlement, Elladan took a seat and quickly told him of Radagast’s visit two weeks since while Pippin and Elrohir tended to Sam. Merry was amazed to learn they had been forewarned by the reclusive Istar, and felt somewhat guilty for his earlier ill-feeling towards White Wizard. Of course good old Gandalf wouldn’t have left them without making preparations for such an event! He was too fond of them all to treat them in such a careless manner!
Elladan went on to explain that they had ridden first to Hobbiton, only to be told on arrival that the Lady Rose had received a letter from Merry informing her of Sam’s ill health. She had been readying herself for the trip to Frogmorton when they appeared, and they had listened with vexation as they realised they had passed the inn already.
“We bade the Lady Rose to ready his chamber, for he must be returned to his home as soon as possible. It will be better for him if he is there, surrounded by family.”
“See, I told you!” piped the Thain from the bedside.
Merry rolled his eyes. “We were going to leave it until tomorrow morning though, to see if he was any better by then,” he added.
Elladan looked over at his brother, who shook his head.
“Nay, Merry, we must leave at once. Every minute delayed is a minute more the evil of Sauron has to work on our brave friend.”
The Master of Buckland swallowed hard at this. “Is it really so bad?” he asked in great concern.
Elrohir, who had had his hand on Sam’s forehead and his eyes closed in concentration, turned to regard him gravely. “The Ring-bearer is in a battle for his very soul. We must not delay his return to his family any further. And I must ask that you both accompany us, for your assistance will be vital if he is to survive this vicious assault. It is worse than we had feared, my brother.”
These last words he directed at Elladan who nodded in understanding.
“Come Merry, we must make preparations for immediate departure. If we are fortunate, we may arrive in Hobbiton before nightfall.”
As they packed the hobbits belongings, the Master of Buckland spoke of Sam's treatment thus far, adding: “I can’t get him to drink anything Elladan. He’s burning up, but every time I try to make him sip some tea, he chokes. I don't think he's had anything proper to drink since last night!”
Elladan rested a hand on his shoulder in comfort. “Do not distress yourself, Merry. My brother and I shall take care of this. There are other methods of hydration that Hobbits may not be aware of - if it becomes necessary, we shall make use of them. Now, let us finish packing so that we may leave this place.”
Pippin declared he would seek out Healer Tubbit to explain what was happening. “Should I ask for a letter for the healers in Hobbiton?” he enquired of Elrohir whose hand was once more placed on Sam’s forehead.
“That will not be necessary, Peregrin Took,” came the somewhat distant answer. “We have ways of helping Samwise that are beyond those of your kind.”
Elrohir spared Pippin a glance to take the bite from his words. “Please inform him that we are most grateful for his efforts thus far. He has the gratitude of the Elves of Imladris. Without his intervention in preventing the escalation of the fever, the Ring-bearer may have already succumbed to the evil that preys upon him.”
Both hobbits blanched. After receiving instructions from Elrohir to have their horses readied for departure, Pippin left the room without further comment.
Realising his cousin had forgot to ask about arranging transport, Merry posed the question of Elladan just as he was about to join his brother at Sam’s side.
“Nay. It will save time if we take him upon one of our steeds, for they are of elvish stock and very swift.” He observed the exhausted hobbit speculatively. “You will ride with me, Meriadoc, for you appear fatigued yourself. You will not last very long on your trusty pony. Pippin may follow on his own, though let us pray that it is swift: we cannot stop to wait for him if he falls behind, for our errand is of the utmost urgency.”
No sooner had he spoken when Sam suddenly began to thrash wildly on the bed, striking out at Elrohir, whose hand was still on his forehead.
“Muindor nin! Tolo hí!” he cried.
Merry watched in alarm as Elladan raced to the bedside and the two elves tried to restrain Sam without hurting him.
“Let me go! Liars! Liars … I did not. I know you hate me! Stop it! Let me go!” he screamed, trying to throw them off, though his fevered exertions were little match against the strength of two of the Eldar race.
“Elladan! Athelas!” Elrohir demanded. Merry was too quick for either of them: he grabbed the already adjacent bundle, hurried over with it and handed them a fistful. The hobbit trembled in shock to see his normally placid friend in such a fevered fit of violence: clearly Sam had no idea what was happening, because he would never have raised his hands or voice to anyone, let alone two of the Elven race he so admired.
Grabbing the proffered athelas leaves, Elrohir crunched them in his slender fist; both elves whispered an incantation in Sindarin before breathing on them, and Elrohir then placed the broken mass directly under the bucking Mayor’s nose. Having no choice but to inhale the sweet fragrance, Sam's frantic lashing slowly abated.
Elvish chants continued until, finally, Sam stilled. Merry collapsed on a chair, shaking in shock. “What happened?” he asked tremulously, his breath hitching raggedly in fright.
There was no response for a full five minutes, leaving him to wonder what kind of struggle must be underway for his friend’s peace of mind. But when they had finished and Sam was resting in some peace, Elrohir turned to him.
“Be not alarmed Meriadoc. He rests for the moment, but we must leave soon before another such attack comes upon him. The Ring is deceiving him and the Samwise is weakened to the extent that he does not now know friend from foe. He recognises the scent of the athelas plant, thank the Valar, but cannot be certain if the hand that offered it is true. Curse Sauron in his Exile! May he never know a moment’s peace!”
Merry had never seen the normally impervious elven lord in such a passion of anger, and he knew a sudden moment of fear: what if Sam didn’t recognise any of them as friends? Pippin or himself? Rose or his own children? Was the memory of it truly so powerful as to trick the most faithful hobbit he knew into thinking his loved ones would abandon him?
These maudlin thoughts were interrupted when Pippin returned to announce that their horses were now ready. Having already left word with Florabella Goodenough to have messages sent to Diamond and Estella informing them of their husbands continued delay, the Thain readily agreed to Elladan's plan of following on his mount. He would lead Merry’s pony Stybba behind him.
With that resolved, Elrohir wrapped Sam in a blanket, gathered him in his arms, and the small company swiftly left the inn. They were soon mounted on their respective horses; Elrohir cradling Sam, Elladan holding Merry steady in front of him, and Pippin perched on his little black pony. Turning towards the Great East Road, the anxious riders left Frogmorton and headed towards Hobbiton with all possible speed.
Mae Govannen - Well Met.
Muindor Nin! Tolo hi! - My brother! Come here!
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