6. Concoctions and Conniptions
“The fever is down,” responded Aragorn, gently pulling Frodo up and lifting him from the cooling bath. Sam had occupied the time spent waiting for Elrond’s return with laying out towels before the fire, and these were now arranged on the bed. Frodo was laid upon the warmed cloths and dried. He made no response as he was re-clad in a clean nightshirt except to yawn slightly and attempt to curl up on his unwounded side.
Sitting on the bed next to the sleeping hobbit, Elrond gently uncurled his limbs and raised him to a sitting position, leaning him back against Aragorn. Under the apprehensive eyes of the other three, the Elf-lord uncorked another concoction, this one a nasty yellow color. Sam, standing closest, hastily covered his mouth and strangled a cough. Pippin wrinkled his nose and was heartily glad that he didn’t have to drink the nauseating liquid. Merry leaned over and whispered in his cousin’s ear, “Just that smell is enough to make me sick. What’s it going to do to him?”
Tilting the phial to Frodo’s mouth, Elrond paused and regarded the hobbit. Despite the careful softness of Merry’s whisper, he had heard. “I fear it will make him ill, Master Brandybuck. Though that will be uncomfortable for him,” and the Elf-lord ignored the small sound made by Pippin, “it will bring up the overdose and return his body to the correct path of healing.”
With a sigh, Sam excused himself to fetch a basin and dip some of the discarded towels into the water. Merry and Pippin edged back slightly.
The brief pause had been sufficient to make Frodo somewhat aware that something foul-smelling and vile was going to be administered to him, and as Elrond again raised the phial, his dark head turned away from it. Elrond frowned and chased the small mouth. Fighting the heavy weight on his mind and limbs, Frodo closed it firmly.
The Elf-lord sighed in exasperation, and despite himself, Aragorn hid a smile. “He is astonishingly stubborn, my lord,” the Ranger offered. When Sam glared at him, he continued, “It seems to be a trait of these hobbits.”
Elrond sighed again and eased the dark head back, stroking Frodo’s throat gently. The semi-conscious hobbit relaxed and his mouth opened slightly. Quickly but carefully, Elrond poured in the concoction and held Frodo’s jaw shut, running his hand forcefully once down the hobbit’s throat.
Frodo’s eyes flew open and he choked. Elrond did not allow him to open his mouth and instinct prompted him to breathe. Frodo inhaled reluctantly and against his will, swallowed. Elrond released him and the hobbit sagged forward in Aragorn’s arms, staring about him wildly.
“What –“ he gasped out, gagging. “Aaahhhh…,” and scrubbed at his mouth, his whole face crinkling up in revulsion. Furious now, his wild stare turned to an indiscriminate glare and his cousins and Sam edged back further. “That was disgusting! What was that? What are you all doing here? What –“ with a visible effort, Frodo reined in his temper and tried to recover his dignity. “My lord Elrond, Aragorn…” he trailed off and gulped suddenly.
“Oh-oh,” said Pippin.
Frodo’s face paled and perspiration bloomed on his brow. He gulped again, closing his eyes. All thoughts of his dignity evaporated as he lurched forward and Aragorn slid the basin under his mouth just in time.
Frodo vomited and vomited, groaning in agony as his stomach cramped and rejected the combination of tonics poured into him. His flailing hands caught the sides of the basin and he held on for dear life as the Ranger rubbed his back and wiped his face with a dampened towel between bouts. Sam was speaking to him softly, a constant stream of reassurances and explanations, his grey eyes brimming with tears of pity. Pippin had covered his own mouth with a trembling hand and was very white. Merry gently pulled him away and tugged him out to the balcony, where the fresh air and faint music of the rushing waters below served to somewhat mute the sounds of Frodo’s misery.
Elrond watched dispassionately, his noble face serene as he watched the hobbit so painfully bring up all the liquids and food coaxed patiently into him. None would have guessed by his outward demeanor the recrimination and self-condemnation that swirled beneath that ageless gaze. That he had never treated so deathly ill a hobbit before did not excuse Elrond in his own eyes; quite unreasonably, he felt that his thousands of years of experience in the arts of healing should have accorded him enough wisdom to spare the little one this.
The Elf-lord was startled, though nothing in his face or form betrayed it, when his foster son reached across the feebly gagging halfling and pressed his shoulder. “How could you know?” asked Aragorn, his own eyes sad. “He is much smaller than an Elf or a Man, and already weakened by an evil wound that nearly finished him. You must not blame yourself for this.”
Reflecting that Estel had indeed grown wiser through the years, the Elf-lord nodded then reached to gently tip the halfling’s face up to him. Frodo sagged bonelessly in the Ranger’s hold, normally-beautiful eyes half open but rolled back in his head. Saliva issued from his mouth and dripped unheeded from the small chin.
“Ah, little one,” murmured the Elf softly, “I am sorry.” Another gentle touch to the sweating forehead and the hobbit closed his eyes, completely unconscious. Aragorn wiped him down carefully with the dampened towels and changed his nightshirt while Sam removed the basin and carried it away to wash it, gathering the sweat-soaked towels from the bed as he did so. Hearing only silence within, Merry and Pippin returned cautiously to the room, both looking much less pale.
“It’s over, then?” asked Merry, reaching out to stroke his cousin’s dripping hair. At the Ranger’s nod, he sighed then turned and gathered Pippin to him. Still holding tight to his cousin’s waistcoat, Pippin made a strangled sound, unclenching teeth gritted tightly together. Merry, his own eyes tearing, reached over and rubbed the youngster’s shoulder. The two watched silently while the Man slid Frodo under the covers and smoothed them over him.
The Master of Rivendell regarded them solemnly. “You can do no more here, little masters. It is time for you to go to your own rooms and sleep, so that you may be of use when Frodo needs you. I want the Ring-bearer to drink a little and rest, and let the effects of the tonics dissipate in his body.” A glance down at the still form confirmed his surmise. “He sleeps now, unaware, and it is best so. One of us will be with him, little ones. Do not fear.”
“All right, my lord. We’ll go. But how soon can we see him?” Surprisingly, it was the youngest who spoke first, trying to peer around the Elf-lord to see his cousin.
Elrond smiled down at the insistent young hobbit. “Return well after first light, if you will. Frodo will be awake then, and unfortunately, be in much need of some distraction. It is best if he does not have more than salted crackers and weak tea until luncheon.”
Merry and Pippin exchanged a glance. “Right, sir. We’ll be here.”
“I never doubted it, my friends,” the Elf-lord returned softly. “Now, let us all depart. The Ring-bearer needs peace to rest.”
* * * * *
When Sam returned with the freshly-cleaned basin, he found the fire crackling gently and the room quiet, except for the Ranger who now sat in the chair near Frodo’s bed. Aragorn was smoking, the blue swirls of his pipe filling the room with sweet fragrance. Sam inhaled gratefully, relieved that the aroma alleviated the stink of sickness.
Sam opened wide the door to the balcony, and the music of the swift waters as well as the faint breezes stirred to freshen the room. Making sure that his master was well-covered, Sam sank down in another chair and wiped his brow.
“Not a night I care ‘ta recall,” he muttered, glancing at Frodo to make sure they were not disturbing him. They were not; exhausted, Frodo was completely oblivious.
Aragorn regarded the sturdy hobbit with wry tiredness. “At least one good thing came out of this … there will be no wager tomorrow. Today,” he amended, with a glance out at the stars.
Sam scowled, his righteous indignation returning in full, unabated force. “Nor for several days ‘ta come, if I’m any judge.” He looked anxiously at his master again, noting the sunken cheeks and unfamiliar lines etched on the fine-boned face. “Those two! Bet on the rising o’ the moon, they would, if they thought there was a chance it wouldn’t. Well…” he added more fairly, “Mr. Merry would. Master Pippin, he’d be more like to follow.” Sam sighed gustily. “He’s going ‘ta be a holy terror when he grows up, though.
“Thank Elbereth, that’s several years away yet.” Sam yawned hugely, then put his hand over his mouth, embarrassed. “Sorry, sir. I –“ another yawn interrupted him.
“Go and rest, Sam,” Aragorn said. “I know you haven’t slept much since your master was hurt. I’ll watch over him tonight.”
Samwise debated with himself for a few moments. “You’ll call me if you need me, sir?”
“I will, Sam. Sleep. Frodo will need you rested and able to care for him tomorrow.”
Sam nodded and dragged himself to his feet. “Goodnight, Strider,” he said softly.
* * * * *
The next morning was a trial on the normally even-tempered Samwise. Frodo was aching and miserable, hungry but nauseated at the thought of eating. Sam’s master was tired and cross and though he did not remember the previous night clearly, did know that he had been grievously treated. Sam almost warned off Merry and Pippin as they came through the door, then decided the two deserved whatever they got.
But by then, Frodo had spent most of his anger and was too worn out to muster the energy to really be disagreeable. He apologized profusely to Sam and apologized too to his cousins, though he was unsure exactly what for. Merry and Pippin breathed a sigh of relief and magnanimously forgave him.
Frodo rubbed his eyes, which burned unmercifully. “I seem to recall, though,” he mused, “Pippin saying something about betting. Placing wagers? What are you placing wagers on?”
Pippin had frozen, a pasty grin on his sharp face. His eyes canted desperately to Merry. Behind them, Sam bristled, unsure whether his master should hear this now. He needn’t have worried; Merry rallied magnificently.
“No idea what you’re talking about, Cousin. It must have been something you imagined in your fever.” Merry smiled at him with his best wide-eyed innocent look, and Frodo regarded him closely.
“Ummm … I must have. Sorry, Merry.” Frodo sighed and closed his eyes, sagging back into the pillows.
“You need to rest, Cousin.” Pippin stood up on his furry toes and leaned over the bed, kissing Frodo’s brow. Merry followed suit, and promising to return later, they let themselves out of the bedchamber.
“You lot are going ‘ta have to tell him,” Sam whispered as he followed them through the adjoining room’s door.
Merry grimaced and gave Pippin a slight shove to hurry him out. “Yes, well, not until he’s better, Sam. Wouldn’t want to upset him, would we?”
Watching them disappear quickly down the corridor, Sam growled to himself, “Aye, an’ he’s going to be right upset when he -”
“Comin’, Mr. Frodo.” Sam shut the door and went to see what his master wanted.
* TBC *
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.