Politics of Arda
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When the King Comes Back (the Great Smials): 7. Chapter 7
A swarm of relatives descended on him as he came up the path. Paladin made his way through the throng to Pippin. “What happened?” Then he noticed blood on his son’s arm and his eyes grew wide with fear and anger. “Somebody fetch the healer!”
“Ruffians.” said Pippin, answering his father’s question. “Two of them in the copse, about seven miles down the road. They threw a rock at Butter to make her shy, and hit her in the flank.” He looked at his sword in distaste. It was blooded. “She didn’t throw me though, and I ran them off. I stuck one of them pretty hard. He probably won’t live until morning. Stop it! I’m all right!” This last snapped irritably as he tried to shrug off numerous solicitous hands.
“All right, that’s enough!” It was the firm voice of the healer, Poppy Burrows, medical pouch slung over her shoulder. She made her way to Pippin. She looked around at the crowd. “Shoo!” They backed away at her command. “Let’s get him inside.”
“I said I’m all right,” he muttered crossly, and then added loudly “Somebody see to my pony!” before allowing himself to be led away.
They escorted Pippin to his room, and then Poppy firmly sent everyone out, including the anxious parents.
“Somebody bring me a kettle of hot water, and then leave us be.”
About thirty minutes later, she allowed Paladin and Eglantine in. Pippin was sitting up in bed, his left forearm bandaged. He looked sleepy but cheerful.
“Hullo, Father, Mother--Listen Father, I was foolish to have gone out alone as I did when we weren’t sure that all of those Men had cleared out--you may want to send an armed party to check that area. I’m fairly certain I did for one of them but the other got clean away.”
Paladin’s planned reproach died on his lips. “We’ll see to it, Peregrin.”
Poppy stepped up. “I just let you in to see for yourselves that he’s fine. Have someone bring him a supper tray, and leave him to rest. As for you” she turned to Pippin “I expect you to finish that mixture and get some sleep.”
“Yes ma’am” The words were meek enough, but accompanied by a cheeky grin.
In the hall, a mob waited, including Pippin’s sisters. Eglantine sent her daughters to prepare the supper tray. “Mind you, Pearl, see that he eats it. The rest of you, he’s fine, so find something else to do besides racket around his door!”
As soon as they were alone, Poppy drew herself up. “Now as far as today’s adventure goes, he is, indeed, fine. I dressed the cut on his arm; it was so shallow it did not even need stitches. He’s got a massive bruise on his side where one of the brutes caught him with a cudgel--that could have been truly nasty if not for his armor, and it’s going to be tender and painful for a few days. I’ll have my apprentice bring up some ointment for that, as well as an ointment to take down the swelling in his bad knee; he also got a bit chilled on the walk home, so he may have a low fever tonight. I’ve left a mixture for that…”
“Wait a minute,” said Paladin “What do you mean ‘bad knee’?”
“Yes.” the little healer pursed her lips. “How much do you know about what happened to him while he was away?”
“He told us he’d been injured in a battle .”
“Yes, well then, I won’t be breaking any confidences.
So, I’ll start by saying his general health is excellent; he is more robust than ever I have seen him in his entire life. More robust than I would have *ever* expected him to be.” Since Poppy had tended Pippin through his childhood illnesses this was quite a proclamation.
“However, it has not been many months since he was *seriously* injured. He had a broken hand, a broken foot, a dislocated knee, and nearly every rib in his ribcage was broken, among several other serious injuries. It’s a wonder he didn’t die. He must have had an excellent healer, for I doubt that I could have kept him alive with such grievous wounds. No matter how well he has healed, such things leave their traces.”
Also, his back is scarred with what can only be whip welts, and his wrists are scarred with rope burns.”
Paladin flushed in anger, and Eglantine gave a whimper of distress.
“He told me that was courtesy of some Orcs, and attempted to make light of it all.”
Paladin nodded. “Yes, he rather glossed over that experience when he told us as well.”
Eglantine put her hand on the healer’s arm. “Poppy, what can we do?”
“Not much you can do, except be aware that no one undergoes that
much physical distress without it also giving emotional distress, and that also leaves traces. Now I need to get home and send up those ointments. Watch him tonight. He *should* be up and around tomorrow.”
At the Cotton farm, Frodo and Sam sat alone in the kitchen with a late night cup of tea.
“So, Sam, what do you think?”
Sam had just finished reading the royal message meant for the Mayor. Except for the forms of address, it was just like the ones sent to the Thain and the Master.
“Well, I don’t rightly know. It’s very fair spoken, you might say, but it don’t sound much like Strider.”
“No. But it sounds like King Elessar, and even more it sounds like *Faramir*. It could have been much worse. You should have seen all the guff about the ‘Ringbearer’ he *wanted* to put in. “I tried to make him take it *all* out, but…” Frodo gave a bitter laugh.
“Now, Mr. Frodo, we don’t need to be going down that road again. You know I don’t agree, and begging your pardon, but that’s not what’s important about this letter anyway.”
“You’re right Sam. This means a lot to the Shire. All the same, I would love to see the expressions on the faces of the Thain and Uncle Saradoc when they read theirs.”
Sam raised his brows with a grin. “Aye, I reckon they’ll find it a regular eye-opener.”
In the Master’s study at Brandy Hall, Merry sat across from his father as Saradoc handed each document to him.
First was the letter from King Éomer. It was fairly blunt as such things go. A paragraph declaimed in ringing phrases Meriadoc’s courage and skill as a warrior. This made him blush. Then it described his duties as a Holdwine of the Mark, mostly to come if summoned by his liege at any time, and to provide gifts for any royal weddings and births that might occur. And as a reward for his duties as a retainer, he would receive each year a gift of one hundred silver pennies and two ponies from the Royal Stable, which would be delivered to him at Buckland each spring.
Merry’s jaw dropped. He had known that by the customs of Rohan, the King was supposed to generously reward his retainers, but he had never thought how that would apply to him. Before he’d ever left the Riddermark he’d received his arms and livery, his pony Stybba, and a very generous stipend as a knighting gift, as well as his horn from Eówyn. He had turned down the offer of more.
Saradoc grinned. “I take it you’re pleased, son?”
Merry could only mutely nod. Although stunned would have been a better word than pleased.
His father handed him the second document, the royal message from Gondor.
Merry nodded as he read. “This makes a lot of sense, Da. If Aragorn is to be our King, then he’ll need help from all of us.”
“Paladin is not going to be happy.”
“Pippin will bring his father round.”
“I hope so, Merry, I hope so.”
He handed his son the third letter, the private enclosure from Aragorn.
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