10. “What Should Not Be Forgotten…”
Elrond sank gracefully into a chair across the table and the Ranger hurriedly removed his legs and sat properly. The two occupied a small nook out of the way of the cooks but still the kitchen staff eyed them apprehensively, unused to policy meetings among the rising bread and simmering soups. The Elf-lord smiled at him wryly and cradled his own cup of fragrant tea. “I began to understand what the halflings see in kitchens,” he remarked softly. “They are an oasis of warmth and comfort, are they not?” Raising a dark eyebrow at his foster son, he said, “Well?”
“He is much stronger,” Aragorn reported. “He is steadier on his feet and can move without so much hurt. But,” here the Ranger paused, “he is still weak and tires easily. It will be long before he regains the strength lost in fever and pain.”
Elrond nodded; Estel’s assessment of the Ring-bearer’s recovery agreed with his own. The Elf-lord pondered for a moment, choosing which among his restorative tonics would most benefit his patient. Aragorn watched him and when he saw the Elf-lord’s dark eyes clear, he coughed gently to recapture his attention.
“There is something else, my lord,” he said softly. “Frodo is having nightmares. Terrible ones. They are stopping him from truly resting. From the degree of tiredness he showed a few minutes ago, I would say he is starting to try to avoid sleeping. He has asked Meriadoc to choose him several more books from the Library … less weighty volumes than the one you chose for him.” The Ranger smiled briefly as he recalled Frodo’s frustration with the learned book of history Elrond had provided the hobbit.
The smile was echoed by his lord. “Now that he knows of the Library, he is determined to attend it. Well and good. He has not Bilbo’s command of our language yet, but has the same love of books and knowledge. It will spur him on to regain his health so that I will give my permission for him to go.”
“And the nightmares, my lord?”
Elrond sighed, the smile fading from his ageless features. “I cannot help with that, other than my giving him sleep-inducing potions. It would help if he would discuss his fears with one of his kind, or you. Will he not speak of them?”
Aragorn shook his head. “I have tried. He says he will not burden others with his troubles.”
“If this Quest is to succeed,” Elrond mused, “then our stubborn friend must learn differently.”
* * * * *
Samwise was also experiencing a moment of exasperation with his master. Upon returning from tea with Mr. Bilbo and Strider, Frodo had crawled into bed and lay there shivering. Sam had covered him with a warm quilt and received an automatic, “Thank you, Sam.” But the shivering had not abated and now he was visibly fighting falling asleep.
Sam stole about the room quietly, pulling shut the drapes over the glassless windows, darkening the room and muting the music of birdsong and distant waters. He began to hum softly as he worked, an old, slow song that his mother had sung to him in the cradle. Glancing at Frodo from the corner of his eye, he saw that his master had sagged back against the pillows and the thick lashes were drifting shut…
‘Ah,’ thought Sam, ‘that’s done it, then.’ He allowed himself a brief self-congratulation as the eyes closed completely and Frodo’s face relaxed into sleep.
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
Sam winced as his master shot bolt upright, an instant of unidentifiable panic on his pale face. The outer door slammed then Merry and Pippin piled into the room, pausing in the doorway as they took in the darkened room and Sam’s expression.
“Oh-oh,” murmured Pippin.
* * * * *
The youngest hobbit peered cautiously around the corner, pointed ears twitching, alert to any sounds of pursuit. “I think we lost him,” he whispered to Merry, who was plastered against the wall, gasping. “Clever of you to throw the books.”
Getting his breath back, Merry nodded. “Slowed him down, anyway. I knew Sam wouldn’t let anything happen to Elrond’s precious books. Elrond and Frodo both would have jumped down his throat.”
Pippin folded his legs under him and slid down the wall, letting the blanket of fallen leaves cushion his drop. “Our cousin’s always been a bit too scholarly, if you ask me. Frodo acts like he feels he needs to read everything that’s written. Who needs all that reading and writing? It’s just as easy to remember everything, like we do with The Wager, isn’t it, Merry?”
When his cousin didn’t answer immediately, the youngster reached up and tugged his waistcoat, eyeing him worriedly. “I mean,” Pippin continued, “we do remember all the terms, don’t we? Don’t we, Merry?”
“Don’t be silly, Pip. Of course we remember who wagered what. I get a set of maps if Elrond loses his wager. Elrond bet that Frodo will complete the walk around the garden, so if he does, then I win.”
“No, you get the maps if Frodo doesn’t do the walk, Merry.”
“No, Pip, that’s not right.” Merry paused and looked anxious. “It isn’t, is it?”
Pippin had been dreading this. He’d been repeating the terms of each wager to himself for some time, and had managed to get both the wagers and the wagerers confused. “Lord Elrond,” he said carefully, shutting his eyes to better remember, “wagered that if Frodo does, then you get a copy of the maps, on tanned hide. If he doesn’t then he allows Aragorn gets to go on a picnic with Arwen instead of riding to the northern tree harbors.”
“Y-Yes,” said Merry hesitantly. “Um – I mean, that’s what Aragorn wagered. If Glorfindel wins, he gets to go to the tree harbors, and Aragorn doesn’t have to. Aragorn gets to go on the picnic if he wins. Pip, did Aragorn and Glorfindel bet for or against Frodo?”
Pippin stared at him miserably, terror dawning in his green-gold eyes. Wordlessly, Merry sank down next to his cousin and started muttering to himself, counting on his fingers and gesturing vaguely at the empty air.
* * * * *
Aragorn, passing by in a search for Gandalf, saw the two small figures sitting against the wall and arguing, though apparently not with each other. The larger figure was ticking off something on its fingers and talking animatedly to thin air, while the smaller figure was avidly drawing something among the autumn leaves and driving his point home with determined jabs into the soft earth. Neither of them noticed him, so involved were they in their debates. Thinking what odd creatures hobbits were, the Ranger passed silently on.
As Elrond had not been able to offer relief for Frodo’s nightmares, the Ranger had decided that he would seek another type of aid. It took some time to locate Gandalf, and when he did, it was in one of the least likely places Aragorn would have the thought. The wizard stood knee-deep in hay in the stables, discussing with the stable master the number and type of animals the Company was to take. He was absently stroking Bill’s forehead as they talked, and the pony’s great soft eyes were closed in bliss.
The stable master was parading a series of beautiful elven chargers before the wizard, pointing out the strengths and good dispositions of each of the magnificent horses. Gandalf kept shaking his bearded head and Aragorn agreed; the halflings could not possibly sit these great animals. And the dwarf would surely refuse to ride one. As much as he loved horses, the Ranger agreed with the wizard’s insistence on simple pack-ponies such as Bill.
With disappointment evident in his fair features, the stable master acquiesced, agreeing to provide either sturdy pack-ponies, mules or burros as requested. Promising to return when the Company’s plans were more solid, Gandalf gave a final pat to Bill and joined Aragorn and the two moved off to sit on a bale of sweet-smelling hay, enjoying the warmth and wholesome scent of horse.
Soft-voiced, Aragorn relayed what Bilbo had told him. The wizard’s sharp eyes shadowed when he heard the news, and he unconsciously pulled out his pipe. He hurriedly returned it to its place in his robes when the stable master appeared magically and glowered at him. “Let us find a place where we may talk this over and enjoy a smoke,” Gandalf suggested.
Passing back the way he had come, Aragorn looked and saw that the two small figures had departed. Briefly he wondered about that, and with a quick word to Gandalf, knelt among the leaves and stared at Pippin’s drawings. Though half-scrubbed out as if by an impatient hand, he could make out peoples’ names and lines drawing one name to another. The lines held no correlation that he could see. ‘Yes,’ he thought. ‘Very odd creatures, indeed.’
One of the many white-arched gazebos met Gandalf’s requirements for privacy and peace, and the two sank down upon it pensively. Now both were free to smoke and they did so gratefully, twin wisps of blue smoke curling into the crisping autumn air. “It will be dark soon,” the wizard observed. “Perhaps Frodo’s night terrors have been brought on by too much activity, too soon. He has been quiet today, has he not?”
Aragorn nodded. “Except for a morning visit with his cousins and tea with Bilbo and I, he has stayed in bed and rested.”
Gandalf puffed thoughtfully. “Ever since I have known the lad, he has had strange dreams. Very often they have occurred when he was ill… He has shared a few of them with me. And I have known more than one to come true.”
“Prophetic dreams?” asked Aragorn. He was surprised to find that he did not question the idea; if any would have the talent, it would be this slight, dark-haired hobbit with those expressive, clear-seeing eyes. He felt a moment’s pang of sympathy for the Ring-bearer; surely such a gift could only be considered another unwanted burden.
The wizard’s deep eyes twinkled at him in the gathering dusk. “There are many kinds of magic in the world, my friend.” Then the twinkle dimmed as Gandalf grew serious. “Unfortunately, I know of no such magic to chase away nightmares. Those are born of deep fears and a restless mind, of a body worn beyond bearing. The best magic is the love and care of those he loves and cares for.” The wizard sighed. “There is little that we can offer him besides that. Frodo must face this himself.”
“But is there nothing we can do to ease him?”
Gandalf shook his head. “Encourage him to speak of his fears, if he will, is all I can suggest. And knowing him of old, I know that Frodo will not. Not if he thought it would bring grief to another.” Another puff, and the wizard blew out a smoke-ring, which changed colors as it drifted away. “Yet perhaps it is not such a terrible thing,” he muttered, almost below the level of Aragorn’s hearing.
“How can it not be, Gandalf? He suffers.” The Ranger was indignant for Frodo’s sake. He had seen enough pain in the gentle hobbit; he saw no reason for the little one to endure more, could it be avoided.
The wizard’s gaze turned from inward to outward, meeting his old friend’s eyes. “Some things should not be forgotten, Estel. Frodo will ever carry the wound, for the rest of his life. I fear he will never be entirely free of the pain of it. It will be a reminder, every day of his life, of the existence of evil and the price paid to rid ourselves of it.”
* 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.