20. The Hands of a Healer
He patted his chest and I jumped into his arms. I snuggled down and mewed softly. 'If you can forget everything we've seen this day, then you are a much better...' I stopped, nonplussed.
He giggled. "You were going to say I'm a much better cat than you, weren't you?"
I hissed and he quieted; a sad smile lit his face.
"It has been a dreadful time, hasn't it, Alqualondë?"
'You may call me Alqua,' I thought and then my breath hitched.
"Did he used to call you that, Alqua?"
I snuggled closer and mewed piteously. I was instantly shamed by my weakness.
"I'm sorry he's dead. He seemed a good man. I liked him, though Boromir was much more fun."
I snuggled closer and mewed again, this time not caring what the Hobbit thought of me. The mere mention of Boromir and Denethor in the same sentence was too much for me.
"I've opened my mouth again, haven't I? Well, Denethor knew you loved him. Rest assured of that. I'm sorry to say that Boromir never did mention that his father had a cat."
I smiled for what felt like the first time in years. 'Boromir was never that fond of me. He had three dogs. Large ones. And I must admit, I teased them mercilessly.'
"Merry and I had a great time teasing him too. One time... I'm sorry, Alqua, you look tired. I think you should try to sleep some more. And I want to see Merry again. It's been a bit of time and I think he might be awake."
'Who is this Merry you speak of?'
"Oi! I forgot - you haven't met Merry yet." His face fell and then lit up again. "Strider swears he will recover. When he does, you must meet him. He doesn't believe me - that you can talk. Well, think. Well..." He bit his lip. "Never mind. Merry's my first cousin and my best friend. I've known him all my life. I'm a bit younger than he is. Not much, mind you. And we're the same height."
A smirk crossed Pippin's face and I wondered why, but thought of something else. 'Faramir! What has happened to him? He was dying.'
"Lawks! That's Strider's doing. He fixed him up. Everyone in the Citadel's talking about it. Ioreth said he has the hands of a healer and that sent everyone off in a dither. I don't rightly know why."
I jumped out of Pippin's arms and landed softly on the bed near Faramir's feet. Shock, bitter shock, ran through me. 'The hands of a king, you mean?'
"That's what she said and also the hands of a healer. Gandalf sent folks running for athelas."
I shook my head as the dark cloud of anger tried to fill me again. I batted it aside. So many questions. 'What in the world is athelas?'
"Oh! It's a weed. But it seems to help people heal. Strider used it on Weathertop when the Nazgûl stabbed Frodo. It was touch and go for him, even with the athelas."
I lowered my head. The Hobbit spoke in riddles. I had not a clue as to what he was saying.
"I definitely think you best lie down. You're looking a bit weary. Faramir won't mind sharing the bed with you. I'll just leave you now and see Merry." He turned and walked towards the door. "Oh! I'll bring you back some milk, if you'd like."
I nodded. He turned and left; I put my head down and hid under my paws. Unknown names ran through my mind as I tried desperately to sleep. Elessar. Weathertop. Strider. Athelas. What were these? But most importantly, most horrifying was the thought of a king. I tossed for hours until exhaustion took me. At last, I felt my eyes close.
A/N - 1) From Tuckburough.net - Through his mother, Esmeralda Took Brandybuck, Merry was first cousin to Pippin Took, who was his closest friend and companion on the quest. 2) Lawks is a term that Merry uses in FOTR: Ch. 5: A Conspiracy Unmasked.