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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.
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