8. Surprises Revealed and Revelations Surprised
“Sorry, sir. You can’t do that yet. Maybe after breakfast.” Sam slid the well-filled tray across his master’s lap, ignoring the heartfelt groan of pain that issued from the blanket-covered form.
“Take it away, Sam… I’m dying, I know I am.”
“Yes, sir,” Sam agreed equitably. “But you’ve got ‘ta eat first. Lord Elrond’s going ‘ta be coming by to see you, sir, and that tray better be empty.”
Most reluctantly, the blankets were shoved aside. Frodo groaned again as the bright light of the room stabbed into his burning eyes. Sam winced in sympathy and hurried to draw the drapes across the glassless windows. He turned to find Frodo back under the covers.
“No, sir, that won’t do at all.” Gently but relentlessly, Sam pried the blankets back from the dark head. Frodo clutched at them desperately, but his weakened strength was no match for his friend’s. The breakfast tray tilted perilously on Frodo’s lap and Sam rescued it and steadied it, then tucked a napkin under his master’s chin.
Defeated, Frodo stared at the beautifully prepared tray, from the small bouquet of fresh fall flowers to the light, fluffy mushroom omelet, flanked by perfectly-cooked rashers of bacon and grilled sausages, potatoes chopped with onions and cheese, and a high stack of browned toast dripping with butter. “I can’t eat all this, Sam. I can’t eat half of it.”
Sam hid his worry under a cheerful smile. “You jus’ eat what you can, Mr. Frodo. You got some recovering ‘ta do, you know.” Privately, he resented the mean trick Lord Elrond had played on his Mr. Frodo, giving him all that wine last night. It didn’t lessen his resentment that he knew why the Elf-lord had sent glass after glass of the sweet, powerful wine to his guest. Frodo shouldn’t have been out of bed, shouldn’t have tried to walk down to the Hall of Fire, and definitely shouldn’t have sat up by the Master of Rivendell’s side for so long to listen to the singing and tale-spinning. The more evenhanded part of his mind argued that his master had brought this on himself and Elrond had done rightly to incapacitate the stubborn hobbit and return him to his bed, but Sam was not in any mood to be fair.
Frodo was still staring at the food, gauging it against his delicate stomach. The aromas that wafted up to him in the little curling whorls of steam were enticing, and he was surprised to find that he actually felt hungry. He hadn’t felt hunger in quite some time, it seemed… Certainly not yesterday, as he struggled to recover from the disastrous overdosing Elrond had mistakenly administered to him. His stomach cramped suddenly and he hastily turned his thoughts away from those hours of sickness and misery.
“It’s getting cold, Mr. Frodo.”
With a martyred sigh, Frodo applied himself to his breakfast. The pounding headache began to abate as he ate and he relaxed as his abused body immediately began to draw strength from the nourishing food. Watching his master covertly, Sam also began to relax, heartily glad that the battle of getting Frodo to eat this morning had been such an easy victory. Whistling, he pulled back the drapes and the sun filled the room with warmth. Perhaps he should see that his master got drunk more often.
A soft knock sounded on the interior door and two curly heads peeked around the doorframe cautiously. Merry and Pippin let themselves in, much more quietly than their usual wont. They regarded their cousin for a moment then Merry said, “All right there, Frodo?”
His mouth full, Frodo nodded at them and motioned for them to enter. His whole face had lit up at the sight of his cousins, and Sam grinned at the sight. The two laughed and piled on to Frodo’s bed, but carefully, and immediately began to help themselves to the remains of their cousin’s breakfast.
So it was that Elrond found them when he entered some time later, his knock unanswered and unnoticed. Peals of hobbit laughter echoed through the sunny room, and the Elf was surprised to feel his own ageless heart lift in response. Young Pippin was describing Frodo’s graceless slide down into his chair the previous evening, his small form perfectly imitating his cousin’s boneless collapse, and all four of the little ones were nearly gasping with laughter.
“May I intrude?” The Elf-lord’s gentle voice rode easily over the giggles and shrieks without his having to raise it. The two cousins slid off the bed to their feet and bowed, as did the little gardener from the head of the bed. His patient greeted him with dancing eyes, his wan face flushed with pleasure. Elrond was gladdened to see that there was no recrimination in the beautiful morning glory eyes, his rather undignified trick on the hobbit apparently forgiven.
“Please my lord, join us.” Frodo gestured to the bedside chair and Elrond seated himself gracefully, sweeping back his flowing mantle with the ease of long practice.
Reaching over, the Elf-lord laid his slender hand against the hobbit’s brow. Frodo submitted graciously, smiling at him. “No fever…” murmured Elrond, looking deeply into the sparkling eyes. The Master of Rivendell returned the smile. “Now, Master Baggins, it seems a matter of rebuilding your strength. I see you have already had a good start.” A graceful gesture indicated the gleaming breakfast tray. “Though I imagine you had some help.”
The other three halflings blushed. “Well … yes,” Frodo admitted. “But I ate much of it. Half, anyway. All I wanted.”
“Good. If you continue to eat well, my friend, you will soon be able to take that long-delayed walk.”
Frodo smiled at him, pleased but puzzled. “Thank you, my lord. What walk?”
‘Now it comes ‘ta it,’ thought Sam, with some satisfaction. ‘Mr. Merry’ll not get out o’ it this time.’ He hoped the following revelations did not upset his master’s digestion.
To Frodo’s confusion, the Elf-lord had raised his deep eyes to his cousins and was regarding them intently. “Ah…” he murmured softly. Merry and Pippin were staring at him with a look like a deer caught in a hunter’s crossbow site. Elrond’s dark eyes bored into the wide blue and green-gold ones of the halflings, then suddenly he smiled.
“I believe your cousins have something to tell you, Master Baggins,” he said softly. “As it concerns me and mine, I think I shall stay and make sure it gets said.” The last was delivered in a deeper, less conversational tone and Merry and Pippin blanched.
Frodo’s inquiring eyes turned to them. Merry looked back at him, a bead of sweat running down his temple. Beside him, Pippin looked very sorry that he had just eaten.
“Well?” Frodo said, when neither of his cousins moved to speak. The three stared at each other. Sam suddenly found the ceiling very interesting and decided to start counting the carvings on each beam. Unfortunately, the movement of his head drew his master’s attention to him. “Sam? Do you know about this?”
Now Sam was caught, too. The stocky hobbit was aware that his eyes had acquired that deer-in-the-crosshairs look. “Ahhh, it’s like this, Mr. Frodo … aahhhh…”
Frodo’s dark brows drew down when no one answered him. “What is going on here?”
Silence. Pippin gave him a sickly grin, looking like he was going to throw up.
That periwinkle gaze swept ‘round them all then sharpened on Merry. “Meriadoc Brandybuck,” said Frodo softly, identifying the ringleader immediately by knowledge and experience, “you are going to tell me what this is about. You are going to tell me right now.”
“Urk,” said Merry. He tried a pleading gaze at the Elf-lord, but Elrond sat implacable, his arms folded and his dark gaze unyielding. Pippin was estimating the distance to the door. Sam was now staring at his furry feet, his cheeks scarlet, evidently counting knot-holes in the polished floor.
Then Merry met his cousin’s darkening gaze, a sunny, pleasant smile on his lips. ‘Oh no,’ thought Sam.
“Pippin and I wanted to wait until you were a little stronger, Cousin,” Merry began (Sam thought gratefully, ‘Thank you very much for leavin’ me out o’ this!’), “but since you insist…” Pippin took an unobtrusive step towards the door. Frodo pinned him with a look and the youngster froze. “Pip and I have been saving a surprise for you. You need to take a little walk to get there … to the Library.”
The single word was echoed in four voices, ranging from started indignation (Samwise) to admiring disbelief (Pippin) to astonishment (Elrond) to absolute joy (Frodo). While the other three gaped at Merry, Frodo seized his hands and pulled him in close for a hug.
“There’s a library? A real library? Where is it? How many books does it have? Are there scrolls and maps? Are there books in Westron and other languages? What is–“ Frodo stopped and laughed, hugging Merry again. “Oh Merry, how wonderful! Thank you! I can’t think of any surprise that would be better. When may I go? Is it very far? Pippin, thank you!” He reached across to hug Pippin too and in his excitement, did not seem to register the youngster’s floored expression.
Elrond found himself torn between amusement and annoyance. Sam was apoplectic, his round face beet-red above his collar. The poor hobbit was making strangled sounds, gesturing vaguely about him, too indignant and confused to form coherent words. Pippin was watching him with a grin, enjoyment replacing shock on his sharp face.
Frodo did not notice, his attention wholly on the existence of the fascinating Library. With a visible effort, he reined himself in and addressed Elrond. “My lord,” he asked, “may I have your permission to go to the Library, as soon as I am able?”
The Elf-lord has finally decided he was more amused by the young Brandybuck’s shenanigans than upset. “You may, Frodo – when I say you are able. Thank you for requesting my permission,” he added gravely. The hobbit flushed, remembering that he had not asked the previous night, and that the Elf-lord had been forced to resort to gentle trickery to keep him from overtaxing himself. Elrond watched color infuse the pale cheeks and looked closely at his recovering patient.
The hobbit was still weak and far too pale. Already, weariness lurked in the slight form; Frodo just was too excited to feel it yet. The hobbit had much weight to regain and would have to retrain muscles weakened by fever and the immobility of bed-rest. With a shock, the Elf-lord realized that the slow regaining of the halfling’s strength, brought about by gentle walks of increasing length, would in fact be strengthening him in preparation for Merry’s wager. Had Meriadoc planned this? The Elf-lord’s dark eyes sought out the hobbit, who was again perching on his cousin’s bed, arms waving, describing the delights of Elrond’s library. Frodo’s lovely eyes were shining with anticipation. Elrond decided that, even if he had been out-maneuvered by a barely-adult halfling, it was a small price to pay for the Ring-bearer’s return to health.
* 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.