2. Sorrows, Comfort and More Deals
Quietly chewing on a meat roll, Sam examined his master’s pale face. ‘He looks better,’ Sam thought. ‘You can’t see the veins under his skin so easy. And his eyes don’t look so sunken. Don’t like the way he’s holding that shoulder, though – all stiff an’ hurting. I’ll lose that bet with Mr. Merry an’ Master Pippin gladly, if he’s just come out o’ this and be like he was.’
Frodo shifted in his sleep, and Sam eased himself into the bedside chair to continue his inspection. ‘He don’t look happy, though. He looks tired and strained … like he could sink into them covers and just thin out ‘til there was nothing left…” With an effort, Sam stifled a sudden, almost irresistible urge to wake up his master and make sure he was all right.
Frodo started to turn on his left side, and froze as the movement pulled at his shoulder. Still without waking, he rolled onto his back, his face suddenly tense. Underneath the bruised lids, his large eyes appeared to dart about. He was dreaming, Sam realized. No … he was having a nightmare. “No, no,” Frodo murmured softly. “Stay back … please, don’t…”
Sam felt his heart twist in sympathy. He leaned over the still form and whispered, “It’s all right, Mr. Frodo. They can’t get at you here. You’re safe, Frodo. You’re safe, me dear…” Frodo turned his face slightly towards Sam’s voice, and his features smoothed out again into untroubled sleep.
“Is he dreaming about Weathertop?” Merry quiet voice barely registered, so soft were the words. Looking up, Sam saw Merry and Pippin standing at the interior door. Tears were swimming in Pippin’s green-gold eyes. As he watched, one broke free of the others and ran down the youngster’s cheek. Pippin stared over at his sleeping cousin and covered his face with his hands.
Merry hugged the young hobbit, drawing him back out into the adjoining room and motioning for Sam to follow. “He’ll be all right, Pip. He’ll be fine. You just watch, he’ll be himself in no time…” Still holding his cousin close, Merry continued to comfort and reassure the young hobbit until Pippin could face them without trembling.
Giving the youngster time to recover, Sam turned back to make sure the door was shut so that their conversation would not disturb his master. Before closing it tightly, he took one more peek to ensure that Frodo was sleeping peacefully. Frodo’s chest rose and fell rhythmically, but his hand had moved up to his throat to clutch at something that lay on his breast. Sam felt tears sting his own eyes as he pulled the door closed.
“Curse that vile thing,” he muttered against the door. “I wish old Mr. Bilbo hadn’t ever found it, nor brought it back, nor gave it ‘ta my Mr. Frodo. I wish none of this had happened. I wish…”
“What’s that, Sam?” Sam turned around to see Merry staring at him curiously.
“Nothing,” he replied rather gruffly. Rubbing his sleeve over his eyes, he joined the other two where they had plopped themselves down on a divan. Pippin swung his short legs for a moment then slid down to a cushion on the floor and leaned against Merry’s knees, finding that more comfortable.
“Is he going to wake up soon, Sam?” Merry asked. “Lord Elrond’s on his way over. We saw him out by the gazebo. He’s bringing another tonic for Frodo to drink.”
“It’s green,” Pippin informed Sam. “Frodo’s not going to like it.”
“Then perhaps you can help convince him to take it, Master Peregrin.” The three hobbits rose to their feet and bowed as the Master of Rivendell swept into the room. “This tonic will help Master Baggins recover his strength. Enough strength, perhaps, for a turn about the garden?”
The three hobbits flushed. “Err … how did you hear about that, my lord?” Merry asked.
“Be assured that, sooner or later, I know of everything that occurs in Imladris, Master Meriadoc.” The Elf-lord smiled down at them and the three relaxed. “Have the books closed on your little wager?”
Pippin grinned up at the tall lord. “We’re still taking bets, sir. Care to get in on the action?”
“Master Pippin!” hissed Sam in a strangled tone.
But the Elf took no offense. His deep, dark eyes regarded them. “I might, at that. I surely should place my belief in the efficiency of my tonics, after all. But Master Frodo is still sorely hurt, and has not had sufficient time to regain his strength…” Laughter lurked in those ageless eyes. “What of this, little masters? If young Frodo cannot complete a circuit of my nearest garden, I will require of you each to scrub the moss from the base of all the fountains. It is difficult for my folk to reach so low.”
“And if he makes it, my lord?” Emboldened by Elrond’s lack of rebuke, Merry was willing to bargain.
“That is more difficult, Master Meriadoc. What would you have of me?”
Merry closed his eyes for a moment, thinking. “I want a copy of all the maps from Rivendell to Mount Doom. On tanned hide, so I can carry them in my pack.”
Pippin’s eyes were enormous. The Elf-lord caught his gaze, and Sam’s. “And you two? Are my terms and Master Meriadoc’s acceptable to you?”
Pippin nodded. Sam was more hesitant – not about the terms, but about making them. “I don’t know as Mr. Frodo would like us taking odds on him getting stronger,” the stocky hobbit said slowly. “He’s not one ‘ta –“
“To what, Sam?” Frodo leaned against the doorjamb, his rising unheard by any of them. Pippin at once leaped to his feet and led his cousin to the divan. Frodo’s walk was uncertain, and he held Pippin’s arm to steady himself. He had pulled a robe over his nightshirt, but still shivered. Over his dark head, Merry and Sam exchanged a worried glance.
“Ahhh,” Sam temporized. “We were … umm, we were…” A bead of sweat gathered in his sandy hair and ran down the side of his face.
Though he leaned against Merry, Frodo’s gaze sharpened on Samwise. “Sam?”
“We were discussing the possibility of gainful employment for your cousins and Sam,“ the Elf-lord interjected smoothly. “How are you feeling, Master Frodo?”
“Much better, Lord Elrond, thank you.” Frodo looked rather confused but did not ask for further clarification. “Aragorn made me eat a large breakfast, though, and I am rather uncomfortable at the moment.”
“Perhaps this will help.” The Elf-lord raised up the tonic and Frodo groaned. “Come, little master. Let us retire to your sleeping chamber so that I may examine and rebandage the wound.” Guiding the reluctant hobbit before him, Lord Elrond steered Frodo into the bedroom and closed the door.
“A close call there, Sam,” grinned Merry, deviltry dancing in his blue eyes.
“I jus’ don’t think this is right, Mr. Merry,” Sam grumbled.
“I’m hungry. Since Lord Elrond’s with Frodo, can’t we go have lunch? Come on, Sam. Let’s go see if Bilbo is ready to eat.”
* * * * *
Bilbo was waiting for them in his rooms. The old hobbit spent most of his time there now, when he was not sitting with Frodo or listening to songs and tales in the Hall of Fire. He listened to their report of his nephew’s progress, which differed somewhat according to who was saying what.
Hobbits being the talkers that they are among their own kind, it wasn’t long before Bilbo had the whole story of The Wager (as they had began to call it) out of the younger folk. To Sam’s horror, Bilbo insisted on placing his own bet.
“And why not? I know my Frodo-lad. The more Lord Elrond tries to make him rest, the harder he’ll try to get up. A Bagginses’ trait, I’m afraid.”
“Hah!” said Merry under his breath to Pippin. “Told you so.”
Bilbo had been staring at the ornately carved ceiling, his dark eyes thoughtful. Though his body had aged, those earth-brown orbs were as quick and lively as ever. “I’m betting that my lad can complete that walk in the garden.”
“And what do you offer?” Merry was grinning, and Sam moaned.
“Hummm…” Bilbo considered. “I have been trying for some time to get Arwen to sing for me the songs of Lothlórien, so that I may write them down for my book. I know she has many demands on her time, but I would so like to record those songs… Well, my boys – how’s this? If Frodo makes it, Arwen sings for me. If he doesn’t, then I will relieve Elrond’s cartographer of drawing the maps for you, Merry. He doesn’t have time to do that, and I’ve drawn a few, you know.”
Pippin tugged on his older cousin’s waistcoat. “We can’t promise him that, Merry!” he hissed into a pointed ear. “The Lady Arwen doesn’t answer to us!”
“Hush, Cousin. Don’t worry, we won’t lose. You know Frodo wouldn’t give in if it killed him. And with the added incentive of our surprise for him, we can’t lose.”
* * * * *
Returning to see if Elrond had finished with Frodo, Sam and Merry and Pippin stopped at the stables to visit Bill and feed him the carrots they had collected for him from lunch. Glorfindel was attending to Asfaloth, brushing down his steed and trimming his silk-like mane. Sam clicked his tongue, and the stallion graciously lowered his great head to accept a nose-rub from the hobbit.
“Right beautiful he is, sir,” Sam said to the Elf, softly. Sam’s eyes were practically glowing with delight as he stroked the lovely animal. Asfaloth gently butted the stocky halfling and lipped his hands. With a final stroke of the shining coat, Sam turned back to Bill, who occupied the stall next to Asfaloth. The pony was watching jealously, even as Pip and Merry petted him.
“Horses always know when they’re being admired, do they not, Samwise?” The Elf’s clear eyes crinkled in humor. Glorfindel paused in his brushing and regarded the hobbits. Asfaloth leaned into the brush and turned his head to look beseechingly at his rider. “And so I am instructed to resume my efforts.” The Elf laughed, a clear peal like the ringing of bells. “Speaking of great efforts, I have heard that there are odds being laid on the Ring-bearer’s degree of recovery. May I participate?”
Merry’s whole face lit up. Pippin looked worried. “This is getting out o’ hand,” Sam muttered darkly. “And no good’ll come 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.