It was mid-afternoon, and the three companions were on their way back to the refuge bearing bulky packs.
“I do appreciate it, Legolas, although my love of song cannot equal yours, or any Elf’s. It is just that sometimes Pippin can be so…… persistent.” Aragorn frowned. “What are you grinning about, Gimli?”
Gimli’s eyes twinkled. “I suspect you have grown so used to finding Peregrin annoying that you cannot break the habit, my friend! I for one would not wish him to change in any way, and I have no doubt you find him as engaging as the rest of us. Certainly your men have been much entertained by his visits this week.”
Legolas smiled. “From the moment he was well enough, Pippin has been tirelessly visiting as many injured as he could find. He has spent hours with them telling tales and singing songs. I have heard more than one person comment on how much they have enjoyed it. He may have kept out of your sight for fear of being reprimanded or asked to stay away.”
“He has a good heart,” said Aragorn grudgingly. “Such visits would……..” He stopped talking and looked up, concerned, as a sudden fear struck him.
“What is it?”
“We must walk faster. Perhaps Pippin is not suffering merely from the effects of too much wine after all.”
The sun was getting low in the sky when Aragorn led Gimli and Legolas along the path toward the refuge. Near the entrance he held up his hand and halted. “Wait. Let me announce that we are here so we don’t startle them.”
Gimli frowned. “I still see no sign of any cave. It is well concealed indeed.”
“Frodo? Merry? Sam?”
“Aragorn?” Frodo’s voice could barely be heard above the rushing water.
Ducking behind the curtain of water, Aragorn turned the corner to the entrance and rushed inside. Lamps had been lit throughout the cave. Merry was sitting next to Pippin, and Frodo and Sam met him as he entered.
“I know.” Aragorn dropped his pack and went quickly to Pippin’s bed. Frodo and Sam were relieved to see Legolas and Gimli enter behind him, Gimli looking around in amazement.
Merry got up and let Aragorn take his place. “He’s got a fever, Strider. We got him to drink some water, and we’ve tried to keep a cool cloth on him.” Merry tried to state all the facts without betraying his fear. “He says that his head still hurts and that he feels dizzy. He seems awfully weak and can’t stay awake too long at a time.”
Aragorn felt Pippin’s hand and forehead, and then pulled the covers down a bit and laid his hand gently on the hobbit’s chest to check his breathing. After a minute he straightened up and smiled at Merry. Frodo and Sam had joined him, visibly braced for bad news.
“You did everything right. We believe that Pippin has had contact with one or both men at camp who became ill with fever. If his symptoms run the same course, tonight should be the worst of it. He will likely be much improved by morning.”
Frodo let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. “I’m so glad you’re back. He seemed to get sick so fast.”
“The same with my men. The fever rises quickly but in both cases greatly diminished within a day.” Aragorn motioned to where Legolas and Gimli were standing. “Why don’t you three help them unpack the supplies we brought. I want to look Pippin over a bit more.”
Frodo bent down, retrieved Aragorn’s knife from under Pippin’s bed and handed it to him, then moved away with the others. Aragorn slipped the knife back into his boot and concentrated more carefully, feeling Pippin’s glands and checking his reflexes and pulse. Finally he wrung out a cloth in fresh water from the nearby basin and pressed it to Pippin’s brow. Pippin slowly opened his eyes.
“Hello, little one,” Aragorn said softly. “You don’t have to talk, just rest. You’re going to be fine.”
“Strider,” Pippin whispered, “I’m sorry, I promise I’ll never have any wine ever again.”
Aragorn smiled at him. “It wasn’t the wine, although I suspect your headache would have been less without it. A few men at camp were ill, and I think you caught a bit of sickness from them. Headache and fever, and quite dizzy, that’s what they felt as well. In the morning you should be much better. Does your throat hurt? Your chest?”
Pippin shook his head. Aragorn slipped a hand behind Pippin’s head and lifted him a bit, helping him drink some water before laying him back down and covering him warmly.
“How’s the song coming?”
Pippin smiled weakly and tried to say something, but talking took too much effort. His limbs felt heavy, and drowsiness was overpowering him. Unable to stay awake, his eyelids fluttered closed and he slipped back into sleep.
Aragorn rose to his feet and looked down at the young hobbit, frowning a bit. “It already seems too quiet in here,” he muttered, as he went to join the others.
“Are the rest of us going to get sick?”
Five of the companions were seated at the table, the hobbits nibbling distractedly at the food. Gimli was walking about, meticulously inspecting every inch of the refuge.
Aragorn took Sam’s question seriously. “This illness seems to have affected very few people, Sam. Only two men out of thousands, and one hobbit. I think if any of you are going to get sick we should certainly know by morning. Any headaches? Feeling hot or cold?” Three hobbit heads shook in unison.
Aragorn sighed. “I didn’t know Pippin was visiting the injured men. That was really very nice of him.”
“He didn’t want you to know,” said Merry. “He thought you’d order him back to bed.” He smiled. “I talked with some of them myself, and they said Pip was just wonderful. Like a breath of fresh air, they said, someone who hadn’t grown up in the shadow of war and could still sing and make them feel so good. They said he never talked about any of the terrible things he’d been through, just stories about the Shire, or pub songs, or------”
Frodo was looking at him. “He’ll make a good Thain, Aragorn, he really cares for people.” He smiled. “The Shire’s a long way from Gondor, and someone will have to look out for us when you’re not around!”
Legolas was curious. “So young?”
“No, it will not be for many years yet.” Frodo looked at Merry with a grin. “The Master and the Thain. Should be fun, eh, Mer?”
Merry started laughing. “Show some respect, Frodo Baggins! The future Thain and Master of Buckland knew you when you were just a skinny, scared Ring-bearer, flitting about Mordor with hardly a stitch on, wondering where all the fire mountains were!” Everyone at the table roared with laughter, Frodo most of all. “If not for Sam here, you’d no doubt still be in this cave swapping stories with Faramir and not leaving any wine for anyone else!”
Sam blushed, wiping away tears of mirth. “Now Mr. Merry, that’s not exactly-----“
“Don’t worry about it, Sam,” chuckled Frodo. “I suppose that’s pretty much how the Shire will think about it, that is, if they ever think about it at all.”
Gimli finally joined them. “Aragorn, I may have to invade your realm with a small army of Dwarves. I see no reason why every waterfall in Ithilien should not have a place like this behind it, carved and fashioned into every conceivable size and shape.”
“A fine idea, my good Dwarf,” said Legolas with a grin. “At least then we will always know where to find you.” He turned to Aragorn. “Now that Pippin is being tended to and Frodo’s reputation is damaged beyond repair, where is this most excellent wine we have heard so much about?”
Aragorn laughed and got up. “You two may sample it, Legolas, but I believe our fine hobbit friends should stick to water this evening.” Merry started to protest, but Aragorn raised his hand. “Especially if there is any chance of an illness presenting itself. We really should wait and see.”
“Come on, Merry, let’s bring out more beds for our guests.” Frodo dragged Merry away from the table and Sam followed them.
When the hobbits were out of range of his voice Aragorn spoke quietly to his two companions. “They’ve been in this cave all day with Pippin. If we don’t have at least one more sick hobbit by morning it will be a miracle.”
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.