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Tricks and Duels
Elrond walked slowly down the long hallway towards the sickroom, his face drawn into a tight frown. In his right hand he steadied a tray containing a delicate crystal vial of rose colored liquid. He heaved a heavy sigh, knowing that despite all the collective efforts of his medical staff, the medicine was still barely tolerable; so much depended on the elixir initiating a lasting healing in the young Master of Bag End. His mouth twisted into a small smile. The medicine would do only good for his foster son as well. Aragorn needed to regain his weight and strength even though he had been eating and exercising, this might be just the thing to give the extra energy needed to accomplish that goal. As to Frodo, he frowned thoughtfully, they might need to have additional help to get the hobbit to imbibe the elixir. The elf lord hoped Barlorian would be successful in creating the powder derivative soon or they would all have a fight on their hands. He swallowed thickly, pasting a smile on his face, and opened the door. Frodo sat upright, a nearly full tray of supper in front of him. He was pale except for two bright blotches of color on his cheeks. Elrond realized with a start that he had never seen Frodo with a healthy glow, which saddened him. The elf lord placed the tray on a nearby table and bent over his smallest charge, peering into the tired blue eyes, and slipped his left hand onto the small forehead. He scowled and pulled his hand away quickly, “Your fever has increased!” he stated accusingly.
Frodo couldn’t help smiling, “I assure you, my Lord, I have done nothing to cause that,” he chuckled. He rubbed at his shoulder, lifted a corner of the bandages and peered beneath.
Elrond lifted an eyebrow, “Is your wound bothering you, little Master?” he asked quietly, trying to avoid unwanted attention from his well-meaning son. He was unsuccessful as the Ranger’s eyes popped open even though he had been in a near doze from his full stomach.
He frowned and stared over at Frodo, “Why did you not say anything, Frodo?”
Frodo smiled wanly, “To what end, Aragorn? It is only more of the same and is of no matter, I assure you.”
“I did not realize you had medical expertise, Master Baggins,” Elrond said sarcastically.
Frodo blushed, “Well, I don’t, but it seems to me to be simply a continuation of the same pain and fever I have had, was all I meant.”
“Hmm…is the wound aching?”
“To be honest, it is causing me some pain and it is so itchy,” he said as he again, peeked under the bandage.
Elrond and Aragorn were immediately concerned. For Frodo to admit being in pain or discomfort was unheard of and could only mean that he was in a great deal of pain and needed attention immediately.
Elrond pulled a chair to the bedside and began removing Frodo’s modified nightshirt. Frodo grimaced and the elf Lord slowed his movements. He began carefully removing the gauze and as he got down to the wound, he saw what he had dreaded all along. The wound was swollen and red as streaks ran from the incision across Frodo’s chest towards his heart.
Elrond sighed, “I do not understand how this could have become infected so quickly,” he exclaimed. Aragorn leaned forward, looking at his friend in concern. Frodo reached over with his other hand and pinched at the arm below the wound. The healer snatched Frodo’s hand away, “Frodo, have you touched the wound?” he asked tersely.
Frodo’s eyes widened, “It itches. I reached under the bandages to scratch at it a bit, but it was too sore to really itch. I was careful not to touch the wound,” he added.
“You touched the bandages?” Elrond asked.
Frodo looked at Elrond as if he was daft, “Well, of course. How else would I have been able to scratch the spot,” he said irritably as if this was the stupidest question he had ever heard.
Aragorn rolled his eyes and looked at Elrond. “Frodo, if the bandages were touched by you and then they touched the wound it is as if YOU touched the wound.
Understanding suffused Frodo’s face and a cold dread began to twist and turn deep down in his stomach. He did not want to go through another opening or flushing of the wound. “I see, I did not realize. I am sorry, my Lord. Can we not apply a salve or perhaps we could use some athelas to eliminate the problem?” he asked, his voice trembling. He looked hopefully up at the imposing elf Lord.
“I am sorry, Frodo, but we will need to drain the wound which means I will have to reopen it, what? Is this the fourth time now?” Elrond said exasperated. “I will sedate you, Frodo, so you will feel nothing.”
“Until I awaken,” Frodo whispered tiredly. He looked away and let the tears fall. “I will never leave this bed, will I?” he said flatly. “How could I have been so stupid,” he bit out angrily. Aragorn studied him in concern.
“It happens more often than you know, Frodo. Non-healers do not realize how important it is to not touch a wound.” He looked over at the slumped figure, “It will heal in no time and then we can perhaps, attempt another outing. I have been wanting to camp near Hanging Lake. It’s a jewel in the trees that you will truly appreciate. There will be no storms or dangerous situations this time, you will see,” the Ranger said, trying to sound upbeat.
Frodo leaned his head back against the pillow. Ringlets lay damp across his forehead as he chuffed a single laugh, “if you say so, Aragorn,” he said without emotion.
Elrond placed his hand on Frodo’s head and gently moved the curls out of his eyes, “I will assemble my tray and we can proceed,” he said regretfully. Frodo’s only response was a stare filled with defeat and exhaustion as Elrond left the room. Deara and Balorian entered next and looked sympathetically at their Ringbearer. Deara slowly lowered Frodo until he was prone, speaking gently to him as she did so. Balorian patted his hand gently and slipped what looked to be in Frodo’s mind, a large dollop of poppy under his tongue. Frodo sighed in resignation as he closed his eyes waiting for oblivion to claim him. He liked this feeling; he had been in so much pain and for so long that it was a welcome relief to feel everything slip away as he floated painlessly. He wished he could stay in this world forever; no Ring, no responsibility, no pain. He imagined he was sitting on the bench outside of Bag End smoking his pipe. The day was unbelievably beautiful, not too hot or too cool. There must have been a storm as everything had a bright, sharp look to it and the air smelled clean and loamy. He closed his eyes and basked in the Sun, I don’t see why I have to leave, he mused to himself. I belong here not in some bed so far away. Why not stay here and live pain free, worry free and simply happy? He resolved to do just that and smiled dreamily. When it came time to awaken, he would simply refuse to do so.
Balorian poured the acrid solution over his Lord’s hands, then did the same for himself. Elrond felt he could almost do the surgery in his sleep, he had performed it so many times. He was pleased to see that the wound showed clear signs of knitting before Frodo had infected it. Removing the Ring, he felt, had been the key to it finally beginning to heal. The wound was currently a frothy mess and made a ‘pop’ as he cut the perfect sutures and it split open. Balorian handed him a wad of gauze saturated in tincture of iodine. Over and over they mopped up the exudate. Elrond pressed the sides of the wound forcing out any trapped infection. After sluicing the wound several times with the iodine solution, Elrond leaned over the wound, examining it then gave it a careful sniff. He sat up slowly before asking for some silk thread and a needle. He sutured the wound making small delicate knots that would leave a barely visible scar on the alabaster skin.
Finally, finished, he rose and stepped away from the bedside with a sigh. He gave Balorian a nod and the healer stepped forward and began to pad and wrap gauze around the shoulder. Lastly, he placed the arm in a sling and lay it on a pillow even with Frodo’s chest. All evidence of the surgery was removed from the room as Elrond watched silently. He turned to Aragorn, “I am concerned not only for Frodo’s physical health, but for his mental well-being,” he stated simply.
“I am as well. He sounds as if he has given up. We will have to have the other hobbits try to lift his spirits. I cannot think of anyone who could remain melancholy if Peregrine Took is present,” he smiled.
Elrond smirked, “Perhaps. Let us hope it doesn’t entail the use of honey or firecrackers,” he said with a chuckle.
Aragorn frowned, “What of his intent to press on alone once we reach Imladris’s borders, Ada? He even suggested he would put on the Ring in order to slip past us,” He said worriedly.
Elrond placed a hand on Aragorn’s shoulder and smiled slyly. “Do not concern yourself, my son, this ancient elf has a few tricks up his sleeves, I assure you.” He turned and walked out of the room not seeing the quizzical look on Aragorn’s face.
“Tricks and duels,” the Ranger muttered. “My foster father is spending wholly too much time with Gandalf, I think,” he sighed.
Day slowly became dusk as the Ringbearer slept. Sam and the other hobbits were constantly sticking their heads in the door to see how the hobbit was doing, then leaving with a sigh once they saw that he still had not awaken. “Shouldn’t he be awake, my Lord?” Sam finally asked Lord Elrond.
“He was exhausted, Samwise. His body needs the extra rest.” He placed his hand on Frodo’s head and slowly his face darkened. He turned to the other hobbits, “Perhaps you could be of help, Samwise,” he said softly.
Sam stood up straighter as Merry and Pip rushed to his side. “Anything, anything at all, my Lord,” they all chattered excitedly.
Elrond smiled despite himself, “Frodo has been feeling a bit depressed. There must be something you could do to lighten his heart,” Elrond said.
“Well, Mr. Frodo REALLY wants to hear the music and songs in the Hall of Fire, sir. Could we perhaps somehow bring some of the Hall to him?”
“Very good, Sam, I will speak to my head minstrel about performing for him later. Anything else?
What if we put on a play with swords and damsels in distress like in the books he’s always reading?” Pip asked excitedly. “Merry, you will play the damsel in distress while Sam can be the sturdy hunter that charges to your aid.”
“Why should I be the damsel? You look more like a lass than I do,” Merry huffed.
“What do you mean by that, I’d like to know?” Pip screeched.
“I just meant you have no facial hair like most of us adults, is all,” Merry said.
“None of us do! We’re hobbits, for pities sake,” Sam said with a laugh.
“Alright Pip, let’s go see if we can find some costumes and then sit down and write something up.” Excited about having something to cheer their cousin, they left the room, laughing and chattering. Sam followed after telling Lord Elrond of some of Frodo’s favorite songs that the minstrel could add to his repertoire.
Aragorn had a wide grin on his face, “Bless them, they make me cheery whenever they’re about. Well, almost whenever they’re about,” he laughed. He looked over at his foster father. “What is it, Ada?” he said noting the scowl on Elrond’s face.
“I am uncertain. I sense Frodo’s consciousness is further from us than it should be. Granted we gave him a large dose of poppy but no more so than before. Yet he remains unconscious and I cannot bring him closer to wakefulness.”
“You have felt this with a touch?”
“Yes. He is aware of me but refuses to join me and return to this realm.”
“Perhaps you could join with Gandalf and between the two of you, bring him to wakefulness,” Aragorn offered.
“I am becoming more and more concerned for Frodo’s mental wellbeing. We have to get him out of this sickroom and restore some small amount of joy into his life.” Elrond left the room abruptly in search of Gandalf.
Aragorn studied the profile of his sleeping friend and sighed. He agreed with Elrond about getting Frodo out of the sickroom. Who would not be depressed to be confined, since entering Imladris, to a sick bed? Soon he could hear the thump, thump of Gandalf’s staff as the Istari and elf Lord made their way back towards the sick room. Gandalf smiled at Aragorn as he entered, “Why Aragorn, you look very well. I am surprised they have been able to keep you in bed, my friend,” he said with a chuckle. He crossed to Frodo, “There’s my young friend,” he said softly, as he laid his hand on Frodo’s forehead and closed his eyes. He frowned slightly, looking over at Elrond. “Most stubborn these hobbits,” he muttered. Elrond smiled as the two of them placed their hands on Frodo’s head and closed their eyes. Aragorn watched intently as he saw a struggle on both of the powerful figures faces.
Frodo’s forehead creased but then his eyes popped open suddenly. “All right, for pities sake! Can’t a hobbit have a little peace and quiet,” he said grumpily. He looked up at both Gandalf and Elrond with an aggravated sigh.
“That’s better,” Gandalf said simply, before thumping out the door.
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