2. Casting off at last all doubt and care and fear
He had finally resigned himself to the loss of his friend, had not even dared to hope he might receive such tidings, not after so much time. The thought of Pippin's death had grieved him deeply, and he knew not how he would break it to the other hobbits, or how he could possibly console Merry. But perhaps he would not have to do so, after all, thanks to the blessed stubbornness of hobbit-will.
Ducking under the half-opened flap, Aragorn entered to a scene of organized confusion and the shrill screams of the wounded and dying. This was one of the tents where the most grievously injured were attended to when first brought from the field. Either their wounds were treated and then they were sent on to one of the infirmary tents for convalescence, or, if there was no hope, made as comfortable as possible here until the end came. The shadow of death loomed dark over this tent.
In a corner away from the rows of cots where men lay dying, Legolas had laid Pippin out upon a table. His slender hands, full of hidden strength, held the hobbit down on his side tightly, and ere Aragorn had reached them, he saw why. Pippin shuddered, and convulsed, wiry limbs involuntarily flailing, then vomited black blood into a basin one of the healers held beneath his mouth. He continued to cough, choking and gasping as he brought up more vile substances, once the thrashing had ended. Aragorn crossed the gap in long strides and laid a hand on the hobbit's brow, pushing back locks wet with blood and sweat. "Tell me," he ordered brusquely.
The healers looked frightened by the king's countenance, and Legolas looked grim. But the woman holding the basin beneath Pippin's mouth answered in a low voice that did not quaver. "We could find no breath or heart beat when the elven prince brought him in, my lord, but on his urging we cleared the mouth and nose and ere long he coughed and began to vomit this foul substance. Still it comes, and he has yet made no cry."
Legolas' face was tight with anxiety. "Gimli told you? He slew a great troll and was buried beneath the monster for all this time. This is the creature's blood all over him. He must have swallowed and breathed in enormous amounts of it."
Pippin was hacking weakly now, and all his body shivered and trembled. They had removed his helm, and wiped off the area around his nose and mouth, but nothing else appeared to have been done for him.
"Someone bring several tubs of water over here -- warm, if possible," Aragorn ordered, moving his hands gently along Pippin's body. "And cloths and bandages, and some blankets." He winced as he came to the left leg -- both the knee and the ankle were flattened out at impossible angles from Pippin's body. "All right, little one," he murmured, "let us see what slaying the troll has done to you."
The morning was interminable for Aragorn and Legolas and Gimli, made more so with each uncovered hurt. It seemed to the three friends that nearly every inch of the hobbit's body bore some type of injury. The helm had cut a raw line about Pippin's head that bled beneath his matted curls, but it was to Aragorn's relief that he surmised the gear also had done its duty and protected the hobbit's head from more serious injury. Both eyes were grotesquely swollen and would not open in the least, and Aragorn's gentle fingers deduced that the socket around the left eye was fractured. Pippin had bit through his lower lip with his upper teeth, requiring several stitches, and during one of the intermittent vomiting bouts he brought up a back tooth that had been dislodged and swallowed.
The sword hand was broken, battered and crushed -- a raw, crumbled mess that unclenched only with persistent effort, Legolas holding the forearm and Aragorn slowly opening the hand. One of the healers asked the king in a hushed voice if they should prepare to remove the hand, but Aragorn sharply replied in the negative, coating the hand in a salve to fight off infection and then binding it flat to a splint. In response to Legolas and Gimli's concerned faces, he stated that the hand was too swollen to be treated yet, and that he would have a better idea what could be done for it after some time had passed.
Ribs on both sides moved beneath Aragorn's hands -- some cracked, some broken. Pippin's belly was mottled and bruised, swollen and tender to the touch, but Aragorn discerned no rigid spots. Still, he feared that the broken ribs and the crushing pressure of the troll's weight could have caused Pippin to be bleeding inside, and ordered tonics to staunch such trauma brought over.
Then there was the left leg to deal with. Nothing was broken, amazingly enough, though Aragorn had to set two toes on the right foot. But the dislocations had to be reduced, so Legolas and Gimli held the little body still while Aragorn forced the limbs back to their natural order. This proved unnecessary, as Pippin did not stir during the procedure, and the elf and dwarf saw the king's face darken.
Finally, the hobbit was clean and bandaged and bundled in warm blankets on the table. Aragorn had forced a number of healing concoctions down Pippin's throat with great difficulty: to stop any internal bleeding, to ward off infection, to reduce swelling. After flushing the swollen eyes as best he could, Aragorn made compresses steeped in a sweet-smelling concoction for both eyes and then bandaged them into place. More wrappings encircled Pippin's head, ribs, mangled sword hand and leg. Aragorn sighed heavily and leaned against the table, utterly spent.
"I have done all that I may, my friends, but I am most troubled by his stillness," he confessed. "If nothing else, the reductions to his leg should have roused him with their pain. He must have been breathing very shallowly for all that time beneath that foul beast, and while that may have saved him from drowning in the troll's blood, I fear it means he had but a little air. His body is here, but I know not where his mind wanders, or if it shall return. He is beyond any attempt to call him back -- the physical injuries are what threaten him, not despair or exhaustion or some other weapon of the Enemy."
Gimli let out his breath in a harsh "harrumph." "But he breathes easier now, already much improved from this morning. And look -- the color returns to his skin, and he is warmer. No, no, he just needs a good, long rest, surely, and soon after he will be talking until we once again tire of the sound."
Legolas did not comment, and softly touched the bruised and battered face. "Shall we put him in one of these beds, then?" he asked Aragorn. "The infirmary tents are nearly full, and not many wounded now are coming in. It may be more restful for Pippin here." Aragorn agreed, and so Legolas laid Pippin in a cot off on its own, Gimli carefully propping up the injured leg and hand with pillows. Then he and Gimli took up their unspoken watch, but Aragorn kissed Pippin's brow and murmured words only Legolas' sharp ears discerned, and then left to rest.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.