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The Honorary Hobbit Chapter 8
Elrond stood on the ornate balcony and looked off towards the road that rose from his valley. The timeless beauty of the vast expanse of trees and water escaped him as he gazed southward. He closed his eyes, concentrating as Vilya flared briefly on his finger.
"What has your mind so intensely fixated on, my friend?" Gandalf had approached so quietly that the elf Lord startled. He must have been completely focused in order to have been so surprised by the Maia. Vilya's light fluttered then quieted, once again becoming all but invisible to any who would have looked, save the Maia and the Elf. Gandalf ignored the startled jump of his friend at his approach, the anxiety in Elrond quelled any jest on his part.
"It has been three days, yet my riders have seen no signs of Aragorn and the hobbits south of here. I do not know what it is but something has caused a great unease within my being. Something is amiss," Elrond said quietly, his eyes still studying the horizon. Gandalf's gaze also shifted to the South.
"Are you certain that they headed South? Perhaps Aragorn decided on a second route instead. Aragorn mentioned they would be gone 3-4 days? It is still early to have caused you to feel pensive."
I am certain Aragorn headed South. He had a destination In mind before he departed and told me of it." Elrond smiled, "The Rimrock was always his favorite place to explore when he was a child and he knew the hobbits would enjoy it as much as he." He waved his hand dismissively, "From the first day I have felt a foreboding, a sense of urgency in regards to this hobbit walking party." He turned his gaze to Gandalf. "It is most probably, nothing. Vilya has sensed no dangers, save the prowling of animal life and weather, within my borders. Still…" He gave the Maia a small smile, "Perhaps the only danger is from the hobbits themselves as they test the patience of my son."
Gandalf smiled, "I can well imagine Aragorn has about reached the end of his tolerance after three days with four energetic hobbits. I shudder to think of what it will be like to travel the many leagues of our own journey with such a rambunctious quartet. If I may?" Gandalf asked with a small smile. Elrond's worry being infectious he moved to the edge of the balcony as the elf Lord gave him a nod. He held his staff forward, bent over it as he closed his eyes. Yes, he could sense them but one of the usually bright lights that were the fea of mortals wavered. He tensed and reached out again, two of the sparks of light, one thrumming faster and brighter than the other, were separated by some distance from the other three…Merry and Pippin he surmised. Two of the three remaining sparks were subdued and stationary, one burnt steady but not as brilliantly as Merry and Pippin's life force, one was a steady strong glow and the third…the third was quite dim, occasionally fluttering. He opened his eyes with a start, "You were correct in your worry, my friend. Something *is* amiss but I am unable to tell you with whom, only that someone is in dire straits. We need to go to them as fast as we may," Gandalf urged, grasping the elf Lord's arm in desperation.
It was enough to stir Elrond to action. He trusted the wizard with his life and had experienced the same fears. He turned quickly, silken robes swirled as he flew to the door, yanking it open. He strode down the hallway as Gandalf struggled to keep up. Elrond reached the balustrade overlooking the main hall. The normally soft spoken elf, with little effort, called on the voice he was known for as the herald of Gil-Galad. All stopped within the valley surrounding the Last Homely House and listened to he whose name meant Star Dome.
"Muster a riding party of twenty elves and join me in the courtyard with all due haste," he called then turned without further instruction. None was necessary as Elrond's word was law and all in Rivendell accepted and obeyed without question all that he asked. Within a few moments twenty elves sat astride twenty steeds, lined up perfectly in the courtyard. They were dressed in riding clothes and light armor, carrying the shields with the mark of Elrond HalfElven with them. Equally equipped, Elrond joined them carrying a large medical bag and mounted his horse. Without a word, they turned to the South road and passed as the wind through the branches of the waning trees.
Merry and Pippin walked in silence for the first hour after parting from Frodo, Sam and Aragorn. The rain pounded down on them, striking their poncho's with loud plops. They were soaked from the wind blowing the deluge into their faces and down their fronts no matter how tightly they held the edges of the garments together. When thunder rolled over them, Pippin quickened his pace to get closer to Merry.
"Merry, I'm hungry. Couldn't we stop for elevenses?" he whined.
Merry rolled his eyes and looked at Pippin's pinched face. "Why Pip? So we can sit in the rain?" He turned Pippin around, rummaged through his pack until he found an apple. "Here, Pip, this will have to do. We can't stop until well after sunset, Frodo and Strider are counting on us."
"How will we know when it's sunset with all this rain?" Pippin said plaintively, wiping his face.
Merry groaned inwardly. Pip hated thunder and lightning and Merry knew that until the storm passed he would be subjected to unending questions about everything trivial in order to keep Pip's mind occupied. "It will get very dark, Pip," Merry growled. Pip gave him a wilting look. "Come on, let's get into the pinewoods so we can get some cover. Why don't we have a marching song to make the time go faster?" Merry suggested hopefully. Pippin turned frightened green eyes on Merry as thunder boomed unexpectedly.
"All right," Pip's voice quavered. In a tremulous voice he began to sing.
"Farewell we call to hearth and hall!
Though wind may blow and rain may fall,
We must away ere break of day
Far over wood and mountain tall.
To Rivendell where Elves yet dwell
In glades beneath the…"*
Merry's eyes flew open and he grabbed Pip, placing a hand over his mouth. Pippin stopped singing and looked up at Merry. "Wha…?" He started after pulling Merry's hand away.
Merry pointed and Pip's eyes followed his finger. Two rabbits were huddled beneath a bush trying to escape the rain. "Pip, get your sling; if we're lucky we'll have roast rabbit for dinner tonight!" Merry whispered eyes bright.
Pip smiled as he slowly unslung his pack and retrieved his sling. Merry did the same and they knelt, swept up some pebbles and, in a blur, loosed their shots. The two hapless coney's never knew what hit them and the hobbits danced about the bush holding the rabbits out like a prize. Merry stopped first, pulling his knife out and springing the blade.
"Let's get this done Pip, and be off," he said with a grin.
"Will you do mine too?" Pip asked quietly.
Pip hated cleaning his game but Merry didn't mind, "Sure Pip, give me a towel to wrap them in."
By the time Pippin had the towel out, Merry had gutted the first coney and was working on the second. He pulled the skins off, washed the rabbits down and wrapped them in the towel. He washed his hands in a puddle, cleaned his knife and shouldered his pack. He put the coneys in Pip's pack and helped his cousin into it. He gave Pip a slap on the shoulder and they grinned at each other. "Shall we, Pip?"
"After you, dear cousin," Pip bowed and swept his hand forward.
They increased their pace to make up for the time lost and Pippin resumed his song. They could be heard for a league as Merry joined in. A pair of eyes watched them leave then she turned her concentration on the refuse left by the two small animals. She slowly crept forward, settling beside the entrails and began to eat. Finished too soon with the paltry snack, she turned her attention towards the distant sound of hobbits singing. She sniffed the air, yes those two beings had the smell of blood and meat on them. Perhaps her next meal would be more substantial after all.
"But you *must* drink it, Aragorn," Frodo cried. His voice cracked in desperation. The Ranger's fever had continued to rise resulting in delirium and now Aragorn was fighting Frodo at every turn. Frantic, Frodo had strengthened the medicinal tea and begun dosing Aragorn every hour trying desperately to stop the infection that was ravaging his friend's body. He and Sam had sluiced the man's body with cold water, Frodo had given him willow bark tea, athelas tea and yarrow tea, but nothing had broken the relentless fever. Finally Frodo had unwrapped the broken leg, thoroughly rinsed the break with the athelas water then laid the last two leaves of the curative directly on the oozing wound. He had re-wrapped the appendage and hoped it would be enough.
Frodo sighed, falling back on his haunches, the cooling cup of tea still in his hand. An idea came to him and with a quirk of his lips, he decided he had nothing to lose by trying it. He looked at Sam who was holding the Ranger up, frightened eyes looking at the twisting and sweating patient.
Aragorn mumbled something and opened his eyes, staring at Frodo.
Frodo swallowed tightly, "Your Majesty," he said, leaning low as if to bow. Sam's eyes moved from Aragorn to Frodo and, if possible, he looked even more frightened than before. Aragorn watched Frodo in confusion. Frodo sat back up and locked eyes with the Ranger. "You do us a great honor attending our table and we wish to honor you in return, my Lord. I have prepared a rare treat, a tea that is reserved for only the most sacred of occasions. The flowers come from a unique plant that only blooms once every ten years. It takes many hours to prepare it correctly, and you would honor me greatly by sharing a cup of it with me," Frodo bowed again.
"I…I do not remember…" Aragorn's voice drifted off. "I would be honored to share this drink with you, Frodo Baggins of the Shire," he finally replied in a husky voice.
Frodo smiled and a dumbfounded Sam tilted Aragorn's head and shoulders forward. Frodo held the cup to the man's lips and he drank deeply until it was all gone. Aragorn winced, it was more than just a little bitter, but he would not insult Frodo, who had obviously gone to great lengths to prepare the beverage.
"It is delicious," Aragorn whispered. Despite the seriousness of the situation it took all of Frodo's abilities to keep a straight face.
"I am humbled by your praise," was all he said, bowing again.
"Is there anything else I can do, my Liege, to make you more comfortable?"
Aragorn stared at him then closed his eyes briefly, "I have need of the privy, Frodo, might you show me where it is?"
Frodo's eyes widened, this was *not* what he had expected the Ranger to ask for. "Of course, my Lord. We would be greatly humbled if you would allow us to see to your needs," Frodo murmured. Aragorn stared at the hobbit, was this what it was to be King? To have all of your subjects see to even the most personal of your needs? He did not know if he really liked this part of being King. 'I mean, after all, I am not helpless and *some* things should be taken care of by one's self,' he mused to himself. 'I must come up with an edict doing away with this practice,' he decided.
"Very well," Aragorn said slowly. Frodo smiled, bowed, and then retrieved both the pan and the cup.
"My Lord, which is your desire?" Frodo asked, holding up the cup and the pot.
"Oh…uh the cup, please," Aragorn said feeling most uneasy.
Frodo moved the blankets aside and he and Sam slowly tipped the man to his left. Frodo held the cup under the man and after a few moments, Aragorn's stream began. Once finished, Frodo sat the cup aside while he straightened Aragorn's clothing, re-covered him and slowly laid him back down. Frodo rose, picking up the cup and discarded the contents outside of the cave. He washed his hands and settled once again beside Aragorn.
"Yes, your Highness?"
"Where are we? This room does not look familiar to me. Are Merry and Pippin here with you and Sam?" Aragorn asked slowly.
"Er…this is a great palace that the hobbits of the Shire have built for you to stay in whenever you visit us here in Hobbiton, my Lord," Frodo lied easily.
Sam smiled to himself, 'Mr. Frodo is becoming very good at lying and tale spinning…perhaps too good.' The smile became a frown and his eyes narrowed, he hoped he could still tell when Mr. Frodo was lying about hisself. Someone who cared for him needed to know after all, what was *really* going on in his Master's mind.
"It is very spacious but seems a bit warm, don't you think, Frodo?"
Frodo's smile fled, "It is probably only the tea, my Lord," he said quietly, worried anew about the persistent fever. "Perhaps you would afford Sam and I the privilege of cooling you off, my King," Frodo asked.
Aragorn frowned," I am uncomfortable with all of the subservience that my close friends shower upon me. I want to be only Aragorn—friend, companion, trusted ally, not gentry that knows nothing except obsequiousness.
Frodo gave him a slow smile as he handed a cloth to Sam and wrung out his own in the athelas water. While he and Aragorn spoke, the two hobbits began to wash down the man's burning body.
"King Aragorn, you would never treat any as subservient. You are a working King, my Lord, uncomfortable with fawning and the pretentious. You have great empathy and compassion for all who have the honor of knowing you and all who wish to. You should not be concerned with how we tend to you, we are simply thankful that the King has returned to us, and that he is a truly *good* man." Frodo and Sam finished and Aragorn stared up at Frodo with a strange distant look.
"Thank you, Frodo, I am relieved that I am a good King," the Ranger whispered.
Frodo smiled into the gray eyes, "You could be no other, Aragorn," he murmured. "I think you should eat and then rest, your Highness, you have had a busy day."
Sam wiped his hands, rose and retrieved the stew, handing it to Frodo. Frodo began spooning it into Aragorn's mouth until it was gone. Then he put a dollop of Poppy paste under the man's tongue and settled him down into his blankets.
Aragorn smiled gratefully up at him as his eyes slowly closed in sleep. Frodo's head dropped to his chest as he let out an exhausted sigh.
Sam clapped his hands and Frodo looked up. "Now that was one of the most amazin' things I ever did see, Mr. Frodo, a true performance for Mr. Bilbo's tales, it was," Sam beamed at Frodo worshipfully.
Frodo blushed and gave Sam a small smile. "Really Sam, you're too nice, it was all I could think of. I thought that perhaps, with the delirium, he wouldn't know that he was yet to be King, is all."
"Ahh…you're much too humble, Master," Sam said admiringly.
Frodo's eyes darted to the cave entrance watching the deluge outside. "If we do not get help soon, Sam, I fear it may be his last memory on this plain of existence."
Sam's eyes followed his Master's, "Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin will get help, you'll see, Mr. Frodo. Then Lord Elrond will get Strider fixed up like new."
Frodo smiled at his friend, "I wish I were as optimistic as you, Sam, you always put a positive spin on everything." Sam blushed. "I need some air, Sam, I think I'll go for a little walk, perhaps get some more firewood," Frodo said as he rose.
Sam looked at his Master in horror, "You can't be goin' out in the rain, Mr. Frodo, let me go….I could…"
"No Sam, let me do something, I won't break you know, and I truly do need a sniff of fresh air." Frodo said as he pulled his slicker over his cloak.
Sam looked positively panicked, "But…"
Frodo put a hand on Sam's shoulder, "You worry too much, Sam. I am grateful for you always being there for me, but I'll be back soon. I won't go far, I promise." With that Frodo left the cave, walking out into the pouring rain and into the gathering dusk. Sam stood at the mouth of the cave, his hands balling nervously as his Master disappeared from view.
*Fellowship of the Ring, A Conspiracy Unmasked.
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