Title: Into the East
Author: Febobe (Frodo Baggins of Bag End)
Rating/Warnings: PG/K+ (graphic food descriptions, some occasionally graphic medical angst - NO CANON CHARACTER DEATH. I promise! It may seem at first that I'm headed that direction, but I absolutely guarantee, NO canon characters will be killed off in this fic!)
Summary: After the Quest, Frodo comes down with a serious illness, and journeys to Harad in search of better health. Told by Samwise.
Characters: Frodo, Sam, Elrond, Eowyn, Faramir, Merry, Pippin, an OC named Kalil (partly in tribute to Claudia's own Khalil), other supporting OCs, brief appearances by Aragorn and Gandalf. Others TBA, if any.
Disclaimer: I do not own and have not created any of J.R.R. Tolkien's work, neither characters nor world nor any of his concepts. I'm just playing in the sandbox, with no ill intent. Original characters, including (but not limited to) Kalil are my own creation, and I would appreciate it if they weren't used without asking. (Unlike Tolkien, I'm not dead!) This fic meets FrodoHealers standards and is free from profanity, sex, and slash.
Notes: Sam lovers, I think this is a fic you'll enjoy, as it strongly features his voice and viewpoint. Frodo lovers, this is definitely a fic you'll enjoy, especially if you're an old-school FrodoHealers fan. Faramir and Eowyn, Merry and Pippin will all have significant roles to play throughout this fic, though it takes a few chapters to get there. Also, please note that I have chosen Indian food for the predominant culinary culture of Harad. I realize that it may well be closer to Middle Eastern cookery, but I wanted to give it a distinctive tie and recognizable flavor, and I chose Indian. No ill will intended if you prefer a different interpretation; just know that this is my interpretation only and I realize it isn't the only potential take on Haradraic food out there. A word about Kalil and the Haradrim: I intend absolutely no disrespect to any culture or language. But the people of Harad would look and seem strange to Sam, Shire hobbit that he is, and more so than the fair-skinned elves and Big Folk he knew well. As for Kalil's language, I realize some people are fluent in multiple languages, but Kalil isn't as fluent as some people. I think he does pretty well myself!
Mr. Frodo seemed to be interested enough in our trip that he perked up a little the next fortnight, though he still ran real high fevers and shook all over with chills, and he wouldn't eat an awful lot, not near what was proper for a hobbit. But he'd try, and leastways he'd let me feed him something every few hours, even if it weren't much. It was enough that I figured we were right to go to that place, if thinking 'bout it got his interest up that much. And I hoped he might start eating better there...he always did love fresh fruit, and if they had as good o'fruit there as Lord Elrond and Strider said they did.
But one afternoon, we fair got a miracle.
Mr. Frodo was taking his morning rest, and I'd given him a bit o'vegetable soup strained thin, the way he'd take it best now, and tucked him up with warm blankets and the softest o'pillows. It would be getting on toward lunch before we knew it, I figured, and I was trying to think what I might could get him to swallow, when he said something.
"Yes, Mr. Frodo?"
"I don't suppose I could have something besides soup for luncheon today?"
Well, my heart fair jumped up in my throat. I weren't none too sure whether he meant less or more, but I tried not to show how eager I was to find out. "O'course you could, sir, whatever you fancy. What would you think you'd like?"
He rolled onto his side and looked at me. "Do you recall that chicken Boromir used to talk about? The kind they made for us once, when we had dinner with Faramir? Hunter's chicken, they called it. It had mushrooms cooked in with it."
Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather.
"I remember, sir. Would you like some o'that?"
He nodded. "Please."
Well, I just about knocked the door down getting out o'there to run and tell the messenger they kept standing outside the door, so's I wouldn't have to leave Mr. Frodo to fetch and carry all the time. He looked all wide-eyed - I reckon all those days o'me asking for soups and broths, and now this, startled him too - and off he went, quick as a jackrabbit in spring.
And then I went back in to sit with Mr. Frodo, trying my hardest not to show just how very excited I was.
I don't reckon it took all that long for them to fix the chicken, but it seemed like ages, and I kept hoping against hope that he wouldn't change his mind by the time it got there. But soon enough I heard some Big Person's footsteps, and a knock at the door, and I called for whoever it was to come on in.
It was Mr. Stri- I mean Aragorn. After so long I still sometimes thought o'him as Mr. Strider, and this was one o'those days when it was hard to shake.
And he had Mr. Frodo's tray, fixed up pretty as you please, with little dishes and a big cup o'fresh milk and everything on it.
"I thought that I might help Frodo with his lunch today, with your permissions," he said, real warm-like. "I was coming up to see him, and they said this was ready, so I thought I might bring it."
Well. That was fine and no mistake, and so long's nobody was kicking me out o'the room, I didn't mind so much. Gave me better time to watch Mr. Frodo and see how he was eating, 'stead o'worrying whether I cut the pieces small enough or went too fast or too slow.
"Make sure you cut it up nice," I warned him just the same. "Small bites. No sense in nobody choking, now."
Aragorn smiled, and started taking the lids off dishes, and there was that hunter's chicken, and I did have to say it smelled delicious. He had the milk, too, and creamed taters, honeyed carrots, green peas, and a little dish o'batter pudding with fresh blueberries, still in a little pan, just like it had been baked up special that way for Mr. Frodo. I was right impressed, if I do say so myself, especially when he started cutting up the meat in nice little bites.
"Does that look inviting, Frodo?" he asked.
Mr. Frodo nodded, and he looked so happy as I came over and propped him up good on pillows so's he could eat. "It smells good, too," he said, and looked happier'n I'd seen him since...well, right around the time we waked up after the Quest, and no mistake.
"Slowly, now," Aragorn said. "Take your time. There is no hurry."
And I was right glad as I watched Mr. Frodo take his good time eating, 'cause it never did nobody no good to rush food. He seemed to take his meal all right, no choking, though sometimes he did have to cough for a minute before they went on, he was that sick. But he ate more'n half o'that chicken, and every last bite o'mushrooms out of it, a few mouthfuls o'the creamed taters, and some o'the carrots, and a bite or two o'peas, and a fair bit o'the pudding with blueberries, and drank the milk, every last sup of it. And while he ate, he and Aragorn talked a little, and right interesting it was too.
"Tell me, Frodo, are you excited about your journey?"
Frodo swallowed a sip o'milk before he answered. "Yes...and no. I am a little nervous about it, and of course I hate to leave so many good people who have been kind to me." He paused to catch his breath. "But since Sam and the others may go with me, I'm not so afraid, really. It sounds very interesting, where we're going."
"It is. We have already identified the man who will be your doctor there." Aragorn offered him a spoonful-taste o'pudding. "There is a man, a doctor, who was of aid to Gondor during the War. He was an informer, fighting for the sake of our cause, longing to free his people from the Dark Lord's tyranny. He rejoiced with us when Sauron fell, and he has proven himself loyal through great peril to his own life. We would trust him with our lives...including the most precious life we know."
Mr. Frodo went pink. "Thank you. What is his name?"
"He is called Kalil, which in their tongue means friend. A wise choice of name for him, I think, and he and I have met; he came early during this peace to express his loyalty and devotion to our kingdom. Faramir says that without Kalil, they would have lost many more men to the Haradrim. He said that if he lay ill and in need of aid, he would trust Kalil to attend him. I consider that a strong recommendation indeed."
"It is." Mr. Frodo looked up at him real curious-like. "Is it true that oranges grow there on trees? The fruit which that lovely juice comes from?"
"It is true. They have in that land more kinds of fruit than you have ever seen in your life, Frodo, including one I think you should like to try that is called ba-na-na. It is yellow and quite soft, and mashes up very easily. I think you should try that when you have settled in; you will find it sweet and nourishing."
"I should like that. It sounds nice."
Well. To hear Mr. Frodo talking about food with any kind o'interest sold me straight on to going. Not bite nor sup more'n soup and maybe applesauce for weeks, and now he wanted good solid food that might help put the meat back on his poor bones? O'course part o'me thought - if he's doing that much better now, perhaps we could stay here - but the other part o'me knew better.
We had to go. If the promise o'going was making him feel that much better, who knew but what that strange land might not make him all the way better?
-to be continued-