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Patience with Patients
The elf walked almost silently down the corridor, the rustle of her robes the only mark of her passage. She hesitated outside Aragorn’s door before opening it a crack to peer in. The Ranger was quiescent, flagged on either side by two of her brethren who smiled and gave her a nod. She closed the door after returning the nod and continued down the hallway until she came to the Ringbearer’s quarters. She opened the door slowly and entered.
Balorian looked up and gave her a rare smile, “Ah, Deara, thank you for coming on such short notice,” he said with a sigh. “Lord Elrond had instructed me to locate someone to do the percussions on the Ringbearer… someone who perhaps wasn’t so …heavy handed. He has already been through so much and he is quite thin. I was concerned that I might injure him.
Deara smiled, “I am not that gentle, Balorian, perhaps you prefer another?”
“No, I think you’ll do well and he will not need the same amount of force as a larger patient would.”
Deara nodded, her eyes shifting to the hobbit in the bed. This was the first time she had seen the Ringbearer and she was struck by how small and frail he appeared. She pulled from her gown two large padded mitts. At Balorian’s confused look she explained, “I have found that these gloves help to minimize the bruising and abrading of the skin,” she said simply.
“Ingenious! Why ever did I not think of that?” Balorian exclaimed, picking up one of the gloves, examining it. “Why, they look like the mitts the cooks use for the hot pans,” he said in wonder.
Deara smiled, enjoying the rare look of surprise on the healer’s face. “That is where I got the idea,” she said. Balorian lifted Frodo and lay him across Deara’s lap. After placing a pan beneath Frodo’s head, Deara slipped on the oversized mitts and began to forcibly strike at the hobbit’s back.
Frodo’s reacted immediately as he cried out and tried to shift away from this new torture. He coughed, violently expelling the thick mucus from his lungs. Occasionally, Deara would have to stop her treatment as Frodo would begin to choke, but would resume as soon as his airway would clear. He cried out in agony as he tried to pull himself out of Deara’s grasp but he was too weak to make much headway. Balorian rose and with a nod to Deara, left the room, closing and locking the door so she could work undisturbed. He walked down the long hallway and entered a room resembling a laboratory. Flasks and beakers simmered over low flames, heavy tombs written by elves long since departed from Middle Earth, sat on long counters and stands, from the rafters bunches of herbs hung drying and shelves lined the walls holding glass containers and burlap bags all labeled in Balorian’s neat script. This was where the teas, cordials and other medicinal antidotes were prepared. He had been working on a powerful elixir that he hoped would banish the infection in both Aragorn and Frodo once and for all. Thus far he had combined four or five ingredients and he swirled the flask slowly examining the creamy white mixture before climbing the ladder to retrieve other herbs that might prove useful. This room was where he spent most of his days working when there weren’t patients to attend to. He had created many curatives over the long years by experimenting with whatever he gathered from his herb garden and the lands surrounding Imladris, then writing them down in his careful scrip, in a large ledger. He had little chance to test the medicines since elves were seldom ill, but since the arrival of the Ringbearer and his kin, he had made leaps and bounds in the process. Frodo blamed Elrond for his disgusting medicines but it was actually Balorian’s recipes that the elf lord used. He continued working, occasionally tasting the concoctions, grimacing, as he was unfortunately, forced to agree with the Ringbearer’s assessment of his curatives. He added a liberal amount of honey to the mixture in a vain attempt at making it more palatable and grimaced again after tasting it. It would do little good if the patient would not take it. He sighed and then brightened as an idea occurred to him. He left the room in search of the other hobbits. He didn’t have to search far. Outside the locked door to the Ringbearer’s room they sat huddled on the floor looking totally dejected. Balorian approached and was about to greet them when the hobbit that was the Ringbearer’s servant spoke up.
“Mr. Balorian they won’t let us in to see to Mr. Frodo, sir. He needs me to do for him and Mr. Gandalf told me to stay by his side, and I mean to, sir.”
Balorian took a breath to speak but the youngest hobbit interrupted him. “You don’t look like the other elves,” Pip said bluntly. Balorian’s mouth quirked as he looked down into the guileless green eyes. Merry elbowed Pip sharply, but Pippin ignored him. “You’re stout like a hobbit and pretty short. Plus your hair is thinner, oh and …” Merry elbowed Pip again, only harder, which must have hurt as Pip cried out, “OWWWWWWWW, Merry what is WRONG with you?”
Merry simply rolled his eyes and looked skyward as Sam smiled and looked down. Balorian didn’t smile but his eyes twinkled in mirth. He turned to Sam, “Master Baggins is receiving a ‘treatment’ and my assistant needs privacy to do so. She should be done shortly and then you can rejoin your kinsman,” he said reassuringly. Sam scowled at the door which remained firmly locked in front of him. Balorian decided a change of subject was needed. “Is there anything in particular that the Ringbearer particularly enjoys? Perhaps something sweet or fruity or…?”
“Oh, Frodo’s mad about strawberries,” Pip exclaimed. “He always eats them all during the harvest and comes back with an empty basket and stained lips. And of course there’s mushrooms, but they aren’t really sweet or fruity, I suppose.” Pip continued.
Balorian smiled down at the youngling, “Very good, you have been most helpful,” Balorian exclaimed before bowing, turning sharply and walking briskly down the hallway back towards his lab.
“See here now, Mr. Elf, what about my Master?” Sam called after him, but Balorian’s quick strides had already taken him around the corner. Sam slumped back against the door, trying to listen to what was occurring within. “Now what do we do?” Sam said with a sigh. Merry and Pip slid down next to him.
“We wait, Sam,” Merry said simply.
Deara ran frantically down the long hallway, three hobbits close on her heels, desperately looking for Balorian. She found him in his laboratory and, out of breath, whispered to him in rushed elvish as the hobbits looked on in fear.
“It’s Frodo, isn’t it?” Merry cried.
“What’s happened to him?” Sam shouted.
Balorian looked at the hobbits before turning and racing back towards Frodo’s room, Deara and the hobbits flying after him. He pushed open the Ringbearer’s door and hurried towards the bed. Frodo’s face was pinched in pain and although he was not fully conscious, he coughed weakly as he cradled his left arm against his chest. Balorian leaned over Frodo’s shoulder, peeling back the nightgown and peering closely at the wound. It was a bright red and a thin trickle of bloody fluid had dampened the gown. The wound pulsed, like a live thing, with each beat of the Ringbearer’s heart.
“Balorian, did I injure him?” Deara whispered tearfully.
He looked into her anxious face, “I do not know, Deara. He had been in pain from the wound while on the hiking trip. From all accounts given, I believe he re-injured it during that time.” He looked towards the hobbits for confirmation and they all nodded silently.
“I’m sure it weren’t your fault, my lady,” Sam whispered as he went to her side.
“Perhaps I hit him too hard even though I used the mitts,” she said twisting her hands.
Merry and Pip exchanged a confused look, “Hit him?” Pip squeaked.
Sam nodded, “It’s what they do to get the infection outta the lungs, Mr. Pippin. Me Ma’s sister is a healer o’er in Sackville,” Sam said.
“Oh…but doesn’t that hurt?” Pip whispered to Merry. Merry nodded to him and he winced.
Balorian overheard the whispered conversation, “It is indeed most uncomfortable, little hobbit, but it will help him to heal.” He turned to the three, “you must understand that we would do nothing to harm the Ringbearer, but instead would give our all to see him restored to good health.”
Having heard the commotion, Elrond entered the room in a swirl of robes. He went immediately to Frodo’s side and examined the wound. Afterwards he looked to Deara but not in an accusatory manner, “You did well, Deara, do not let your heart be troubled. The Ringbearer is more fragile than normal due to his continued convalescence; still, he is stubborn and has other strengths that will win the day,” he said softly. Deara only nodded, unshed tears in her eyes.
He turned to Balorian, “Prepare a hot compress for his shoulder but first lay cloths down to protect the wound and his skin.” Balorian nodded and set about gathering his supplies.
“Help me, Samwise. We need to give him some sustenance, tea and Balorian’s newly created medication,” Elrond said with a smile. Sam looked suspiciously at the jar with the red jelly like contents before jumping into action. They carefully raised Frodo’s shoulders and Sam settled himself behind his Master. Frodo naturally resisted, crying out as he was moved. Pip and Merry moved to the bedside and Pip took Frodo’s hands. The three hobbits whispered loving reassurances to their cousin and master as Elrond slowly fed the broth and tea into the small mouth. Lastly, the elf lord opened the jar and removed a spoonful of the red jelly, placing it in Frodo’s mouth. To everyone’s surprise, Frodo’s eyes opened wide and he swallowed the contents eagerly, licking his lips afterwards. Sam slipped out from behind Frodo who had, once again, slumped down in exhaustion. The gardener gently washed Frodo’s face as Merry and Pippin lovingly sponged the perspiration from the rest of Frodo’s body.
Frodo seemed to relax, finally made more comfortable and hearing, on some level, the litany of whispered reassurances. They covered him as Deara brought a steaming bowl of athelas water and placed it at the head of the Ringbearer’s bed. A sheet was draped over the bed creating a tent which helped to concentrate and hold the vapors within.
Content that Frodo was now as comfortable as possible the elf Lord, Balorian and the hobbits left the room while Deara remained in case needed by the Ringbearer.“Please go to the kitchens and take a meal, then rest, for Frodo will need you once he awakens,” Elrond said. When Sam made to object, Elrond said quietly, “I insist” leaving no room for argument. Once the three had departed the elf lord allowed himself to relax, sighing as he leaned against the wall.
“How is he?” a voice whispered.
The elf turned towards the Istari, “injured and sick, my friend,” Elrond said sadly.
“He will recover. He is an amazing young hobbit and stronger than he appears,” Gandalf said reassuringly. “You should rest as well, my friend. It appears you will be very busy for the next few days.”
Elrond nodded, “I am weary, perhaps you are right.”
Gandalf raised an eyebrow, it was unusual for Elrond to *admit* he was tired which indicated to Gandalf how truly exhausted his friend was. He walked Elrond to his quarters then returned to Aragorn’s room. He took out his pipe then thought better of it, before pulling a chair to Aragorn’s side and relaxing into it. Reflectively, he studied the Ranger’s profile, his eyes drifting down to the leg. He called an elf over to him, whispered a request and then waited as the elf left. Soon long straight branches, shoots removed, were brought to him. He nodded his thanks as he withdrew his knife and set to carving the poles into what would eventually become crutches for the Ranger. He knew that a stubborn and determined Aragorn would, sooner than later, make some attempt to go to Frodo’s side. “Might as well be ready for it, and as Samwise would say, sooner started, sooner finished,” he murmured to himself then chuckled before beginning to strip away the outer bark and shape the wood beneath.
“But I need to get up!” Aragorn exclaimed to the healers attending him.
Gandalf enter the room, overhearing the exchange. “Why, dear boy?” he said softly. He crossed to the bed placing a weathered hand across Aragorn’s forehead and gazed into the feverish face of his friend.
“Gandalf! Thank Eru you are here! They will not allow me to see Frodo and he needs my help. I heard him cry out.”
“My dear Aragorn, you are quite unable to go anywhere at the present time. Don’t be unruly or Elrond will be forced to sedate you.”
Aragorn’s eyes became stormy, “We will just see about that!” He tried to push himself up and frowned in puzzlement when his arms refused to lift him. Perspiration bloomed anew on his forehead. He geared himself to try again when Gandalf gently pressed down on his shoulders.
“Aragorn, you have been quite ill, your energies would be better spent in healing.” Gandalf gave an elf a nod, “Could we move him into a more upright position?”
“Of course,” the elf replied, and with Gandalf’s assistance, shifted Aragorn up onto his pillows into a semi-reclining position while another elf readjusted the broken leg with more pillows.
Aragorn blanched, closed his eyes and took a couple of slow, deep breaths, before slowly opening them again. Elrond entered the room carrying a single rose colored vial on a tray. He smiled at Aragorn and Gandalf.
“It is good to see you awake and more or less alert, my son,” he said.
“Father…Ada…I would like to be moved into Frodo’s room to assist in his care,” Aragorn said respectfully.
“I am sorry, that is not possible at the present, Estel. Besides, the Ringbearer is receiving the best care possible from our healers. You need your rest, Estel. You are improving no small thanks to Balorian, but I do not wish you to relapse. You need to drink this,” Elrond said, holding out the vial to the Ranger.
Aragorn eyed it suspiciously knowing that the lovely color most probably belied the taste of the contents. Sighing, he took the vial with shaking hands and drank it down in one swallow. It was worse than he had imagined and he almost forced the contents back onto the sheets. “Uggh, that’s awful,” he exclaimed.
Gandalf smiled, “Now that the unpleasantness is over with, how about some broth?” Aragorn nodded slightly, wincing as a sharp pain shot through his head.
Elrond studied his foster son. Aragorn was still very pale save for the bright red that blossomed at his cheeks, evidence of the fever. He looked exhausted and he could tell by the way the Ranger’s hands shook that he was still very weak. But the coughing had been reduced to occasional jags and he seemed to be breathing easier. An elf approached and whispered in Elrond’s ear. The elf lord nodded and the elves left the room. Aragorn had finished his broth and Gandalf was now spooning some of Balorian’s new cure between his lips. The Ranger’s eyes opened in surprise and he licked his lips afterwards.
“Now some tea, Aragorn,” Gandalf murmured. Aragorn’s eyes were beginning to lose focus as the brief amount of wakefulness had drained his limited energies. Finished, Gandalf set the cup on the night table. He spoke softly to the Ranger as he gently washed the man’s face.
“Gandalf, I require your assistance,” Elrond said softly.
“Of course, my friend, how may I be of help?”
“We need to roll Aragorn onto his side for a moment,” Elrond said. Together they rolled Aragorn onto his right side then Elrond pulled down the coverlet and began to unfasten the makeshift nappy.
Aragorn frowned in his sleep and reached down for the blanket. Gandalf captured the Ranger’s hands and held them while he spoke to the man in a low, reassuring murmur. “There, there, my boy. We have a small amount of unpleasantness to take care of and then you can have a rest.”
“Wha…what are you doing?” Aragorn mumbled, his eyes still closed. As Elrond tugged the makeshift diaper away from the Ranger. “Ada! What are you doing?” His eyes flew open even as his face turned an amazing shade of purple. Elrond noticed that Gandalf was now looking down, trying not to smile.
Elrond was carefully wiping away the waste followed by washing Aragorn’s backside with a warm, soapy cloth. The Ranger was positively sputtering with the indignity, and Gandalf lost his composure as he broke into chuckles.
“Aragorn,” he said softly, “who did you think would attend to your business while you were ill and trussed up like a spitted goose? You are a healer, you have treated patients, Frodo for example, that you have had to care for similarly,” The wizard’s eyes twinkled.
“This is different,” Aragorn said through gritted teeth.
“How so, my friend?” Gandalf asked with a smile.
“I am perfectly able to care for myself!” Aragorn said evenly.
“Ahh…truly? I saw you trying to lift yourself up earlier and it seemed to me you were too weak to do so,” Gandalf goaded him.
“You don’t have to look so happy about it, Mithrandir!” Aragorn exclaimed.
Gandalf broke into gales of laughter and even Elrond grinned as he started to secure the clean cloth, he hesitated, crossed to the side table and returned with a fever stick. Seeing this Gandalf began to laugh even harder, his face rosy as tears ran down his cheeks.
“WHAT is so amusing?” Aragorn nearly shouted, “I don’t see why you find me being in such an..AHHH!” He shouted as Elrond inserted the fever stick.
“Remain calm, my son, and try to relax your muscles, it will make this easier as you know,” Elrond said softly.
The Ranger’s face was apocalyptic; his voice more of a high pitched squeak. “Is this really necessary? I am much improved, you said so yourself. And you could have at least given me a little warning before sticking that thing up my…”he began to cough violently as he became more agitated. Gandalf thumped him on the back, causing Aragorn to wince in pain. Elrond finished attaching the clean cloth and with a nod to Gandalf they slowly rolled Aragorn onto his back and re-covered him. Elrond noted that his color was very high and a sheen of sweat coated his body, which was completely normal given the circumstances.
“Perhaps we should enlist the hobbits to give you another bath,” Elrond said simply.
“I don’t need a bath, if I am sweating it is only because…ANOTHER?” Aragorn yelled, his voice breaking and coming out in a most un-Rangerly squalk.
Elrond smiled, “They are excellent care givers, my son. They were careful and tender with you as if you were one of their own,” he said softly.
“I do not doubt that, they are a giving, gentle people. I simply do not wish to appear weak in front of them,” the Ranger muttered.
“Weak? That is preposterous, my dear Aragorn. They respect you and consider you a dear friend, nay…more like an honorary hobbit, I would say. I do not think they would ever think of you as ‘weak’. Instead, I believe they only wished to make you more comfortable during a time when you needed comfort most,” Gandalf said softly. Aragorn merely grunted before closing his eyes. Gandalf placed his hand on the Ranger’s forehead and gently smoothed back the damp hair, “Sleep, my boy, you have had a busy day.” As if the wizard’s words were part of a spell, Aragorn felt his mind begin to drift and his body relax as oblivion slowly overtook him.
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