42. Hurts and Comforts
Elrond exchanged soft words with one of his folk, and that one left to do his lord’s bidding. It seemed to Merry that that one gave them a cool glance of censure, too. Elrond turned from the door and seated himself on one of the beds across from the hobbits, his heavy robes settling about him in faint whispers of silk and velvet. He said nothing, but merely stared at them with the mien of one who has never had to count the rushing seconds that made up the hours of his life.
Sam thought he would burst did not the Lord of Imladris tell them what was wrong with Frodo. When Elrond did nothing more than look at them, he could not contain himself. “Please, sir,” Sam cried, “what’s the matter with me master?”
Those dark, ageless eyes centered on the hobbit. But the lord did not reply directly to Sam’s question. “It is a good thing,” he said almost as an aside, “that I posted an Elf at Frodo’s door to ward off visitors. His summons allowed me to arrive quickly.” His gaze roved over them. “My Elf tells me that he heard raised voices and that you woke Frodo with your … discussion.”
“Yes,” said Merry, giving no explanation or excuse for their actions.
Elrond’s dark eyebrows drew together. “The Ring-bearer is still recovering from a dreadful wound that almost killed him. I still marvel that it did not.” The Elf-lord paused, but the hobbits did not interrupt. “His strength returns, but that wound will never fully heal. Frodo is…” the healer paused, searching for words to make them understand. “Frodo is more fragile now.”
Now the dark eyebrows drew down. “He does not need to have his kin and friends causing him stress when he needs to rest and recover from a very traumatic experience.”
Pippin could not bear that accusing stare. “We didn’t mean -”
“I have decided,” continued Elrond, effortlessly overriding the tweenager, “to ensure that Frodo rests by removing all of you to share quarters with Boromir until you are recovered. I will attend you there.”
“Sir!” cried Sam, “Mr. Frodo needs me ‘ta do for him!”
Merry supported Sam. “Sam’s right, my lord,” said the young hobbit slowly. “Frodo will miss him dreadfully if you separate them. I love my cousin dearly, but he doesn’t always show the greatest judgment.”
Lord Elrond’s gaze bored into the young hobbits, and Merry hung his head. “Nor us, I suppose.”
* * * * *
Lord Elrond and Gandalf stared at the glittering display of bright-edged weapons spread on a leather wrap before them, then at the beaming dwarf. Gimli had requested an audience and Elrond had granted it, waiting while his orders concerning the hobbits were being carried out.
Gimli inhaled deeply, then ran a thick hand lovingly over the lethal assemblage. “All scaled down to halfling size,” he rumbled. “But just as sharp and deadly as full-sized.” He picked up a morning star and the late afternoon sun glinted off the deadly spikes. There wasn’t room in the small gazebo in which the three sat to swing it at full extension, so the dwarf ran the chain through his hands, swinging the weighted ball a little to show its balance.
“Most … impressive, Master Gimli,” Elrond said at length.
Gimli nodded proudly. “My thanks to your foundry-master, my lord. Couldn’t have done it without him. A fine Elf, that,” he added rather grudgingly. “Knows his metal-work.”
Gandalf hid a smile in his beard at the dwarf’s reluctant approval. He picked up a flail and waved it experimentally. “Samwise might be able to wield this. It is based on a threshing flail, after all, and I know he has helped bring in the Shire’s harvests.” The head of the flail was jagged, sides honed to razor-edges.
Gimli nodded. “Aye, a flail takes strength and little else.”
Elrond leaned over the miniature weapons and selected a battle-axe, turning it over to admire the excellent work of the blade and hilt. “The same might be said of a battle-axe, Master Gimli.” Before the dwarf could bristle at him, the Elf-lord added, “But you and I know better.” He sighed. “All of these weapons require long training. And they do not address the secondary problem.”
Gandalf raised a bushy eyebrow but said nothing, laying the flail back down.
“The hobbits are small, Master Gimli. They must reach up to deliver a stroke. They do not have great strength. All they have is quickness - and courage. I applaud your wish to help in arming them, but…” Elrond hoped he did not give offense to the prickly dwarf. “I think it best if they continue with the swords that providence gifted them.”
Gimli ran a hand lovingly over the weapons. “I understand, my lord. If we had more time… Well, it kept me busy, anyway.”
After the dwarf had rolled up his efforts and departed, Gandalf turned to his old friend. “I did not want to intervene, Elrond, as he put so much effort into them, and brought them to you, but…”
Elrond nodded. “Yes. I would not allow those sharp objects near our halflings, either. They manage to get into quite enough trouble without providing them the means to do themselves and each other even greater harm.”
A twinkle showed in the old wizard’s eyes. “Can you imagine young Pippin getting his hands on any of those?”
Elrond shuddered then smiled in spite of himself. “May the Valar protect us.”
Gandalf leaned back and pulled his pipe out of its resting-place in his staff. “Ummm … Southern Star, I think.” The first tendril of sweet pipe-smoke wafted into the breeze. “I think we might be going about this wrong, Elrond.”
The Elf-lord’s attention returned to the wizard. “What do you mean?”
“We have been trying to stuff as much knowledge and survival-skills into the hobbits as we can, have we not?” Not certain where this was leading, Elrond nodded neutrally. “And look what’s happened. Bumps and bruises and cuts and now this hurt of Frodo’s, which you tell me was brought on by anxiety as much as injury.”
“We have been treating them as if they were warriors going into battle. They are not. Hobbits are not like Men, or Elves.” Gandalf blew out a smoke ring and they watched it drift away. “My point is that we might be pushing them too hard. That we might be so busy teaching them our ways that we forget they have their own.”
“Their way of fighting,” murmured Elrond.
Elrond shook his head. “Something Bilbo said to me.” He sighed. “I did not truly understand what he meant. What then do you suggest?”
“That we leave them alone for the time we have left here. Just give them what lessons they ask for. Merry and Pippin will want to continue sword-fighting with Boromir, I am sure. Sam might want more knife-training from Legolas. And Frodo… Frodo needs time to gather his will and strength and focus for the effort that is coming.”
“Gandalf, old friend, I tremble to think of those young hobbits roaming Imladris unsupervised.”
“Oh, we’ll keep them busy. Long, strengthening walks… Camping out and providing their own dinners. I just think we should stop pushing them in things that are unnatural to hobbits. Like learning to kill.”
“That is the reason for the Fellowship, after all. To protect and assist the Ring-bearer.” Elrond rose, his attention on the Elf that waited at the entrance to the garden, a tray between his hands. “I must attend to a matter. But, Gandalf, I think you are right. We will let the hobbits be hobbits.”
* * * * *
Gentle hands, warm and tender, stroking his head. A familiar, comforting scent of pipe-weed and soap and frosted tea-buns. Frodo sighed and opened his eyes. “Bilbo?”
“I’m here, lad.” The warm hands moved around to the back of his neck and rubbed gently at the joining of the hobbit’s neck to his skull. Frodo closed his eyes blissfully. “Oh, that feels wonderful.”
The careful rubbing continued. “Elrond said you would like it. It will help you relax.”
Frodo realized he was lying in his own bed with his head in Bilbo’s lap, his uncle propped up against the headboard. And the room was silent and still, the only movement the dance of dust-motes in a sunbeam. “The others -”
“Are staying in Boromir’s room for a day or two, lad. They can all sneeze on each other. Except for Sam, of course.”
Frodo chuckled and grimaced as a cool cloth was laid over his eyes. “Hullo, Sam.”
“Hullo, sir. Just you stay still now.”
This Frodo did, feeling too eviscerated to move overmuch. After a while, he asked, “What happened?”
The gentle massage faltered for a moment, then resumed. “Elrond said you experienced a ‘migraine.’ A tilt of the dark head conveyed Frodo’s incomprehension. “Elrond said,” Bilbo continued slowly, still struggling to understand the Elf-lord’s explanation, “that the small vessels that feed blood to the brain constrict under stress. It causes great pain.”
Frodo nodded, dislodging the cloth. He kept his eyes shut. The cloth was wetted and replaced, easing the burning that started in his eyes and seemed to drill all the way to the roots of his hair. “I suppose being swept down a river through rapids and almost drowning could qualify as ‘stress’,” he mused.
“Elrond said it was triggered by some kind of argument going on in here, lad,” came Bilbo’s voice. “Care to tell your old uncle what it was all about?”
Frodo winced. By the gentle tinkling sounds in the corner of the room, Sam was busily pouring more water into the basin, his back carefully to them. “It wasn’t really an argument, Bilbo. Merry and Pippin and I just had to sort some things out.”
“You evidently sorted them so well it gave you a migraine, lad,” growled Bilbo.
Frodo said nothing.
“All right, all right,” the old hobbit muttered, capitulating. “Keep your secrets, then. Elrond says you’re to stay still for the rest of the day. You should be fine tomorrow. Are you hungry?”
“No!” Frodo drew a breath and tried to rein in the surge of nausea. “No, thank you, Bilbo. I’d rather not eat anything for a while.”
“Plain unnatural for a hobbit,” grumbled Bilbo under his breath. “Listen to me, Frodo-lad -”
Whatever Bilbo had been about to say was lost in a soft knock at the door. Sam hurried to open it, happy to see whomever would spare his master a scolding.
“Good afternoon,” Elrond said, and held up a tray on which resided a delicate glass phial filled with a frothy liquid. “I have something for you to drink, Frodo.”
Frodo groaned. Sam hid a smile, until he noticed a second phial on the tray.
* * * * *
“Are you quite finished?” asked Boromir anxiously.
“Achoo! I think so, Boromir.” Pippin sniffed and rubbed his nose, while Merry used a handkerchief. Sitting back at his ease, Boromir reflected that he did not entirely know what to make of his new roommates.
Hobbits, beds, and a small stack of nightshirts and personal belongings had been moved into his room without as much as asking him, which he supposed was the Elf-lord’s right. The halflings had greeted him courteously, settled themselves in, exclaimed over the view out the balcony, then piled onto his bed, forcing Boromir to draw up his long legs to make room. While he understood Lord Elrond’s reasoning in that they all would be easier to care for together, he was beginning to wonder if being bored wasn’t preferable to being halfling-entertainment. The two were now sitting at the foot of his bed, arms wrapped around knees, gazing at him hopefully. They had requested a tale, and Boromir did not quite know what to do.
“Go on, then,” encouraged Merry.
“I know few tales that are suitable…” Boromir began.
“Good!” grinned Pippin. “Let’s have an unsuitable one!”
Boromir gazed at them back helplessly. There was the one of the widow and her boarding-house of retired warriors … no. The caravan-master and his harem of … no. The … definitely not that one. “Ahhhh…” he hedged, beginning to sweat.
“Would you like me to sing?” Pippin asked him. “I know lots of songs.”
A soft knock on the door saved him. Pippin bounced to his feet to greet Lord Elrond, causing Merry to fall backwards with a squawk on the soft mattress. “Boromir’s going to tell us unsuitable stories!” he announced to the Master of Rivendell.
The soldier flushed red under the Elf’s non-judgmental gaze. If the man could have swallowed his pride enough to plead, he would have. Lord Elrond’s eyes shifted to the hobbits. “Not until you all have taken this tonic,” he informed them, “then a nap.” Those dark eyes shifted to Boromir and the man could have sworn the Elf-lord was laughing at him, though no feature of that elegant face betrayed it. “Then … you are on your own, Lord Boromir.”
* 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.