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Recaptured!: 21. Fever
Aragorn and Éowyn both sat with Merry throughout the night
as his fever grew worse and both the healers knew there was now the danger of
muscle spasms caused by the infection from the metal and rust eating into
Merry's skin. "There is danger to
his breathing if his chest contracts too tightly, or even to the heart."
Éowyn said as she gently massaged Merry, checking carefully for any tightening.
"His body is very stiff," Aragorn gently felt the
halfling's limbs. "But that may be from being cramped in such a small
space." Merry was still very confused and, in spite of constant
reassurance, he was fearful and anxious.
"Please I d-didn't tell. Don't let them l-lock Pip and
me up, please, no. Gandalf please, help me, don't send me away from Pip."
Merry murmured his nightmare pleas over and over, struggling against Aragorn's
strong arms as he sat him up again and, holding him gently, leaned him forward
over some hot steeped herbs to help him breathe better.
Pippin had eventually curled up at the end of the bed as the
two healers busied about and fallen asleep. In an effort to calm his cousin,
Aragorn, without waking the exhausted hobbit, had lifted him to lie next to
Merry so that he could touch him and know he was still there. "Pippin is
here Merry," the ranger whispered. "Touch him softly, he's
asleep." He lifted Merry's fingers and brushed them across Pippin's
Pippin had only dozed and woke again suddenly as he felt
Merry's touch. He gazed at his cousin, relieved after that first moment of
waking panic, that he was still there and stroked his curls, looking worriedly
up at Aragorn each time Merry shuddered.
Aragorn felt Merry's brow, "His fever shows no sign of
abating," he whispered to Éowyn. Then listening to his heartbeat and
chest, carefully laid him back down, turning him onto his front.
Pippin moved round so that he could see Merry's face and
hold his hand. When he looked anxiously from his cousin to the ranger, Aragorn
patted Pippin's shoulder to let him know he was doing the right thing.
"He drifts in and out of consciousness and it is hard
to tell whether he is awake properly or just delirious." Éowyn was still
rubbing Merry's arms and hands helping to restore his circulation and feeling
for rigidity. "How is his chest?"
Aragorn just shook his head, indicating that it was not
good. "He needs to sleep, but the fever is giving him nightmares and keeps
him from rest." He placed another cool damp cloth on Merry's brow.
"Poor little thing, he is very weak. Merry is a fighter but there is
barely any strength left in him, I fear he might lose this battle."
Legolas came back to the room at that moment and, moving
quietly to the bed, took Pippin's hand in his to get his attention. "How
fares Merry?" He asked Aragorn quietly, "I can tell Pippin is
frightened for him. What should I tell him?"
"Tell him that Merry is very ill, just like he
was." Aragorn did not want to scare the hobbit too much but he did not
want to lie to him either. "But we're trying to make him better."
Legolas took Pippin's face in his hands and looked into his
eyes, which grew wide with anticipation and a little fearful as he realised he
was going to be told something about Merry at last.
'legolas? mer get too bad ill think?'
'He is very sickly, just as you were. But Strider and the
Lady are trying to make him better. You can help too.'
'what i do at he legolas?'
'Just be with him and let him know you're there.'
'will, not go way mer evrer gain…'
'All right, little one, you don't need to, just...'
At that moment Merry whimpered in pain and nightmare,
startling Legolas with the depth of his anxiety and bewilderment.
'what hear legolas? is mer? is hurt he?' Pippin
looked frantically from the elf to Merry. He could see Merry was restless.
Although he seemed too exhausted to move, it was as if his body would not give
him peace. Then he had been aware of the unguarded memory of Merry's cry in
Legolas's mind and it jolted both him and the elf.
'He is having bad dreams Pippin. Don't panic' Legolas
quickly reassured and hugged him closely as he soothed his curls.
Legolas withdrew his hands and his mind gently from Pippin.
He was beginning to feel more and more comfortable with the hobbit in his mind,
almost too comfortable.
Pippin snuggled into Merry's side, stroking his face and
hair, trying to calm him from whatever dread thing was haunting his restless
It was pure heat, like the inside of a great bonfire, the
sort they would light at the Winterfest at Brandy Hall. It was as if Merry had
actually climbed right inside the glowing, untouchable red furnace. He used to
gaze at it when he was young, that impossibly red centre of the fire, no
movement there, no flickering flames or rushing smoke that always seemed to go
in your face no matter where you stood. No, in the centre there was nothing but
peace and calm and impossible, incandescent heat.
Merry knew that the heat would soon consume him, but he did
not know how to leave. He could not move, whichever way he turned his body was
pure heat and he burned from within.
Then the fire changed, although the heat of it still filled
his whole being. He was in the mines of Moria and the Balrog was pursuing them.
The thing not only breathed fire, it was fire, burning and raging as it came
towards them, consuming all in its path and bent on their destruction.
Impossibly big, it was too gigantic to even fit into Merry's dream, its
presence blocked out every other image and Merry knew he would soon suffocate
in its terrifying mass and burn forever in the fiery depths below the mines.
A piercing agony stabbed into his chest making him cough and
gasp for breath. He was standing next to Boromir and arrows were embedded in
the great man's chest, making him sink to his knees. Merry held out his hand to
his beleaguered friend, feeling his pain, anticipating his imminent death,
knowing he would soon join him. But then orcs, massive, overwhelming, larger
than any living being Merry had ever encountered before, Uruk-hai, too big,
nightmare big took hold of him and Pippin. He was lifted high in the air, too
high, choking with terror and pain, trying to see Pippin, trying to see
But then there was nothing. The wind lashed around him and
he could tell from the gale that he was very high up and instinctively knew
that if he stepped over the edge it would be to his death. The edge suddenly
seemed very inviting. Where was Pippin? He flailed about on all fours, unable
to see anything but vast acres of blackness. Here, he found him – but then he
was gone again, couldn't hold him – kept losing him! Had he fallen? Had he
"Hold on Pippin! Please hold on to me – I can't find
you! Pippin! Where are you? Pippin!" Merry suddenly was sobbing out loud
sending agony to his tortured lungs. "Pippin! Don't go! I can't find you!
I can't see you anywhere! Tell me where you are! Call out to me Pippin –
"Merry, he's here. Listen to me Merry, don't cry,
Pippin is here, he won't leave you." It was Gandalf's voice that calmed
him, stroking his hair and patting his hand. Gradually he woke but the
nightmare stayed with him.
"I can't see him Gandalf," Merry whispered.
"I can't see you. It’s too dark."
The white figure loomed over him, growing larger and larger.
It was all he could see and filled his whole world with fear and desolation and
it wanted him – to take him, take him away from everything he knew but worst of
all away from Pippin. Merry was too tired to fight anymore. He ground his teeth
and set his jaw. They could not give in! He and Pippin would die first. He
still had that choice – the black shadow could never have him! But where was
Pippin? "Pippin where are you!"
"Pippin is here Merry! Listen to me. Give me your
Gandalf sounded a thousand leagues away; Merry was lost in a
burning, dark world and couldn't get out. He would have to die here and never
see anyone again, he was lost, so alone, no one knew where he was, even he
didn’t know where he was and he still couldn’t find Pippin. "Please, come
back Pippin… please…"
Then he felt a gentle touch on his face, a small hand was in
his – not a human hand, not so big – it was a hobbit hand. Merry held it
tightly, his breathing ragged and broken. A cold, cloying feeling was on his
brow again; it trapped him but it cooled him as well. Then he felt Pippin
snuggle close to him.
"Pip? Are you there?" Merry whispered it into the
little ear he felt on his face. He didn't need an answer – he knew who it was.
"He's here Merry. Try to sleep. You're a little cooler
The voice became dim and distant, but the fire wasn't so
consuming now and he knew where Pippin was. Merry closed his unseeing eyes and
fell into a cool deep chasm of sleep.
Pippin woke to find Merry breathing in his ear, the regularity
of the air against his skin was much better and he felt his cousin's forehead
to find his temperature was almost normal again. He let out a deep sigh of
relief and kissed Merry gently on the nose.
"Pippin?" Merry barely croaked the word. His throat
felt so tight he could still scarcely breathe, but at least he was cooler.
Suddenly he felt large hands – human hands – lifting him to sit up and leaning
"Come on Merry lad," the ranger tipped a cup of
water to his lips, "try to sip a little water, you must be very dry."
Merry clasped the cup in both hands, his frantic thirst
making him gulp several mouthfuls very quickly. Aragorn pulled the cup back
from his lips, "Slowly Merry, not so fast. You'll be sick again."
The ranger's words were prophetic and, almost immediately,
Merry retched and brought the water back, Éowyn held a bowl in front of him
just in time. Poor Merry was distressed to have vomited all the water; he was
desperately thirsty so why did his body not want to keep the liquid down? He
began to breathe very fast, becoming agitated. Aragorn held him closely
stroking his hair to calm him. "It's all right Merry, don't fret, just try
again, but very slowly."
This time he let Aragorn hold the cup and him, one arm
wrapped around his shoulders, holding him upright, his head resting back
against Strider's chest, feeling with relief little drops of water dribble over
his parched lips.
It took a long time, but the ranger was patient and didn't
stop feeding the drips of water until Merry had finished the whole cup. Then he
carefully laid him back down on his side with a pillow wedged behind him so he
could not roll onto his back.
Pippin had remained at Merry's side the whole time, holding
his hand and stroking it. As Aragorn moved away he wriggled back into position,
spooning his body into his cousin's to let him know he was there, but still
careful of his broken wrist. He'd taken the sling off again, when Aragorn
wasn't watching so that he could put both his arms around Merry. As he kissed
his cousin on the nose he was rewarded at last by a small smile and a returned
Merry could hear talking. A woman's voice and Aragorn's,
they were discussing him, he couldn't hear it all, just odd words. "…fever
down… better than… Pippin needs to have…" Merry's ears pricked up at this,
but he couldn't catch it all. "…very weak …something to… not much… very
hungry … about the right size… too big for… "
Pippin watched from where he was curled up against Merry. He
could see the golden haired lady and Strider sorting through a bagful of
clothes, taking things out and holding them up. They seemed to sorting them
into two piles, presumably one for him and one for Merry or perhaps one pile
for both of them and one for the oversized things.
Suddenly he felt Merry tense up, his arm going rigid and
Pippin could see it was hurting him – a lot. Pippin tried to rub the painfully
tight muscles the way he had seen the lady do, but it made no difference. He
tried to get Strider's attention, but the two were not looking, engrossed in
their clothes sorting. It reminded Pippin of his sisters and mother with their
nurse when they were discussing clothes and sorting through things – he had
never managed to get any attention then either.
Merry was becoming more distressed by the moment, so Pippin
realised he would have to climb down off the bed and fetch one of the healers,
but as soon as he tried to move away he could see Merry's lips moving. He was
saying "Pip!" and feeling frantically about now that he could no longer
find him. It was a long way to the other side of the room. There must be
something he could do himself.
He looked frantically around. There on the end of the bed,
hooked over the footboard, was Strider's medicine bag. That was it! The
medicine Strider gave him, that would help Merry. Why hadn't Strider thought of
that – it always made him feel better.
He scrambled to the bag as quickly as possible so he could
grab it and be back beside Merry in an instant, stroking his face and kissing
his nose to let him know who it was. Carefully he sorted through the various
herbs and remedies until he spotted the familiar round wooden box and, just to
be sure it was the right thing, took a liberal fingerful himself first. 'mmmm!'
This would make Merry better.
Pippin scooped up another large dollop onto his finger and,
holding his cousin's jaw, teased his finger into his closed mouth. Merry,
although somewhat surprised at being fed this odd tasting concoction, complied
and Pippin spread the paste onto Merry's tongue and teeth, then quickly
followed up with another generous scoop.
One more quick dip for himself, after all Merry had had two
so he may as well keep up – no another for him – how could anything that made
you feel this good be bad? He didn't understand Strider's reluctance to let him
have the paste. Perhaps it was hard to come by, but surely he wouldn't begrudge
Merry some when he was so ill?
He watched his cousin carefully as he sucked his own
fingerful of poppy. Merry was working his mouth awkwardly, trying to deal with
the strange taste. Pippin remembered that he had found it unpleasant to start…
Pippin didn't manage to finish the thought. He was suddenly
hauled off the bed by a hand on his collar and the golden haired lady was, in a
very unladylike fashion to his mind, sticking her fingers into his mouth and
trying to scrape out the remains of the poppy paste that was there. She
followed this annoying behaviour with wiping his mouth inside and out with a
very soapy cloth, making him choke and eventually vomit, especially when she
applied her fingers again, this time down his throat. That was what Aragorn had
done last time! Why couldn't he have the medicine that made him feel so good?
Aragorn leaned Merry forward and put his fingers into the
hobbit's mouth scraping out as much of the poppy paste as he could. Luckily,
Pippin did not seem to have given Merry a drink to wash the paste down and
Aragorn hoped most of it had still been in his mouth. But he was mortified by
how much of the mixture seemed to be missing from his supply and Merry was
starting to slump already and his breathing had slowed.
"Pippin, I'm going to have to cut your fingers off if
you keep this up." Aragorn watched with mixed feelings of guilt, anger and
deep concern as Éowyn washed the paste off Pippin's fingers and face and rinsed
his mouth with soapy water and eventually made him sick, much to the hobbit's
Pippin's bottom lip quivered as he started to cry silent
tears. He pointed a finger at Merry and then wrapped his arms around himself
rocking to and fro.
"I know he was hurting, but you can't just give him
opium, you could kill him." Aragorn was explaining more to ease his
frustration than to Pippin who could not hear him anyway although he elaborated
his words with actions, shaking his head and miming to help the
well-intentioned hobbit understand. He would have to get Legolas to explain it
"What about Merry?" Éowyn asked anxiously as she
tried to soothe Pippin after her rather rough behaviour, Pippin shrugged her
off as he did not want comforting, he wanted the nice medicine. "Shouldn't
you make him reject the paste?"
"I think I got most of it out of his mouth."
Aragorn patted Merry's cheek to see how alert he was. He mumbled a little but
then slumped forward against the ranger's chest. "Making him vomit could
be dangerous, he has been too sick already and his body can ill afford to lose
any more fluid."
"Did you give this little one opium to start
with?" Éowyn asked astutely.
"Yes, I'm afraid I did and I think I may have done some
terrible damage." Aragorn picked Pippin up and put him back on the bed,
minus the paste. Pippin stuck his finger in his mouth, obviously hoping Éowyn
might have missed a little, although he had certainly retained a good amount in
his system and was soon sleeping peacefully, snuggled up to his equally
"I'm afraid he's become horribly addicted to the
narcotic!" Aragorn shook his head in dismay, "next thing you know
he'll be growing it in the South Farthing and it will replace Longbottom Leaf
as the main crop!"
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