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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.
Gondor, Year 14 of the Fourth Age
In one of the small rooms near the Tower Hall, used as a retreat after conclusion of the day’s official Court audiences and petitions, Aragorn Elessar sat perched on the edge of a mahogany writing table.
And he was not happy, having received disturbing news from Imladris that morning regarding Sam. Frustration at his inability to help was becoming almost intolerable. The news that Sam's condition was serious enough to merit the Elven lords journey to Eriador had concerned him all day - despite Arwen’s reassurances the evening before - and it had been difficult to concentrate on the business of trade agreements with Harad earlier.
Despite his worries, the meeting with Haradrim merchants had been successful, for Aragorn was determined to forge a more secure relationship with their neighbours, to help ease lingering bitterness and continue the process of building bridges between their two peoples. Commerce with their former enemy was a way to achieve it.
I may be of some use this day, at least, he thought irritably.
It was tradition each month that his Steward accompany him here to discuss any news of note from Ithilien, though in these times of peace their meetings were more informal. Both men used them mainly as an opportunity to spend a rare hour or two in each other’s company enjoying relaxed conversation. Faramir had joined him ten minutes earlier, and was relating another tale of his wife’s escapades in the kitchen, and of his son’s refusal to eat her fare. Normally Aragorn derived great amusement from these revelations, but not today. Instead he remained silent, staring out of the window, drumming his fingers on his knee, and not wholly attentive to the narrative.
A slight cough behind him made the king suddenly aware that the one-sided conversation had stopped. He looked around guiltily to find his companion studying him, and tried to look as if he had in fact been listening; the Steward was not so easily fooled.
“The ongoing saga of Eowyn’s culinary efforts usually has you gripped, my Lord.” Faramir’s mouth quirked in humour. “Yet today you are preoccupied. What draws your attention so?”
“Faramir, you cannot relate something as amusing as Eowyn’s culinary efforts and address me so formally all in the same sentence,” he said wryly.
The Steward grinned. “ I consider myself duly chastised. Allow me to rephrase: Aragorn, what occupies your thoughts thus?”
The former ranger knew that Faramir would wish to hear any news of the hobbits regardless of its gravity, so he delved into his shirt pocket. Withdrawing a letter, he passed it to his friend, allowing him to read it through.
“I see,” said the prince. “This is more than reason enough to distract you.”
Receiving the letter back and returning it to its place of rest, Aragorn resumed the drumming of his knee, aware of his companion's close scrutiny.
“You are vexed by your absence from the Shire when Samwise may be in need of your assistance."
“Indeed,” replied Aragorn. His Steward was too perceptive for comfort at times, or perhaps it was simply that his concern was rather obvious.
“This message was despatched by your Elven kin two weeks ago; they ought to have arrived in Hobbiton by now. Master Gamgee will be receiving the finest care in Middle Earth even as we speak,” stated Faramir.
“I realise this.” He rose, striding across to the window he had found so fascinating moments before. Gazing out towards the Great Hall of Feasts, Aragorn related in a somewhat distant voice: “Before this letter arrived, I had already some knowledge of his illness, having witnessed it in the Palantír. I saw our stalwart friend in much distress. He did not look well, Faramir. His appearance was not that of the Hobbit who left here several years ago, and I speak not of the lines time may have added to his face.”
Faramir joined him by the window.
“I spoke of it later with Arwen," he continued, "and she allayed the worst of my concerns. But this missive has reawakened them.”
“You are worried for our friend. It is only natural. Yet there is little we can do at present other than hold him in our hearts. Elladan and Elrohir are our best hope for now; they will see to his recovery in your stead.” said the Steward. “Samwise may have the stature of a Hobbit, but he has a will as strong as a Mûmak is tall. The evil of the Ring cannot hope to defeat him.”
Aragorn appreciated his comforting words and hoped they would prove true. “You speak wisely, Faramir. Still, I must see him well again.”
Crossing to the writing table, he took his seat behind it. He regarded Denethor’s shrewd heir closely, waiting for his reaction to the upcoming news, for he had not yet informed him of the decision he had made the previous day.
“It is necessary to make the reunification of Gondor and Arnor official,” said the king in a more formal tone. Faramir remained silent, waiting for him to finish, and Aragorn had the uncanny feeling that he knew what would come next.
“To this end,” he continued, “I have decided to leave for Annúminas before winter begins. My people in Arnor should know their King, and Gondor may be without him for some time.”
Faramir received the news well, leaving Aragorn to doubt if he would ever be able to shake the Man‘s steady composure. Perhaps the next bit of information would be sufficient.
“I understand, my Lord,” said the Steward, returning to his own seat and resuming use of the honorific title. “Gondor has waited for your return once before, and her patience was rewarded in the end. I am confident that you will not stay away quite so long this time. I shall make arrangements for Elphir to come to Ithilien, whilst I keep counsel for you in Minas Anor until such time as we may again celebrate your arrival in the White City.”
Elessar admired Faramir’s continuing ability to adapt to almost any situation and produce an appropriate response; it was one of the reasons he had made him Steward in the first place. Still, he lived in hope that one day he may surprise him into silence. If only for a few seconds.
“I wish for you and Eowyn to accompany me on the journey.”
Faramir’s dark brows raised in surprise.
“During our absence I intend to have your uncle take temporary Stewardship of Gondor. It shall be safe with him and he is loved by its people. The duration of Imrahil's absence from Belfalas will also give Elphir invaluable experience in understanding the true scope of his responsibilities as future Lord of Dol Amroth.”
Leaning back in his seat, the king temporarily indulged in the pleasurable feeling of having thrown his friend off balance for once.
“Of course, my Lord,” replied Faramir, quickly regaining his normal inscrutable countenance. “And Ithilien?”
“Erchirion may enjoy the challenge of presiding over your fair land for a year or so, do you not agree?”
The Steward nodded, happy for his cousin’s good fortune. “I believe he would.”
There was silence for a few moments as both Men mulled over the upcoming changes but inevitably Aragorn felt Faramir’s steady gaze upon him once more. He knew what he was thinking.
“Yes, Faramir. We shall also pay a visit to the Shire, or as near it as I will allow.”
The younger man’s mouth quirked again as his assumption proved correct. It really was an annoying habit. Probably the result of Legolas’ influence, given that their lands are so close, Aragorn speculated.
“I cannot travel so far without seeing the Hobbits,” he added in justification, though it was not required by his companion. “There may be little I can do at present to help, but with my foster brothers’ aid Sam should have recovered by the time we arrive, and it will ease my heart to see him whole once more.”
“As it will also ease mine,” said Faramir seriously. “Our loyal friend should not have to suffer such trials so long after the Dark Lord’s defeat. I only hope this one may be of short duration and that he will not be plagued by them again, if that is not a false hope!”
“Perhaps it is false, perhaps not.” Aragorn’s reply was non-committal. “We may better assess the potential of such hope upon our arrival in his homeland. And we may also ensure that all action be taken to ease any future intervention by the Ring - at least until such time as he must depart Middle Earth forever.”
“Then he knows that he may accept the gift of a place in Valinor when his hurts are too great?”
Elessar nodded. “I believe Frodo informed him of it at the Grey Havens.”
“It will be a loss to us all when that day arrives, but it may yet be many years ahead of him,” said the younger man. “With the support of all those who love him, he could stay with us long enough to meet his grandchildren.”
“Indeed!” declared the King. “And we must see to it that this comes to pass. Sam must accept our support if he is to enjoy his beloved Shire as long as possible. Only then may we enjoy the pleasure of his company for equal time.”
He rose again - this time with resolve - and donned his robe of office. Their sojourn was over and it was time for preparations to be made.
“If I have to enforce it by royal decree, I will make certain that the curse that threatened our lands for two Ages of Men will not force him from us so quickly. Sam shall know that he will not have to face the Ring alone! We owe him no less, both as our friend and as our deliverer.”
Nodding agreement, the Prince of Ithilien stood also and together they left the study to meet with the High Council and make arrangements for their pre-winter departure.
Bag End, 1435 Shire Reckoning
Contrary to what Elladan predicted, the small company did not arrive in Hobbiton before night fell. It had been necessary to stop after a couple of hours travel when Sam began struggling in his brother’s arms near Bywater, and they were delayed for almost another hour whilst tending to their fevered charge.
In the end, it was shortly before midnight when they finally dismounted outside Bag End. The homely Smial was ablaze with light, and the round green door crashed opened before they could announce themselves. Rose Gamgee rushed out with her eldest daughter in tow; together they gasped at the sweating form of their loved one.
“Sam!“ cried his wife in shock, clutching Elanor to her. “What happened?”
Although informed of the danger he may be in earlier that day, she was not prepared to find him returned to her in quite so grave a fashion.
“Let us see him settled first my Lady. We may speak of what has passed thereafter,” said Elrohir, as they entered the Smial. “I trust you have seen to our request that the younger children be despatched elsewhere for the moment?”
“Yes, I’ve had all the little ’uns taken to stay with relatives, only Elanor remains,” explained the hobbit lady, her voice fraught with worry. “She’s the oldest and better able to understand and be of some help, although I don’t much like her seeing her Sam-dad like this.”
“But I want to help, Mum,” insisted the lass, fearful that she may yet be sent away.
“I know, me dear.“ Her mother grasped Sam’s hand and tipped her head up at Elrohir. “If he needs us like you said he might, it’s best at least one of the children is here.”
“You are indeed correct, my Lady,” affirmed the elf. Elrohir did not want the younger children to fear their father if he should start calling out in his fever again. Neither did he wish for Elanor to witness it, in all honesty, but Rose had been visibly shaken by their earlier revelations and could not have been left alone while awaiting their return.
Elanor sagged in relief, then rushed off to obey Elladan's request that she prepare a bed for Merry and Pippin, who were busy stabling the horses.
Rose watched her husband‘s flushed face in concern. “Come right this way, my Lords,” she said, turning abruptly to lead them down a round wooden hallway.
The bedroom was at the far left of the Smial, and they had to bend slightly in order to follow in her wake. Soon they entered a spacious chamber overlooking the fragrant gardens. A window seat gave a fine view of Sam’s handiwork outside; highly polished wardrobes stood at the wall facing the large bed, and a sweetly carved dressing table adorned a wall opposite the window. Every free space in the room was adorned with tokens from the children to their parents; carved wooden animals, drawings of flowers, sticky bits of string, and other gifts that such little ones manage.
“We must try to bring his fever down,” said Elrohir, depositing Sam gently on the bed. Both elves set their travelling cloaks aside, that they may move more freely.
Plucking her husband's hand from the bedsheets, Rose cradled it tenderly. “Oh, Sam! What’s happening to you, my love?”
Elrohir began opening the window to the garden, letting the scent of Sam’s beloved flowers and plants enter the room with the rush of fresh air, while Elladan explained the situation to Rose.
“Mistress Rose, your husband is ill with fever and caught in battle with the memory of the One Ring.” He placed a hand on her arm as her hands flew to her face in horror.
“Do not be alarmed, my Lady. My brother and I shall do all we can for him. Samwise is strong and he will win this fight. But he will need the support of us all to do so.”
She nodded, wiping tears from her cheeks. “I’ll see about getting some water boiled then, in that case. No doubt my Sam will be needing some for that athelas he’s so fond of. And if you or your brother need anything else you must let me know, sir.”
Elladan looked to his brother, who was busy stripping Sam of his sweat soaked garments, before responding. “We shall need plenty of water - both hot and cold. Merry and Pippin shall be arrive once they have settled the steeds, so have them carry any heavy pots through to us. Also, a fresh garment is required once we have cooled him down.”
Rose nodded in compliance and sought a clean nightshirt for her husband, handing it to Elladan before she left for the kitchen. Mere moments later, Merry and Pippin arrived, and they heard her dutifully requesting their assistance.
Elladan moved to the bed where Elrohir was watching over the stricken hobbit. Sam had not stirred since the episode in Bywater, but neither did his slumber seem peaceful. His breaths were fast and shallow; his bandage was also askew after the long ride, which they set about removing. The angry wounds on his scalp and forehead were soon redressed with their own supplies.
Merry came into the room with a basin of cold water and Elrohir quickly bathed the gardener, pulling the fresh nightshirt over his head when done. Entering shortly thereafter with hot water was Pippin, followed by Rose, who went directly to her husband to claim his hand once more. She murmured soft words in his ears.
“How is he?” asked Pippin of Elladan, having beckoned him over.
“He remains too warm for our comfort. If we cannot revive him soon the Ring will tighten its grasp upon him in this weakened state and make our efforts that much more difficult,” replied the elf quietly, wishing to avoid alarming Rose any further.
“Well that’s not good,” said Merry frowning. “We brought him all the way here so that his own home and family could help to bring him back to us!”
“And indeed they shall, my dear hobbit.” Elladan admonished him quickly, and Merry had the grace to blush. “But with each passing hour Sam is under greater assault from the Ring. Had we remained in Frogmorton all this time he may have been lost to us before dawn. We have won ourselves valuable time with this journey, and we have armed ourselves with the weapons for his rescue.”
He indicated Rose, who was seated at the top of the bed resting her head on her husband‘s shoulder, and young Elanor, who had just came in from preparing the guest room.
Merry apologised for his hasty remark and Pippin patted his back in sympathy. “It’s all right Mer. It’s been a long day for you and you’re tired. Why don’t you lie down for a bit? Elanor’s made up the beds, and you need to rest soon or you‘ll drop.”
“No, I want to be here for Sam,” Merry answered stubbornly.
Elladan’s countenance softened at his loyalty. “Master Brandybuck, you have not slept for many hours. I must insist that you take some rest, if only for a while. Your services will be required here later and you must be refreshed for the task ahead.”
“I’ll make sure that he rests, Mr Elladan,” came the sweet voice of Sam's daughter. Grabbing his hand in her little one, she led Merry out and his shoulders slumped in defeat. Pippin moved to the window seat while Elladan prepared fresh athelas water.
The gentle sound of Rose's whispered endearments filled the silence as continued her vigil by silent husband.
“Good, my Lady. He needs to hear your voice, to know that you are near him,” Elrohir remarked, observing her efforts. “He may listen to you, if not to us.”
She looked up at him with questioning eyes, and the graceful elf explained that Sam had not responded well to them earlier.
“Then I’ll talk for all the Shire if there’s a chance it’ll help him,” she declared, regarding him with determination. He saw her eyes soften slightly. “You and your brother have both come all this way to help my Sam when I myself had no idea it was so bad. I’ve known for a while now that he's been sleeping poorly, slipping out at night to use the athelas water.”
Her cheeks glistened again with tears as she berated herself. “Why didn’t I make him talk to me? I should have forced him to see sense and let me know what was troubling him so! But that Gamgee pride wouldn‘t let him open up to me!”
Elrohir could not bear to see her so upset. “Nay, Lady! You could not have guessed at the true reason for his condition. He did not know it himself. You must not blame yourself now: be strong for him. He will need the strength of us all before this night is out, if we are to wrestle him from the Ring’s grasp.”
He was relieved when she composed herself enough to make an effort at controlling her tears.
“Still,” she told him, “You’ve both come so far and are doing so much. That makes you as good as family in my eyes, and my family calls me Rose. Just Rose.”
Elrohir smiled at her. One moment she had been in need of his reassurance and the next she was making both brothers members of her extended family, and using her motherly way to chastise them for calling her Lady.
“You honour us both with your words gracious Mistress. 'Rose' it shall be.”
Elladan moved to the other side of the bed, and together they watched for a few moments as the Ring-bearer was comforted by his wife.
“I believe this would be a prudent moment to try and reach into his mind," said Elrohir, "for he is now home and soothed by his beloved one.”
Frowning, his twin glanced across at him with questioning eyes. “So soon? We have just arrived. Do not forget that we have spent several hours with him and he does not recognise us as friends yet. It may take some time before he feels the effects of even her presence.”
At this moment Elanor returned, having successfully dealt with her Buckland uncle. Concern was etched on her lovely face as she studied her Sam-dad's flushed features. She glanced at Elrohir for reassurance that he would be well again.
“Fear not, little maid. We will see to it that your father recovers,” he said in response to her unasked question.
“Hannon le, good sirs. I know you’ll help him because he tells us such lovely tales of your folk.” Her golden head bent over her father as she dropped a kiss on his cheek. “You have to wake up soon Sam-dad. We need you, and Uncle Pippin’s Sindarin isn’t nearly as good as yours. How can I speak to our fine guests if you don’t help me?”
Elladan’s doubts were allayed when he witnessed the obvious affection she held for her father. This was how they would bring Samwise back to them. These acts of love spoke louder than any evil could. Catching his brother's eye, he nodded in agreement before leaving to prepare the athelas water. Elrohir addressed his hostess once again.
“I shall attempt to reach Samwise, Rose. You must not be alarmed if he becomes agitated, for he may fight me in his fever. The Ring tries to deceive him as to our true intentions towards him, but we must try to find a way through its veil of lies as soon as possible.”
He threw a pointed look at her daughter, a silent request to remove her in case this attempt should scare the young lass. She bobbed her head in understanding and sent a protesting Elanor from the room with the task of taking Merry a light supper. Bending over slightly, Elrohir placed his hands on Sam’s forehead and closed his eyes in concentration.
At first, he thought he had met with more success than his initial attempt in the Floating Log. The soothing words of Sam's wife seemed to have made him slightly more receptive. But he soon started to moan and fidget, pulling his arm from her grip and using both to try and push Elrohir away. Pippin hovered anxiously by the bed, ready to grab Rose if his struggles became more frantic.
At the sound of Sam’s movements, Elladan returned carrying the bowl of fragrant athelas water. He placed it on the bedside table where its vapours might ease their patient, yet its soothing effect was not in evidence while Elrohir continued his ministrations.
Indeed, Sam became so agitated by the prolonged invasion that he began to buck and thrash wildly, and Pippin eventually did have to pull Rose away. The gardener’s arms and legs swung in all directions in his effort to throw the interloper off him. It was all Elladan could do to restrain his frantic movements.
“Liars, Liars!" yelled Sam. "I know you hate me! Let me go.”
“Nay, mellon nin. We are your friends!” cried Elladan. Sam was oblivious.
“I know you hate me ... I‘m not a traitor!' he screamed, struggling furiously. Elrohir’s, whose eyes were clenched in concentration, suddenly paled.
The scene was too much for Rose: sobbing, she tried to rush to her beloved's aid, only to be refrained once more by Pippin.
But Elrohir was just as desperate to help him, and he did not desist in his efforts to reach Sam, who continued to yell out, frantic for peace from his apparent tormentor.
“You tricked me ... you’re punishing me! I don’t know what you want ... I did what I could!” The little gardener wept with frustration.
Finally, Elrohir opened his eyes and called for pure athelas leaves. Pippin complied, allowing Rose to finally break free and rush to the bedside. She was anxious to soothe Sam with her presence, but - for her own safety - Elladan made her wait until he was significantly calmer. Thus, she had little choice but to stand by helplessly and watch. Luckily, Pippin was quick with the athelas leaves: Elrohir snatched them up, crushed them in his hand and breathed on them. Immediately the elves began to chant soothing Elvish words, and Elrohir shoved the broken leaves to Sam’s flaring nostrils.
The heady scent was taken directly to his lungs and, slowly, his struggles weakened until he finally collapsed on the bed in a soaking mass of sweat. Erratic breathing steadied, but Sam's face remained flushed from both effort and fever.
All motion in the room stilled as those around the bed recovered their equilibrium. Rose was permitted to be at her husband’s side once more, and as she rushed to comfort him, Pippin joined the Elven lords, who had withdrawn from the bed to discuss what had just happened.
“What did you see, muindor nin?” asked Elladan in grave concern.
Elrohir straightened hair that had fallen about his face during his battle to save Sam. “I saw a dark place. I felt the heat of a mountain.” He looked at his brother in disbelief. “I heard the voice of the Ring itself!”
Two pairs of eyes widened in alarm.
“Alas! when I called out to the Ring-bearer, he turned from me. He resists. He does not trust his own judgement and flees when help is offered. He would not listen to me!”
“Ai! This is ill news indeed,” declared Elladan.
Taking a few deep breaths to compose his rattled nerves, Elrohir then addressed his companions in a more sedate tone. “Do not lose faith, gwanunig nin. Samwise may not wish to hear me yet, but he also has no desire to listen to the Ring. As long as we hold fast to that, then we may hold fast to our hopes of saving him. The Ring is desperate to win its prize, and infuriated by Sam's continued struggles. It is unable to gain a full hold of his mind for Sam is proving a more difficult adversary than it had first believed.“
“And so it tries to shake his faith in us, to hamper our efforts to assist him and give it more time to claim victory,” finished Elladan, whose face tightened with anger.
“Indeed,” confirmed his twin.
Pippin was very disturbed at this unwelcome information. “Let it try then,” he declared defiantly. “There’s not a hobbit in the Shire more stubborn than Samwise Gamgee, and none as loyal either, except maybe Merry. Thank goodness Elanor took him something to eat and wasn't here to see her Sam-dad like this.”
Nodding in agreement, Elrohir gave instructions that Sam be allowed to rest - and conserve his energy - before they attempted to reach him again.
“This will give Merry time to rest as well, for he surely has not been able to do so during such commotion. When all are fit to be here, we must brace ourselves for the task to come; for Sauron’s instrument will not release its claim so easily and we will all be in need of our strength to fight it!”
Hannon le - Thank you
Mellon nin - My friend
Muindor nin - My brother
Ai! - Eek! (No joke…)
Gwanunig nin - My twin
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