3. Interlude One
Oh, but this was misery. All I wanted to do was be left in peace to lie on the bed quietly curled up in a little ball and not move and not speak and just concentrate on breathing, which took up more and more of my attention with every endless minute that dragged by. But no one would let me alone to bask in my agony. Instead, they had to pull me upright (always just after I would finally manage to find a position that hurt a bit less than the one I had been huddled in before) and speak in overly loud voices, not to mention in the manner one speaks to a child. "Come on now, it's time to sit up. That's a good lad, just sit up now. Here we go!" The forced cheeriness did not fool me -- I was dreadfully sick and I knew it, and they knew it, so the façade did nothing but annoy me.
Ugh. If I wasn't ill already, being treated like a helpless child would have made me so. And when I would try to explain to them, quite politely and logically, that all I wanted was to rest for a while, that I would be fine in no time if they would just stop bothering me so, they would treat me like I was a cranky nursling. In fact, I was quite certain I had heard Frodo saying to that Ponto Goodbody that I really was a pleasant lad and I was just a little grumpy right now. Well, maybe if they'd let me alone for a while, I wouldn't be so grumpy. Ugh. Just ugh.
But the fun didn't end once they got me upright, for then I was either made to suffer through yet another pointless herbal steam or coerced into swallowing one dreadful concoction after another that Mr. Goodbody had cooked up for my 'own good,' that would 'make you feel better,' but certainly didn't. (I must have still looked leery of the old healer, for Frodo kept reassuring me that he was an old friend of Cousin Bilbo's and very skilled in the healing arts. I was not reassured, knowing too many people that were in good standing with Cousin Bilbo.) And if it wasn't some supposed cure, it was tea or broth or soup or water or who knows what that they tried to force down my throat, no matter how desperately I tried to explain to them in a painful whisper that it hurt to swallow. If I was grumpy, it certainly wasn't my fault.
The worst by far, however, were the coughing fits that left me too weak to fend off my alleged caretakers. They would go on and on and on, and exploded from my body with such force that if I hadn't been in the sturdy arms of one of my cousins I thought surely I would rattle apart and then roll about the floor in a thousand different pieces. After, I would want nothing more than to just be still for a moment, to try to breathe, and relearn to direct my own limbs, and even to remember who and where and why I was. It bothered me vaguely that this knowledge dangled out of my reach occasionally, but I didn't really care. A good sleep would clear my thoughts and I would be fine, I was sure. That was all I needed, a good, long sleep. But my self-proclaimed caretakers would have none of that, and a coughing fit always produced the worst flurry of activity of all. I would be allowed a much-too-brief moment of rest, and then I had to have a new nightshirt, and I had to have new sheets, which meant I had to get out of the bed and move to a chair for a few moments. That I couldn't get to the chair unless I was supported by a cousin, or sometimes two, or even more embarrassing, once carried there in Sam's capable arms, should have made it quite obvious to them that I needed to be let alone to rest as I'd asked, but they didn't listen to me, and that made me angry, but then being angry when they were just trying to help me made me ashamed and yet more frustrated still. Then, just about when I started to actually drowse off in the chair, they would decide it was time to make me get back in bed, and we would repeat the process in reverse. Then there would be water and tea and pasty, tingling concoctions that Mr. Goodbody would rub into my chest. In other words, there was not the bit of peace and rest I longed for with every aching bone. I wanted to cry in frustration, but I absolutely would not give my tormentors the satisfaction. Besides, crying would just make me cough, and the whole miserable moving about would begin again, and I just couldn't bear it. I couldn't. But I had to.
Oh, but this was misery.
The only comfort I was granted was when Mr. Goodbody and Frodo and even Sam would finally, finally retreat to the kitchen (where they no doubt were creating new and viler "cures" for me) and I was left blessedly alone with the cousin I loved best. Then the room was dark and quiet and pleasant and he would take my hand so carefully in one of his and brush my hair back from my brow with the other, and in a soothing, familiar voice as comforting as any lullaby I had ever heard, he would wander through all of our favorite old lays and tales. We knew them all, word for word, and I found peace in their comfortable familiarity.
Oh, how we had loved these stories when we were younger! Trolls and dragons and Elves and ships sailing on a silver sea. Wizards and eagles and the stars above you as you slept -- the deeds of valiant young heroes brought to life through the magic of tales had launched countless perilous treks and dangerous quests through the forest and glorious dashes across the meadows and courageously daring dives into the River. It was always the two of us, sharing each adventure side by side. And there were so many memories of times spent together that we had made into simple tales of our own. It was one of those sorts of tales he was telling me now, telling me a memory he called it. While the storm outside grew in tempo and pitch, mirrored by the worsening illness in my body, I drifted to sleep, calmed by the familiar sound of his voice, taking me back to days long ago, and in my fevered state, the memories were as vivid as the reality.
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.