'Sam, you're looking a bit green,' Frodo said, worried. 'Strider!' he called ahead. 'Strider, I think we need to stop a bit early, Sam's not well.'

The Ranger immediately turned to assess the situation. He placed the back of his hand to the hobbit's forehead. 'You're not feverish,' he said. 'What seems to be the trouble?'

'Something I ate is disagreeing with me, I think,' Sam answered.

'We've all eaten the same thing,' the Ranger mused.

'What about those greens we nibbled along the way?' Pippin asked. 'Remember, when we went through that patch of mint?' The hobbits were always hungry, and sometimes browsed on familiar plants as they walked. At first Strider had checked what they picked, but their selections were always wholesome and added good elements to the rather limited trail diet, so he relaxed his guard after some days and trusted their judgment.

The Ranger straightened abruptly. 'Mint?' he said sharply.

'What is it, Strider?' Frodo asked, concerned.

Boromir had come up and was silently listening. Now he said, 'Are you thinking...?'

The Ranger nodded. 'They wouldn't be familiar with it, as it doesn't grow in the North where they're from, and looks a good deal like mint. It grows under the same conditions as mint, and one might not notice the flavour if a little got mixed into a handful of mint.'

'What?' Merry asked, being interested in herblore.

'Anachronos,' Strider answered, and Boromir looked worried.


'It's also known as muddlewort,' Boromir said.

'Muddlewort?' Gimli asked. 'I've never heard of it.'

'Nor I,' said Legolas.

'It does not grow in northern climes,' Boromir said. 'We've learned to avoid it in southern lands.' His face was grave as he noticed Sam starting to sway. 'Let's ease him down.' He suited action to words. They soon had Sam propped against a rock, well-wrapped in blankets.

'How are you feeling, Sam?' Frodo asked gently.

'Hunky-dory,' Sam muttered, and then his eyes widened as he heard what had come out of his mouth. 'I mean... a-okay...' his voice trailed off in confusion.

'It's starting to affect him already,' Strider muttered.

'What can we do, Strider?' Frodo asked anxiously.

'Samwise, do you still have that bit of soap?' Strider asked softly, stroking his hair back from his forehead. 'We can mix up a solution of soapy water, it'll act as an emetic.'

'A what?' Pippin said, confused.

'It'll make him heave,' Merry explained. Pippin's face twisted in sympathy.

'Soap, Samwise?' Strider repeated.

Sam nodded weakly. 'Wrapped up in the washcloth in my pack,' he said.

'The what?'

'I think he means the flannel,' Boromir put in helpfully. 'You do use a flannel for washing, after all.'

Strider looked to Frodo. 'Can you dig it out for me?' he asked.

Frodo jumped to obey, eager to do anything to help his Sam. 'Right away!' he said. Digging through Sam's ordered pack, he came across quite a few unexpected items. The soap was near the top, but Frodo made a mental note to himself that he needed to ask Sam later about the extra weight he was bearing.

Strider sliced a sliver from the bar and whipped up a frothy drink. Sam made a wry face at the taste but bravely drank all down, guzzling as quickly as he could. It didn't take long for him to start spewing violently, and the Ranger nodded in grim satisfaction.

Finally, he leaned back miserably against Frodo. 'Can we do anything for you, Sam?' his master asked gently.

'What I wouldn't give for a cookie to take away that taste,' he muttered.

'Cookie? He wants something cooked, perhaps,' Gimli muttered.

'A good idea,' Aragorn said. 'It'll do Sam good, I think, to have a full stomach. It might help him fight the effect of the muddlewort.'

Gimli soon had a fire going, and the Ranger put together a meal of sorts from their supplies. He arranged it as attractively as he could on a plate, remembering the pains Sam always took with Frodo's meals.

'Here, Sam,' he urged. 'Try to get some of this down.'

'My, we're really puttin' on the Ritz,' Sam said, eyebrows raised. Strider usually just threw a spoonful of stew on a plate and tossed a hunk of waybread on the side.

'I don't know what you said,' Strider teased gently, 'but you're welcome. Eat up.'

'Don't mind if I do,' Sam said, and dug the spoon into the stew. After a few bites, he sighed. 'Sure could use some java to wash it all down.'

'He means tea, I think,' Pippin said, bringing a steaming cup from the fire. 'Here you go, Sam.' Sam accepted the drink shyly, more used to serving than being served.

'Are you quite comfortable?' Frodo asked, settling again next to his gardener.

'It's almost as good as being in my own living room on the couch,' Sam said cheerfully. He giggled.

'Sam?' Frodo asked.

'Don't get your knickers in a twist, Frodo-Mister, I'm as tight as a drum,' Sam said cheerfully.

The hobbits stared at him in dismay. 'He's not making any sense at all,' Pippin said softly.

Strider shooed them off to eat their own suppers. 'I'll watch with Sam awhile,' he said.

'We can shoot the breeze,' Sam said agreeably.

'What's that?'

'Chew the fat?' Sam added helpfully.

'Are you still hungry, Sam?' the Ranger asked. 'Or how about some more to drink?'

'Negatory. My back teeth are already floating. I think I've gotten enough eats,' Sam said with a contented sigh. His eyelids began to droop.

'That's it, Samwise,' Aragorn said, pulling a blanket around the afflicted hobbit. 'You'll be better after you sleep it off.'

Samwise was already snoring when the other hobbits finished their dinners and gathered around him with their own blankets.

'Is he going to be all right?' Frodo asked softly as Aragorn rose to get his own meal before taking a turn at watch.

The Ranger smiled down at the Ring-bearer. 'O yes, Frodo,' he said. 'I think he'll be just... hunky-dory... by morning.'