21. Shadows of the Past
Shadows of the Past
The first time Mr. Frodo had a return of the bad times was as we left Rivendell. As we was come to the Fords of the Bruinen he became distant, lost, membering the day a year afore when he was stabbed near Weathertop. He was membering the crossing of this ford, the threats focused at him, the pain of his wound. It was a reawakening of the memories. He was shaking, lost, white, his left shoulder and arm and hand cold when I drew near him and tried to comfort him. And, when later as Gandalf found a place where he said we'd rest for a while, Frodo almost fell from his pony as I hurried to help him, and as my hand brushed his chest, his heart were beating fast; and when Gandalf felt for his pulse his face went grim.
Strider had said it could happen, that something could awaken the memories, and we couldn't see ahead of time how it would affect him. But now we was seeing.
He were more hisself the next day, but quiet and a bit distant, and his face was pale, though not sickly. Again we stopped a bit early, and after I saw him settled, I began to look about a bit. And near the foundations of an old house I found kingsfoil growing as if it had once been in a garden, so I studied it a bit, and then cut some leaves and dug some of it up and wrapped it in a handkerchief, and put it in the special pack as Strider'd had made for me in which to carry home flowers and seeds and plants and cuttings as I'd decided to try my hand at once I got them home to Bag End.
And when Gandalf got out the tea as Lord Elrond had given us for our provisions, I took the cup I was preparing for Mr. Frodo, and bruised a kingsfoil leaf and added it to the tea as was steeping there, and Gandalf watched me, curious, then nodded as I took it to my Master, murmuring the poem to Ulmo and Manwë and Elbereth and Estë as I walked, best as I could member. Mr. Frodo was sitting, leaning against a tree, listening to Merry and Pippin's jokes with a smile on his face, but his lips was still too pale. I held the cup below his face to let him breathe the scent a bit, and he looked down, surprised.
"A full leaf in my tea, Sam?" he said, looking up at me.
"I found an herb as I wanted to try in the tea, sir, but there wasn't time to dry it proper and all, so I just set it to brew in the cup. Learned about it from the Lord Strider. Now, let me as pull it out, and you drink up."
He gave me a look of amusement, and then he took the cup after I'd fished out the kingsfoil leaf and drank, and then sighed and looked a bit surprised, but the color were coming back to his lips, and the lines on his forehead relaxed, and he rubbed his shoulder like, and said, "I think it's better this evening, at least. The ride has allowed it to ease, apparently."
Well, if he wanted to pretend it were nothing, that was fine by me. Just as long as he were feeling better. And I went out afore the dark fell and found some willowbark, and began to brew some willowbark tea with some of the kingsfoil in it while I murmured that poem. Gandalf came near, and listened. When I was done with the poem, he leaned down and asked, very quiet, "Where in Middle Earth did you learn that Invocation, Sam?"
"Is that what it is? Mr. Bilbo had Mr. Frodo copy it at the front of a herbal book he was sending to his cousin as was a healer, Gandalf, and I saw it and learnt it off, as I liked it. Then, last year after that Rider stabbed Mr. Frodo, Strider would sing it, but in Elvish, whenever he washed the wound, and often as he watched over Mr. Frodo of a night as he were sleeping. I didn't recognize it then, although I picked up on a word or two that minded me of something--not till we got to Rivendell. And when I was sitting by my Master in Rivendell, and Lord Elrond came and sang it over him, too. And then I could seem to understand it. I recognized it, membered enough Elvish to recognize it at the last. It's a prayer, isn't it?"
"Yes," he said, "it's a prayer to the Lord of Waters, the Lady of Healing, the Lord of Might and the Lady of the Stars to comfort, guide, and protect the one who suffers. It is a very old Invocation, and I believe it will aid him." He looked over his shoulder where Frodo and Merry were talking quietly, Frodo lying wrapped in his bedroll, Merry sitting wrapped in his cloak and smoking his pipe, Pippin asleep with his head in Merry's lap. Mr. Frodo was fingering the white jewel he wore what was given him by the King and his Lady afore we left. He looked tired, but not in pain now. "It won't ever really heal, Sam, not here in Middle Earth. And I see that just the date is enough to bring it back to mind. But he appears able to bear it, and it is better today."
He gave me a searching look. "And I see, too, that you picked up on athelas and its uses. It is most potent when one of the blood of the Eldar blesses it, or one of the line of Elros as Aragorn is. But it appears to be responding to your hand. I think the Powers are guiding you, dear Sam. But with the willowbark you'll need some honey added."
Then he got into the extra supplies and found me the honey and a couple new waterskins as hadn't been used afore, and aided me in filling them. And three or four times a day as we traveled I'd fill a cup from one and give it to Frodo to drink of, for his shoulder still was aching him a bit, and he'd rub of it, then he'd finger the gem and seem eased. And always after he'd had the tea his color would be better still and for a while he'd ride easier and smile.
He'd almost forgotten the pain when we came into sight of Weathertop, and suddenly he stopped, looking at it, and we could see the color drain from his face again. He went all quiet, lowered his face, and rode on, and Gandalf hurried us right past it. I couldn't get Mr. Frodo to tell how he felt, he'd only shake his head. When the hill was all out of sight Merry found us a camping spot and took over unloading the ponies, and Pippin got the fire going as I helped Frodo down and to sit on a flat stone like a bench, wrapping his Elven cloak about him. He was fingering the gem again, and I stood behind him and rubbed the shoulder, and it were tied into knots. His heart was beating fast, but was beginning to slow finally. Then Gandalf came over, and I had him continue the rubbing while I went south of the road and found more willowbark, then brewed up more of the tea, whispering the Invocation over it as it steeped. He accepted it gratefully, and as he started to ease he tried to make light of it, of not being able to bear the sight of the place; but I could see that this disheartened him, that he'd truly not expected for just the sight of where he'd been wounded to reawaken the pain again.
Once he'd slipped into sleep I took one of my new pans--when they'd learnt how I'd dumped my old ones into that crevice in Mordor, Legolas and Gimli'd talked to one of the Captains of Gondor, and had found me a new set of camping pans and gear such as the Rangers carried, and I'd found them with my things as we was preparing to set out; maybe it was the Lord Faramir himself as had gotten them for me--wouldn't be surprised to learn that was true, in fact--and I filled it with fresh water and set it to boil, then took one of the athelas leaves, and bruised it and steeped it as I'd seen Strider do, speaking the Invocation over it. Then I brought it near where Mr. Frodo was sleeping and lay it near his face where he could breath the steam, and I saw his face ease, and a small smile graced his mouth. And the next day he woke feeling much better, smiling and laughing, and joining in the singing as we continued on our way.