Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. They belong to J.R.R. Tolkien.
True Friends: Chapter 4
The sun was it's most brilliant at first light as the vibrant warmth kissed each dew ladened leaf, seemingly taking a life of their own as the vein imbedded foliage opened up to a new day. Also basking in Middle-Earth's brightened days since the fall of Sauron was the Master Healer, Mallos. He found the morning to be the most beautiful and rejuvenating time of the day. It was when life started anew, and the people of Minas Tirith could appreciate what the dark days brought. Their salvation as well as their new King of Gondor, the hands of a true healer.
Mallos was hard pressed to find any Athelas in his stores and when approached by King Elessar if he had any when tending to the Halfling's, he found it difficult to deny the ruler of Gondor anything. He feared he had let his Lord down, but when the former Ranger of the North brought forth a woolen cloth containing a few carefully rolled Athelas leaves, Mallos was given the precious healing herb to cultivate. "I give these to you, Master Mallos, as I am sure you will be able to make them multiply," he remembered the King saying to him, now, on this morning, the man swept aside his cloak, bending down to look at each growth, admiring his and the young Ring-bearer's gardener's work. He had to admit that Samwise Gamgee had the magical touch with all things that grew.
This was just where Aragorn found the healer, amongst the abundance of Athelas leaves sprouting to life, delighted to see the few leaves he gave had been well taken care of. The King's purpose for this visit was to find out what exactly this new "technique" with needles helped the Ring-bearer through his pain, and how he may participate in the future.
"Master Healer?" Aragorn asked, approaching on soft feet.
Mallos did not flinch when approached; he had felt the Earth tremble beneath his feet, observed the leaves shake off the remaining dew from the vibrations. "My Lord?" he said, rising from his kneeling position, bowing his head to his King. "How may I help you this fine morning?" he asked noticing an awkward tilt to the man's neck, favoring his left side. "Do you need a healer?"
Not ready for the question, Aragorn's eyebrows furrowed. "Pardon?"
"Your neck. You seem rather stiff this morning?"
"Oh, that," Aragorn said absentmindedly rubbing at his sore neck muscle. He had slept in the straingt back chair all night long, waking up to the light shake Samwise applied to his shoulder, his chin resting on his chest. "I stayed with Frodo. I must see that there are more comfortable chairs at his bedside," the former Ranger said, a smile broadening his facial features. Mallos lifted his eyebrows in confusion and amusement. Aragorn noticed that this healer was no non-sense, very serious about his work. Such that it reminded him of his foster father, Lord Elrond of Rivendell.
"Speaking of the Holbtya, how is he faring this morning? Did he find need of the sleeping herb?" the older man spoke, taking his attention back to the garden, clipping a few leaves and placing them in his satchel.
"He managed well enough without it, thank you. He fell asleep on his own accord after I gave him a massage. The reason I am here, is I wanted you to teach me about this new needle technique. It was very effective in controlling his pain, but does it have other virtues?"
"Oh, that is does, my Lord. Here, come with me and I will explain it," Mallos invited Aragorn into his personal chamber behind the Houses of Healing. Walking into the room, one would never know that a man lived there. It was spacious, well kept and everything had a place. The healer approached a waist high wooden table and reached across it to retrieve the pouch that Aragorn recognized as the one Mallos had pulled out the needles from the day Frodo lay on his cold stone floor, helpless as he watched his friend suffer.
"Please, have a seat, my Lord and let me tend to that sore muscle. You should have really let Master Baggins stay here if you felt he needed looking after," Mallos continued, gesturing toward a chair for Aragorn to sit in.
The King did not hesitate to sit, but was not silent about the welfare of his comrade. "Ever since the first day I traveled with the Hobbits, I have found myself as protector and friend. I will not have Frodo spend another lonely night in a healing house when he has family to help take care of him. In my experiences, the Halflings are a most hardy folk, but they need touch, reassurances, and above all else the love of their family for them to recover quickly," Aragorn spoke passionately remembering how Bilbo stayed at his nephew's side after Frodo's encounter with the Witch-King at Weathertop.
"Forgive me, my Lord, I did not mean to offend," Mallos bowed his head apologetically before taking calloused fingers to Aragorn's tender neck, massaging the affected muscle.
The King flinched at such strong hands, wondering if the healer even had a gentle touch. After a few moments, the hands disappeared, the slightest sting gracing his neck, then amazingly the pain was gone.
"Well, now, how is that my Lord?" the healer asked, replacing the silver needles back into their pouch.
"The pain is gone, and I can move my neck freely. How did you manage?" the King asked astoundedly.
"Puncturing the nerves in the right place, as I gather from my studies. It is a temporary fix until the muscle begins to heal on its own. You are wondering if at all possible to avoid anymore "temporary fixes" on Master Baggins?" Mallos interjected before Aragorn could ask. With a nod, the healer continued, "I had told you before, the injuries he sustained on his quest need to heal. That can take time and if he should further injure the area, I am afraid he may incur damage that is irrepairable; the Ring-bearer may never walk again," he said bluntly.
Aragorn stared absently.
The morning sun's rays filtered through the endless columns of Minas Tirith, letting in light, hope and a new day. The fire had long diminished to glowing embers in the room where one hobbit lay sleeping, face down where he stayed unmoving during the night. A band of light that peeked between the space of drawn curtains creeped inch by inch, until it's warmth caressed the hand of the Ring-bearer. Fingers twitched one by one until the appendage clenched itself into a small fist before stretching flat against the soft cool sheets. One blue eye, then the next opened as a small moan escaped parched lips, the curly head turning from one side then back. His vision slowly focusing, Frodo noticed the chair that had once been occupied by the King the night before now sat empty. His heart pattered as he recalled the events from the previous day; his actions those of a child endangering his friendship with Aragorn because of a simple back ache. He blinked back an approaching tear casting those blue wells to the bed that had cradled his servant, only crumpled covers remained that gave any indication Sam had ever slept there. The halfling closed his eyes to go back to sleep, but then his stomach told him otherwise as it growled. Taking a couple of deep breaths and swallowing, he tried to numb the feeling of queasiness trying to remember the last time he had eaten. He hated rising early, but it seemed that the only thing that would make the nausea go away was to quell his hunger.
"All right," he muttered to himself, placing sturdy hands down upon the mattress, pushing his upper body up. Instantly, sharp, pulsing pain lanced through his lower back, causing the little hobbit to pant heavily. He found bringing his knees to his chest most difficult and the slick bedding made it hard for his soles to dig in; his legs quickly sliding out from under him. Squeezing his eyes tight, he gained some purchase on the coverlet, but the blanket could not hold his weight and before he knew it, Frodo found himself falling off the bed landing hard on top of his left arm onto the unforgiving stone floor. A loud "pop" sounded in his ears before flashes of bright light filled his vision as pain crossed from his back to his shoulder. "Sam!" Frodo cried out, hoping his friend was on his way back soon.
The King rounded a corner mulling over what the healer had said. Frodo needed time to heal, just relaxation, no taxing himself and he would get it even if he had to secretly have a guard following his every move. Of course, there would be no fooling the Hobbit for long, or trying to reason with the stubborn Baggins. Yes, that would be his plan of action. Heading in the direction of the same said Halfling, the King almost ran into Sam carrying a tray laden with Minas Tirith's fines breakfast foods, including the coffee that Frodo had grown to love.
"Good morning, Samwise. How is Frodo this morning?" the former Ranger asked the gardener, making sure to announce himself before causing the stout hobbit to jump, losing control of the tray.
"Mornin' Strider," he stopped to look up into Grey eyes, a smile across his face, "He was still sleepin' when I awoke, so I just cleaned meself up and hopped right to gettin him some food before his cousins ate it all," he teasingly said of Merry and Pippin.
"I know just what you mean. I..." Aragorn stopped talking suddenly as he thought he heard commotion coming from the room down the hall. Frodo's room.
Picking up his pace, Strider was just about in front of the door when he heard the little one hollering out, "Sam! Help m...me!"
Sam's stomach fell. He knew his master was in trouble and followed the King toward their room.
Throwing the door open, both Strider and Sam ran into the room. Sam quickly put aside his burden running to the back of the chamber where he knew Frodo was lying hurt. His eyes grew to size of saucers when he observed his master tangled within the covers on the floor, his left arm sticking out at an odd angle. He could hear Frodo panting heavily, obviously in pain.
"Frodo!" Aragorn called out after taking in the scene before him, reaching for the hobbit, letting him know help was indeed there.
Hearing his name, Frodo's eyes reverted from the ceiling toward the sound. After taking a few moments to focus on the bearded man, he instantly recognized the King, tears streaming down his face. "Ara...gorn, Sam," he whispered.
"We're here, Mr. Frodo, we're here," Sam patted his master's curly hair, being mindful of the dislocated arm.
Aragorn carefully slid Frodo from his resting place, gently lifting the mangled body to transfer to the waiting bed. He noticed Frodo holding his breath, clenching teeth, "Breathe, Frodo, breathe," he whispered onto the halfling's temple, talking him through the pain. "Sam, come and hold his legs. The arm needs to be reset," the King said, knowing that this would be the most painful part and he would give Frodo a draught to help him rest.
Nodding, knowing he had to be strong for his master, Samwise padded up to the bedside where Aragorn lifted the hobbit under his arms, releasing him upon the mattress. Before placing strong calloused hands on Frodo's thighs, he whispered, "I am sorry." Frodo was half aware, but seemed to have heard his gardener and smiled slightly before closing his eyes.
The King grabbed hold of the left arm, thrusting up and rotating outward where he felt the ball of the bone fitting back into the socket like a puzzle. The little hobbit hollered out and Sam held fast to his master, waiting to use force if need be, but he noticed that Frodo had not even flexed a toe during the ordeal; the only movement observed was his free hand coiling itself within Aragorn's tunic.
"Frodo, its over, all right Tithen Min," Aragorn soothed, brushing back damp curls from furrowed eyebrows. "Breathe through the pain, that's it, just breathe," he continued to coax smoothing the crinkled forehead with his thumb.
"Strider?" Sam whispered.
Aragorn turned his attention for just a moment to the gardener, glimpsing a look of concern upon Samwise's face. "What is the matter?"
"Mr. Frodo's legs, they didn't move," he fidgeted, face flushing.
"You were holding them, they were not suppose to, Sam," Aragorn reasoned, his stomach feeling a little uneasy, the conversation of the healer ringing in his ears 'Irrepairable damage...never walk again'.
"He didn't even flinch beneath my hands, if you take my meaning, sir," he tried to reason with the King.
Aragorn turned back to Frodo, who seemed to have his breathing under control, listening intently to the conversation. "How are you feeling, Tithen Min?" Aragorn asked quietly as his large hands framed Frodo's delicate face, tangling into the curls as his eyes pierced into the depths of blue.
Clearing his throat, he answered with a question of his own, "How do you mean, feel?"
"Your legs, can you move them?" Sam blurted out.
"What?" Frodo managed to get out before pain assailed his temple where Aragorn's thumb grazed it, gasping against the spinning room trying to swipe away at sheets he thought tangled around his heavy legs; not responding on his command, but when he reached down he found no cloth hindering his movement. Panic rose within the Ring-bearer as his mighty heart increased its rhythm, breathing becoming more difficult by the moment. "I...can...not move my legs! Aragorn!" the hobbit cried out in hysteria, pounding his fist into the King as he was wrapped tightly within the man's arms.
Sam could not hold his emotions in check any longer. He broke down, tears coating dry cheeks as he looked upon his master with such devotion, such anger as to why Frodo had been diminished to an invalid.
Rocking the frustrated hobbit, Aragorn knew Frodo needed him now more than ever. He bereated himself the very first time he told the master of Bag End to "live" with his pains and soon life would fall into place. Small hiccups echoed from beneath his chin as he felt the Ring-bearer's grasp weakening upon his tunic. Strong arms slowly loosened, gently lying the adult hobbit back onto soft fluffy pillows. As he had hoped, the face had slackened as wet cheeks left a stain upon his sleeve, the Ring-bearer's strength spent. Taking a deep breath, Aragorn gently brushed stray curls from closed eyes and was about to speak when a familiar voice interrupted his thoughts.
"I thought I would drop in and see how the lad was doing?" Gandalf spoke most fondly of his Hobbiton friend.
Frodo's heavy eyelids lifted off of blue orbs when he heard the Wizard speak. "Gandalf!" he cried.
Gandalf's heart went out to the lad, navigating around the bedpost to the opposite side of Aragorn, setting down upon the bedding gracefully. Big robed arms gathered the small creature to his chest, loving kisses planted on top of the curly head. "Now, now, my dear boy, it cannot be all that bad?" the White Wizard cooed.
Frodo just nodded, his face rubbing against familiar pipeweed smelling robes. Feelings of lonliness and despair began to overwhelm him, once again finding himself breaking down into a wall of tears. "I am sor...sorry. I am acting such the tweenager," he sniffled, rubbing his sleeve across his face, but was stopped by a certain gardener, blue eyes shifting up to peer into green.
"Here, Mr. Frodo, no use ruinin' Mr. Gandalf's robes," Sam spoke confidently passing a hankerchief over his master's reddened eyes. Sam had regained his senses quickly, not wanting to make the situation seem hopeless, as he somehow thought Frodo would never walk again.
Thanks to all the reviews
Clotr: I was thrilled to hear you went back to re-read this story, so the only way I could make amends was to update. Thank you. Hope you enjoyed this chapter.
Agent Pip: Here is another chapter, hopefully not in Spain when you read it.
Grumpy: Aragorn will have to wait a little bit before Arwen can indulge him. He has another crisis on his hands.
lindahoyland: Aragorn will become a more proactive healer now.