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The Herald of Gil-Galad
“How is this possible?” Elrond cried in dismay, bending closer to inspect the wounds. The sour smell of the festering sores attacked his olfactory senses and he drew back suddenly. His face clouded as anger suffused the usually serene face, coloring it to a dusky purple. He rose slowly and Gandalf took a step back, alarmed at his friend’s demeanor. He would not have spoken if his very life depended on it seeing the tension of the Elf Lord’s body and the barely concealed tremor of his hands. The hobbits saw the change in their host as well and they drew closer together, trying to make themselves smaller and less conspicuous. Pippin began to shake in fear and the other two hobbits moved closer to him to lend him comfort. Deara bowed her head closer to Frodo’s, thankful she would not be the one to receive the full measure of the Master’s wrath.
The Lord of Imladris rose to his full height and called out in a deafening voice heard throughout the valley and Gandalf mused that this was only the second such time he had witnessed the Herald of Gil-Galad in all his magnificent and terrifying form, both episodes within their short stay in Rivendell.
All within the room covered their ears in shock, the hobbits crying out in pain and fear. Pippin began to whimper to himself and Merry put his arm around his smaller cousin in comfort. Even Frodo, drugged though he was, jumped and cried out, nearly brought to consciousness by the roar. Sam shot a disapproving glare at Elrond before moving to comfort his Master. Merry marveled at Sam’s devotion to Frodo and the gardener’s braveness.
“HEALERS TO ME!!!” Elrond roared. He gave Sam and the others an apologetic look. The normally silent footfalls of Elves became a thundering stampede as all concerned with the care of the Ringbearer and Aragorn converged on the two patients’ room. All bore looks of worry and fear to hear the Master so angered. What could have happened to bring about the explosion of vitriol from the Lord of the valley? Each bowed as they entered and soon the room was full, the overflow filling the corridor outside. The hobbits watched the scene unfold before them both out of amazement to see the normally placid elves so flustered and secondly because somehow they knew they were witnessing a rare and terrible event; to have raised the ire of Elrond.
Balorian parted the crowd and bowed low to Elrond. Elrond seemed larger in Pippin’s eyes and he made a mental note to wipe all of the honey off of the out house seats immediately following whatever was coming so as not to be the recipient of the almost manic looking elf’s ire.
Lord Elrond turned towards the hobbits and asked, “Who among you bathed my son this day?” The hobbits quavered and stood slowly. Sam looked as if he might faint. Merry stepped forward and stood to his full height, attempting to show bravery even though he quailed inside. Elrond smiled to himself, ‘Yes, this one will one day make an excellent leader for his people,’ he thought in admiration. He softened his voice, “I am not angry with you, my friends, I only wish information,” he said with a slight smile.
Merry smiled wanly, “We understand, my Lord.” Pippin and Sam bowed to Elrond before stepping forward.
“We bathed him, sir. He was frightfully sweaty from being sick,” Sam whispered.
“And I am in your debt for your tender care of one of my family, Master Samwise,” Elrond said with a soft smile and short bow. “Did you notice anything unusual…a smell, a discharge or the condition of his scabs on his back when you bathed him?”
The hobbits seemed to think on this before Pip chirped, “He did smell awful sour…”
“Pippin!” Merry exclaimed.
“What? He DID, Merry. I said so, remember?” Elrond smiled slightly.
Sam had colored a deep red and his eyes were wide as if he was remembering something, “There weren’t no scabs, sir, jus’ sores and they was weepin’ somethin’ awful, but I didn’t touch ‘em figurin’ Mr. Balorian wouldn’t want me too…”
“Well done, Master Gamgee, that was wise of you. Why did you not notify Balorian, if I may ask?”
Sam blushed dark, “I am right sorry, sir. I intended to tell Mr. Balorian first chance but hadn’t seen him yet.”
Elrond nodded then gave the hobbits a small smile, “Again, I am sorry if I startled or frightened you. You have treated my son as if he were one of your own kind…”
“He is, you know. We made him an honorary hobbit when he took us on our walk,” Pip interrupted then grinned.
It was impossible for Elrond not to smile back at the precocious Took, “Indeed? We shall have to see if he begins to grow hair on his feet and steal pies from the window ledges like some OTHER hobbits I am becoming acquainted with,” Elrond said, his eyes twinkling. He gave them a short bow, “I thank you for your insights, little Master’s.” Pip smiled and all three blushed crimson. The Lord of the Manor knew more about their escapades than they had thought.
Elrond straightened and turned back to the group of healers waiting nervously. His eyes no longer twinkled in merriment, instead they glittered dangerously as his body stiffened, prepared to pounce on the guilty party with dispatch. The elves standing closest to the front attempted to back step but there were too many of them and they stood looking down forlornly.
“My Lord, what has occurred?” Balorian asked anxiously. Elrohir and Elladan skid to a halt outside the door then squeezed their way into the room. Elrond barely noticed their entry as his eyes bored into Balorian’s.
“Who is tending to my son’s decubitus?” Elrond asked quietly. Merry thought that the soft question coupled with Elrond’s florid face and tensed body was somehow even more frightening than the ear splitting shout of a few minutes before.
“That would be our newest apprentice Hearan, my Lord. He has been with us only a short while,” Balorian said, hoping Elrond would somehow take this in to consideration of whatever the doomed apprentice had done.
Elrond noted Balorian’s intention before continuing, “I would speak with him now, please,” Elrond said icily.
Balorian bowed again and surveyed the room at last alighting on a pale and shaking elf. Hearon looked as if he might faint or at least vomit, thought Sam and he was flooded with pity for the quavering being. Hearon moved slowly forward towards Elrond, “My Lord,” he said shakily, bowing low.
“You have been tending Aragorn’s wounds?”
“Yes, my Lord,” Hearon answered softly.
“Describe exactly leaving out nothing, how you treated Aragorn’s bedsores,” Elrond said tersely.
“They looked as if they were healing well, my Lord, but Master Balorian instructed me to continue bathing them with athelas and rubia followed by tincture of iodine, which I have been doing. Is this wrong, my Lord Elrond? Should I have done something else?” Hearon asked, alarmed.
“No, that is the correct procedure, Hearon. I wish to see you demonstrate how you did this,” Elrond continued. “The rest of you are dismissed.” Silently the elves disappeared from the room and hallway, all save Balorian and Hearon.
Hearon bowed again then crossed to the fire to retrieve the boiling water and pouring some into a shallow bowl. He added three crumpled leaves of athelas and a handful of crushed rubia flowers. He waited patiently while the mixture steeped, inhaling the fresh aroma and trying to quell his nerves. Once it was a brownish green he added a measure of cool water to make it bearable for Aragorn. He moved to the bedside and pulled a chair to him. At last he looked at the Ranger’s back and recoiled with a gasp at what he saw. He shot a look of dismay up at Elrond and the elf Lord merely continued to scowl down at him. “My Lord…truly they were not like this last I tended the Lord Aragorn,” the apprentice stammered.
Elrond replied steely, “Continue with your treatment, please.”
Hearon bowed his head and placed his hands on the wounds in order to scrub around the sores, letting the liquid run into the opening created after the removal of the pus.
Elrond turned to Balorian and gave the healer a sharp look. Balorian stared at Hearon’s back in disbelief.
“Hearon, you have forgotten a crucial step,” Balorian cried.
Hearon swiveled and looked into his Master’s face, “My Lord?”
“You need to wash your hands prior to any treatment between patients!” Balorian exclaimed.
“Oh yes, thank you Master for reminding me. For some reason I always forget that step,” he said as he crossed to the basin and washed his hands quickly before returning to his chair, bending once more to his task. “I am thankful it was not one of the more important ones,” he murmured quietly to himself.
“ENOUGH!” Boomed Elrond. Hearon jumped a good six inches off of his chair as Balorian frowned at his apprentices back.
“My Lord?” Hearon squeaked looking nervously between his two masters.
“Master Balorian, you are responsible for your apprentices training, is that not so?”
Balorian bent low, “Yes, my Lord, I accept all blame for this and will see it rectified immediately, I assure you,” he whispered.
“I do not understand, my Lord Elrond, it is such a small thing to forget. Please do not blame my Master. He DID instruct me to always wash my hands,” implored the novice.
Balorian rolled his eyes and said, “Please be silent, Hearon.”
“No, Balorian, it is important he understand and it will not hurt for him to hear it more than once,” Elrond said evenly. “You see, my dear elf, washing your hands is the MOST important part to any treatment. We do not know why, only that washing thoroughly, always using new bandages and covering our mouths during surgeries… when we do these things wounds do not get infected as often. Now, have you been also caring for the Ringbearer?” Elrond asked suddenly.
Hearon’s eyes flew open, “No, my Lord, he is Deara’s charge. My Lord, forgive me, I did not realize,” the elf stammered.
“Obviously,” Elrond said flatly. “I trust you will not forget again. When you wash your hands, wash every crevice, EVERY part thoroughly to be sure they are clean as possible, not as I just witnessed.”
Hearon blanched, “Yes my Lord,” he said softly. “I shall not forget and will endeavor to work all the harder to prove myself worthy to be a healer.”
“Hearon, you are prattling again. Please be silent,”Balorian sighed.
“Yes, Master,” Hearon murmured.
Elrond squelched a smile before resuming his stare, “Balorian please see that Aragorn’s wounds are aggressively cleaned and disinfected. Then see that he receives regular doses of the strawberry syrup as before. Perhaps it will work on the infection as well as it did on his lungs.”
“Yes, my Lord Elrond, we will see it done. I will supervise Apprentice Hearon’s work vigilantly.”
Elrond smiled wanly, “I am sure you will. Has your apprentice treated other patients?”
Balorian blanched, “Yes, my Lord…cuts and scrapes and such,” he replied.
Elrond grimaced, “See to it that each is examined and treated accordingly,” he said tersely. He turned back to Hearon, “You will need to scour the wounds, Master Hearon to remove as much of the infection as possible.”
“Scour, My Lord?” Hearon said softly, paling. He looked up at Balorian whose expression removed all doubt as to how unpleasant the task would be.
“Yes, I suggest you do so while your patient is unconscious as it is very painful.”
“Yes, my Lord,” Hearon said sadly. Elrond moved to the other side of the bed and lifted one of Aragorn’s eyelids. With a nod to Balorian, the healer retrieved a basin containing a small brush and cloth. He retrieved a pitcher from the sideboard and filled it with hot water to which he added cool. Hearon looked at the small brush and paled. He knew he would never forget to scrub his hands again.
Balorian pulled a chair to the edge of the bed after scrubbing his hands with another small brush and soap. He sighed then liberally coated the cleaning brush with soap and using slight pressure, began to scrub the wounds. Aragorn moaned and struggled against this new attack and Elrond grasped him behind the legs and upper back to still him. “I am sorry, my son,” whispered gently.
Balorian motioned Hearon to the sink and the healer gulped. After he had thoroughly scrubbed his hands and forearms he returned to Balorian’s side. Bloody pus coated the Ranger’s back and Balorian’s hands. Balorian rose and motioned for Hearon to sit. He laid a towel under Aragorn’s back and sluiced warm water over the wounds. Aragorn cried out, his eyes opening in surprised pain. Sam, Merry and Pippin moved quickly to his bedside seeing his distress and began whispered words of comfort to their friend as Sam gently finger combed the Ranger’s hair back from his forehead. Aragorn was awake now but his eyes were unfocused as he gasped at each touch to his wounds. Balorian washed the brush and his hands thoroughly and handed it to Hearon. Hearon’s hands shook violently as he glanced at Elrond who stared icily at him over his son’s body. Timidly he began to scrub at the decubitus. Balorian shook his head, “You will need to press harder, Master Hearon,” he said flatly. Of all the procedures healers were forced to use he dreaded this one the most.
Hearon gulped again before continuing. Aragorn cried out and Hearon hesitated before Balorian motioned for him to continue. Hearon felt nauseous as the wounds one by one, were scrubbed bloody. At last it was done and Balorian retrieved more warmed water to sluice the Ranger’s back with. The toweling was replaced many times until the wounds appeared free of exudate, then Balorian patted Aragorn’s back dry before retrieving a small jar of salve and coated each wound liberally.
“What salve is that, Master?” Hearon whispered.
“It is a paste made from yarrow and rubia root and mixed with beebalm. It will eliminate the infection and give some relief to Lord Aragorn. Unfortunately, not enough to vanquish all of his pain, I fear.”
Elrond slowly released his hold on Aragorn and slowly rose. “I will try to alleviate his discomfort,” he said quietly. The hobbits had remained near their friend and by their very nature, almost unnoticed by the elves. Their eyes widened as they watched Elrond close his eyes and hold his hand mere inches above the wounds on Aragorn’s back. Just for a flicker of a moment Sam thought he saw the elf Lord’s hand shine blue. He shook his head thinking it a trick of the light then glanced over at Gandalf. The wizard was studying him. Seeing Samwise looking at him he gave the gardener a small smile and a wink.
Aragorn sighed and closed his eyes but his brow was furrowed showing that some pain yet remained. “Is he still awake?” Pippin asked quietly.
“I don’t know as he ever really was, Mr. Pippin,” Sam murmured.
“He is unconscious, Master Took. He has been in a waking dream or nightmare as you would call it, while the procedure took place. It is uncertain as to whether he will remember anything or not,” Elrond said. “I gave him a potent soporific, hopefully strong enough to dispel any memories of this event.” He looked doubtful.
Balorian and Hearon had finished applying the bandages to Aragorn’s back. Balorian crossed to the door summoning two elves who held Aragorn aloft while the bed was stripped of the bloody and filthy linens then equipped with a special pad before being re-clad in clean dry sheets and blankets. Merry squeezed the pad between his thumb and forefinger before the clean sheets were placed over it. It was very soft and the top of it was covered in fluffy lambs wool. Aragorn was slowly lowered onto his right side, supported carefully by bolsters and pillows to make him comfortable. Merry wiped away a single tear from the Ranger’s face before corralling Sam and Pippin and moving back to Frodo’s bedside. Sam looked back over at Aragorn and pleased that he could see the Ranger’s face and detect if his friend was in distress without leaving Frodo’s bedside.
Gandalf tried to convince them to leave with he and Elrond, enticing them with possible stories of battles or Kingdoms long gone (Sam’s eyes lit up) or sweet cakes (Merry and Pippin’s ears swiveled towards him) to no avail as the three made themselves more comfortable on a low divan.
“No thank you, sirs,” Sam said. “It was leavin’ em before that caused all this in the first place and I don’t plan on makin’ that mistake again,” he said simply.
“Understood, Master Gamgee, I will see that trays are brought for you…”Elrond said.
“…and I will tell you some stories I know about the dwarves as they traveled with Bilbo and I on our first adventure that I am sure Bilbo did not tell you,” added Gandalf.
Elrond knelt down on one knee before the puzzled hobbits, “I have only my thanks to give you for your gentle care of my son,” he said gently.
The three blushed crimson, “We didn’t do aught, sir, but give him a quick wash,” Sam said.
“Ahh…you are too humble, my friends. Your comforting words and gestures have made more of a difference than you shall ever realize,” he said, rising and quitting the room as Gandalf followed.
The hobbits stood quietly a few moments before Pippin suddenly shot to his feet, “The outhouses!!” he screeched before flying from the room.
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