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Fields of Gold  by Anso the Hobbit

Title: Fields of Gold

Author: Anso the Hobbit

Beta: Marigold

Rating: PG

Characters: Pippin, Merry, Eglantine, Paladin, Pearl, Pimpernel, Pervinca, Esmeralda and Saradoc, Frodo and Bilbo, Daisy Took (OC)

Timeline: Whitwell SR 1398, so Pippin is 8, Merry 16, Pearl 23, Pimpernel 19, Pervinca 13 and Frodo 30.

Summary: When an innocent childhood illness proves to be quite contrary, promises are given and eventually kept.

Note: Written for Marigold’s Challenge 12, as a sequel to War of Wills. You do not need to have read War of Wills to enjoy this story, but it is recommended. ;) War of Wills can be found on Stories of Arda or here: http//


PART ONE: Tea and a nap

“Merry? Don`t you want your tea?” Pearl said, looking closely at her cousin. Merry was known for being almost as ravenous as Pippin when a mealtime came around, and even in between, but now he sat pushing the preserved strawberries and clotted cream around his plate. The lads had been helping Paladin in the barn this day, tending to the animals. Merry loved that part of farming, especially working with the ponies, Pearl knew, and was usually full of talk about them after a day in the barn but today he looked tired and subdued. Had he had a fight with Pippin?

“Merry?” Pippin said, as Merry didn`t respond to Pearl’s question. “Why don’t you eat?” Pippin couldn`t comprehend Merry not eating, and he was being so quiet. Most unlike his usual self. His cousin was always so full of life and joy and answers to all of Pippin`s questions, but now he just sat on his chair, sipping his milk occasionally and shoving food around his plate, taking very small nibbles of this and that.

“I don`t suppose I`m hungry.” Merry finally answered, struggling to swallow a perfectly beautiful bit of strawberry. He hadn’t even touched his first scone.

“Have you lads raided the larders again?” Eglantine said, coming back to the table after fetching another bowl of clotted cream. She couldn`t think of any better explanation for Merry not wanting to eat, though raids on the larders didn’t usually affect Merry’s appetite.

“No!” Pippin said. “We`ve been in the barn all day. Haven’t we, Da?”

“Yes, they have. Merry, what is it?”  It suddenly struck Paladin that Merry hadn`t been his usual cheery, energetic self all day. He couldn`t pinpoint anything in particular Merry had or hadn`t done, but he had had an air of weariness over him and been far more quiet than usual.

“I suppose I`m just a little tired.” Merry put his fork down, giving up all pretence of eating.

“Maybe you should take a nap,” Pervinca suggested.

“I think that is a very good idea.” Eglantine said. “You do look a little tired, dear. Why don`t you go lie down on the parlour sofa and we`ll save you some scones for later.”

Merry nodded. “I think that I will Auntie, thank you. Excuse me please, everyone.” Pippin craned his neck to keep an eye on Merry as he went to lie down on the sofa. He curled up on his side and seemed to fall asleep immediately.

Pippin looked about in confusion. Merry taking a nap, just like that? Pippin knew that older hobbits also needed to take a nap sometimes, but he had been too old for having an afternoon nap for ages himself, unless he was ill, and couldn`t remember Merry ever taking a nap unless it was because Pippin needed one.

“Go put a blanket over him, will you Pippin?” Eglantine said, looking through the door at her nephew with concern.

Pippin went to the big armchair by the hearth to fetch the woollen blanket and covered Merry up. Merry stirred a little, but snuggled down and slept on.

This wasn`t right, Pippin decided. He stood watching his cousin sleep for a little then went back to the table to finish eating.

“Come along, Pippin, eat up.” Paladin said. But Pippin found it difficult to finish his meal. He looked at Merry`s empty chair and the scarcely touched plate on the table. If he listened hard, he could hear Merry`s slow and regular breathing from the other room. If Merry couldn’t eat, he didn’t want to eat either. Feeling his family looking at him, he grasped his fork and tried to swallow down another bite or two, but it didn`t taste right anymore. What was wrong with his Merry?

Thinking the day over a little, Pippin realised that Merry hadn`t been as fun to be around as he usually was. He had been a lot quieter than usual. He had done his chores, and helped Pippin with his, and helped Pippin’s Da with that great, heavy water trough that had been mended and needed to be put into place again, but he had looked very tired just after and had not wanted to jump in the hay with Pippin when Da gave them a little break. Merry had just lay down in the hay and Pippin had jumped down a time or two, but it wasn`t as much fun as when Merry jumped with him and there was no tickling or putting hay down the back of Merry`s shirt afterwards. Merry had ruffled his curls and given him a hug when he had jumped down the last time, but he hadn`t joined him in the play. After, Pippin had tried to come up with fun things to show him but Merry hadn`t really been interested, though he had kindly pretended to be. Maybe he was getting tired of having Pippin around all the time? That could never happen, could it?

Asking and receiving permission to be excused, Pippin left his own tea unfinished and went outside to his favourite thinking spot in the tool shed.

Eglantine watched her lad go and wondered what had put him in so solemn a mood. Pippin usually kept his cheery spirit long after others fell to despair or sorrow. Certainly he was worried about Merry. Eglantine found herself worrying about her nephew herself. She directed the lasses to wash the dishes after tea and set about sweeping the floors. After that they finished the ironing, and then she set the lasses to beginning supper while she saw how Merry was faring. He had slept rather long. The sun had already set, and Pippin had not come in either. She took off her apron and went to Merry where he slept on the sofa. It was odd that Merry was so quiet and tired, and had no appetite; she couldn’t ever remember such a thing. Her nephew was a cheerful whirlwind, only her own son surpassed him in energy, and the two of them could eat more than the rest of her family combined. She sat down beside him, and stroked his curls.

“Wake up now, Merry. It`s almost time for supper and you have slept for over two hours.” She frowned. He felt a little hot to the touch, but she decided it was due to the heavy blanket Pippin had covered him with. They were inside a snug smial after all, with a cheery fire in the parlour grate. 

Merry blinked his eyes open. “All right.” He said, sitting up and drawing his hands through his curls. He felt a little better for the nap, but his head ached a little. Maybe some fresh air would do him good.

As if reading his thoughts, Eglantine said, “I think you should go outside and talk to Pippin. He has something on his mind and maybe talking to you would help.” She hugged him tight for a moment. “Don`t forget your coat.”

Merry hugged her back and went to find Pippin.


PART TWO: Promises given

Pippin sat on a stool in the lantern-lit shed, thinking about Merry. Maybe he had done something to upset his cousin and now Merry wanted to go back to Buckland? Or perhaps he had been summoned back by his father and was sad he would have to cut his visit short? Pippin knew that Merry was growing up and needed to know all about the business of Buckland and learn how to become Master one day, but he didn`t think it was fair for Merry to leave him now, he’d only arrived a couple of weeks ago. Pippin loved it when Merry came to stay. He loved visiting Merry in Buckland too of course, but somehow it was more special when Merry came to visit Pippin. Here in his own smial, with his mama and Da and sisters about, when Merry was there he seemed even more Pip’s own brother. He’d told that to Merry once, and Merry hadn’t thought it odd at all, in fact he said he felt the same way when Pippin stayed in Brandy Hall. But brothers didn’t always get along, and sometimes they grew apart. Merry had said that would never happen with them, but Pippin’s cousin Isenbras never wanted to do things with his little brother anymore. And Isenbald was only six years younger, not eight, like Pippin was to Merry. Maybe Merry just didn’t like doing the same things as Pippin anymore.

“Are you going to leave me?” Pippin said as he felt rather than saw that Merry sat down on a box beside him.

“Leave you?” Merry looked aghast. “Why would I leave you?”

“You`ve been so strange all day, quiet and not playing and having fun, so I thought maybe you were bored and wanted to go back to Buckland.” Pippin had tears in his eyes now, he couldn`t bear it if Merry didn’t want to do things with him, and be his best friend anymore.

“Oh, Pippin! Come here.” Merry took his little cousin and sat him in his lap, hugging him tight. “I was a little tired today, that is all. I won`t leave you. I love staying here with you. Don`t cry.” Merry hugged him even tighter and kissed the unruly curls. He ducked his head a little, looking into Pippin’s eyes. “Did you think I was going to leave you because I didn`t feel like playing today?”

Pippin nodded. “I thought that maybe you didn’t like spending time with me anymore.”

“It`s just me that’s a little tired today, I`m not tired of you. That couldn’t ever happen, Pippin.” Merry wasn`t sure himself why he felt tired. He hadn`t been working harder than normal lately, had he? He was growing, his parents said, and that was why he ached sometimes, and was sometimes sleepy, but today’s tiredness wasn’t the same as that tiredness exactly, and it made Merry uneasy. Before Pippin could pick up on his worry, Merry added brightly, “And you know what?”

Pippin looked up then, excited to hear what Merry had to tell him.

“I feel better for that nap, so how about if we go and find some apples or maybe some of those pears your mama loves to hide from us?” Merry wasn`t hungry at all, but food being a great source of comfort for hobbits, and especially little ones like his cousin, he could always manage to eat one or two if it made Pippin happy again. And maybe eating something would help his headache.

Pippin perked up at the idea and ran to the back of the shed where the fruit was stored in large, wooden barrels, tucked away from wind and weather. Merry followed after at a more sedate pace with the lantern. He had wanted to run, but didn`t have the energy to do so, and decided to try to take things slow until it was supper and he could sit down again. Why was he feeling so tired and strange? That nap should have done the trick. Sleeping a little always helped if he felt tired.

Pippin was already hanging half inside a barrel of pears when Merry came up to him. Tickling Pippin and putting him under his arm as if he were a parcel to be carried about, Merry took a couple of pears, replaced the lid (how had Pippin managed to open the barrel in the first place, the lid was rather heavy) and plonked Pippin down on top of it, handing him a pear.

“How did you manage to open that lid, Pippin?” Merry asked. “It`s awfully heavy.”

His mouth full of pear Pippin beamed at Merry and nodded vigorously. “I`m strong now!”

Merry could barely understand what he said through the mouthful of fruit, but he tousled Pippin`s curls. “Yes, you`re growing into a strong, big lad, aren`t you?” Merry knew that wasn`t exactly the truth, but if boosting Pippin`s self-confidence a little after their talk made Pippin happy, then he`d do that. He wasn`t up to any sort of games or play but he knew of other ways to distract Pippin`s attention from his lack of energy. Food was one of them.

“Lads?” Paladin called. “Suppertime!” Pippin had polished off two pears and had started on an apple when his father called them in. Merry was still on his first pear and Pippin found that rather strange. After sleeping for hours after hardly any tea Merry surely must be starving by now? He was always hungry after sleeping.

Hand in sticky hand the two young hobbits went back to the house and another meal. Merry sat down to eat, but found he couldn`t manage more than a few bites this time either. He drank a little milk and valiantly managed to get down a little of the stew. His aunt made delicious food, and her chicken stew was one of his favourites, but today everything tasted bad.

“Merry!” Eglantine said her voice sharp with worry. Merry`s head snapped up. He hadn`t fallen asleep at the table, had he? His eyes were so heavy, and he was rather cold. Hot stew should have been just what he needed but he suddenly felt a great longing for his bed and the warmth of his quilts.

“I`m sorry Auntie. I don’t know what`s the matter with me today.” He sat up straight and grasped fork and knife with determination. He set to eating again and managed a few more bites.

Pippin looked about worriedly. His mama seemed upset and Merry wasn’t eating properly again. 

It was no good just sitting at the table trying to eat anymore, Merry decided, and the scents of what he knew was delicious food now were making him feel ill instead of hungry. He felt his head starting to droop again, and he raised it wearily.

Seeing her cousin suddenly go pale after looking at the food on the table, Pearl decided it was time to speak up. “Merry?”

“Hm? I’m sorry, Pearl, did you say something? ”

“Are you feeling all right? You look a little pale.” She reached over and put a hand to his forehead. It was warm and a little clammy.

“Tired…’m just tired. May I be excused?”

 “Yes, you may dear.” Eglantine said and watched worriedly as Merry wearily rose and padded towards the hallway and his bed.

Pippin scowled at Merry`s almost full plate and looked back to his parents for comfort but found none. Both of his parents, and his sisters too, all looked worried.

“He was a little warm,” Pearl said in concern.

“I suspected as much. He was warm after he had his nap too. I`ll go and see if there is anything I can do. Pearl would you clean up here when everyone has finished?” Eglantine rose and knowing that Pip wouldn’t finish his own meal out of worry, took him by the hand, leading him towards Merry`s room. Eglantine hoped that Merry wasn`t seriously ill and that he only had come down with a cold. If it was anything contagious, Pippin would certainly already be exposed as he and Merry had been inseparable since Merry arrived. Indeed, Merry had sat with Pippin as he recovered from a cold the first week of Merry’s visit, and could have caught it from Pippin, Eglantine supposed. Pippin`s large, green eyes were full of questions and at last he found the courage to voice them.

“Is Merry sick, Mama?” Pippin hadn`t thought that was possible. Merry was never sick, not ever, so long as Pippin could remember.

Eglantine stopped and kneeled down before her littlest one. “I think so Pippin.”

“Is he going to die?” Pippin‘s eyes brimmed with tears.

“No, of course not, love. Why do you ask that?”

“Because people who never are sick and suddenly do get sick, die.” Pippin said.

“Where did you hear this from?” Eglantine said.

“Da talked to Tom at the Sandybottom`s and he said that his uncle had been well all his life, then suddenly he got the Winter Sickness and then he died within a week.”

“Oh, sweetie. I don`t think Merry has the Winter Sickness, besides, old Will Sandybottom was over a hundred and that is rather old for an hobbit you know. Now, let’s go see how our Merry-lad is faring.”

Eglantine opened the door to Merry`s room and Pippin followed her inside. He still didn`t like the possibility of his Merry being sick. He walked over to the bed and climbed up beside him. Merry had fallen asleep on the top of his covers, still fully clothed and as Pippin clambered up onto the bed he woke up.

He rolled over to lie on his back and Pippin carefully climbed on top of him, sitting with his legs on each side of Merry`s stomach. “You`re not sick, are you Merry?” Pippin wanted to tickle Merry because that always made him happy again, but Merry looked so tired and pale he thought maybe he had better not.

Merry sighed. “I don`t know Pippin. Perhaps a little. Does that make you sad?”

Pippin nodded. “Because then you can`t play with me and you will be stuck in bed forever and maybe die!”

“Pippin!” Merry lifted Pippin away and sat up in the bed. “I’m certainly not going to die. What are you talking about?” Merry looked at Eglantine. “Auntie?”

“He heard Paladin talk with Tom Sandybottom about his uncle dying of the Winter Sickness and since he`s never seen you ill before he is afraid that you are going to die too.” Eglantine rose from where she had been stoking up the fire in the hearth and came over to sit on the bed.

“I`m not going to die, Pip, I’m just a little unwell. I`ll probably be chasing you around the fields again tomorrow.”


“I promise. I`ll be up and about before you know it.” Merry wasn`t sure he`d be up and about tomorrow the way he was feeling, but he couldn`t stand to see his Pip sad and he wanted to be well and chase Pippin through the fields so perhaps if he thought positively it would be so.

“I`ll take care of you then, Mer.” Pippin said, tugging on Merry`s blanket and covering him up, tucking the soft material up under Merry`s chin. He didn`t think he could cope with taking care of his Mer if Merry was going to die, though of course he would have tried his best, and he was very glad that Merry had promised he wouldn’t. Pippin would do all in his might to see that Merry didn’t hurt too much, and that he got well fast, just like Merry always did for him.

“Thank you Pippin.” Merry reached out and Pippin willingly crawled into his lap, hugging Merry tight.

Sitting there with his little cousin in his arms, Merry thought that he would do all he could to be better fast, but what if Pippin caught what he had?  He pulled away a little looking from Pippin to Eglantine. “Auntie? I don`t want Pippin to catch whatever I`ve got.” Maybe it was best if Pippin not was with him all the time. Merry didn`t think he could bear Pippin being taken away from him, but if he might make Pippin sick it would be for the best.

“No! I want to stay here; I need to take care of my Merry! I won`t get sick, I promise.” Pippin said, looking from Merry to his mother with fear in his eyes. He didn`t want to be taken away from Merry. Not when Merry needed him the most.

“I don`t think you should worry about if Pippin will catch what you have Merry. He would have been exposed to it by now as you`ve been together all the time since you arrived. Perhaps you have even caught Pippin’s cold.”

“If you think it’s all right then. You hear that, Pip? You can stay and help me get better.”

Hearing this, Pippin bounced on the bed a little, but soon quieted as Merry got a strange look on his face, as if Pippin bouncing hurt him even more.

“I think Merry needs to sleep now, Pippin dearest.” Eglantine lifted Pippin down from Merry`s lap. Merry undressed and put on his nightshirt, then lay down again with a weary sigh. Pippin helped his mother tuck the covers up about him again and they both kissed Merry’s brow before Eglantine turned down the lamp and turned to leave.

“Come along Pippin.”

“I can`t go now, Mama! Merry needs me.” Pippin knew from all the weeks he had spent ill in bed during the years that if someone was sick they were seldom left alone. He sat down in the bedside chair, folding his little arms across his chest. Merry was always watching out for him when he was sick, and now it was his turn to watch over Merry.

Merry smiled and looked at Eglantine. “May he stay please, Auntie? I’d like for him to.”

“All right then, but I`ll be back to fetch you soon, Pippin. You need to sleep soon too you know.”

Pippin nodded and Eglantine left them, blowing each a kiss from the door.


Some time later, the lasses abed, Eglantine sat before the fire mending a pair of Merry’s breeches.  Paladin came in from doing the evening chores about the farm, and planted a kiss on the top of her head.

“Well my dear,” Paladin said. “How are our lads doing?”

Eglantine chuckled a little. “Pippin is as fierce a protector as Merry ever was and won`t leave Merry`s side for all in the world. He fell asleep in the chair so I carried him off to bed.”

“And Merry?”

“He has a slight fever, and seems very weary, but I don`t think it`s serious, at least not yet. We`ll see how he`s doing in the morning before sending a letter off to the Hall or calling in the healer.”

“That sounds wise, my dear. It`s strange to see that lad anything but a bundle of energy.”

“Yes it is. I`m sure he`ll bounce back soon. He’s such a strong lad. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is feeling much better tomorrow.”

Paladin set about banking the fire in the hearth, and Eglantine tiptoed into Merry`s room with the mended breeches, seeing to him at the same time. Merry never stirred as she silently put the garment in the wardrobe. He looked flushed, but his breathing was even and deep. She sat with him a little, but as her own eyes grew heavy, Eglantine left for her own bed. Hopefully things would be better in the morning.


PART THREE: It begins

By the next morning, Merry was not better; in fact he was much worse. In addition to the fever that had risen throughout the night, he itched all over and felt not just a little unwell, but genuinely sick. He ached all over, and his head was pounding. He had come awake with a groan, but decided rather quickly that being awake was not a good thing, so he turned over and tried to sleep some more. Now, if he just lay completely still, maybe everything would go away and he wouldn’t feel so sick or itchy and maybe his head would stop hurting too.

He wasn`t aware that someone else was in the room before a cold little hand patted his cheek. Pippin looked at him with large, scared eyes. Merry was very hot and he looked to be in pain.

“Morning, Pip.” His voice was a bare whisper, not sounding like his merry Merry at all.

“Merry?” Pippin peered into Merry`s flushed face. Merry leaned into the coolness of Pippin`s touch and Pippin put his other hand on Merry`s other cheek. “You`re hot.”

“Yes. I`m sorry.”

“You`re still sick then?” Pippin said, disappointed. He had hoped that Merry would be better and chase him through the fields as he had promised.

“I think so, Pippin.”

“You won`t get up today then?” Tears gathered in the green eyes, and his lip quivered a little.

“I don`t think that I will. I am sorry, Pippin. I promise to make it up to you.” Merry tried to sit up but everything started spinning so he flopped back down.

“Would you like breakfast?” As Merry had scarcely eaten the previous day Pippin thought he must be completely starving now.

“I don`t think so. I would love a little water though.” He could at least do his cousin the courtesy of trying to get some water down. He had his doubts about it, but he felt so bad letting Pippin down with not only being able to get up, but not eating either. And he was very thirsty.

The previous night Eglantine had put a pitcher with water on Merry`s nightstand and now Pippin poured out a mug for his cousin. Waiting for his Pippin to get him water, Merry huddled down in the bed again, feeling cold. Pippin thought he might be asleep again and anxiously whispered “Merry?”

Merry stirred and peered out from under his blankets. “I have some water for you.” He put the pitcher back on the nightstand and held the cup out for Merry.

“Thank you, Pippin.” Merry said. The water felt good and soothing. His throat didn`t hurt, but he was so hot and the cool water helped a little. Wearily he lay back.

“Good morning, Merry, How are you feeling?” Eglantine said, coming in to the bedroom. She sat down on the bedside and felt his face for fever. She had only to look at him to see that he was doing worse than yesterday.

“Good morning, Auntie. I feel awfully tired, I`m hot, and everything itches. I`m aching all over too.” Merry wriggled a little as if his back itched.

“Hm… “She stroked his curls, brushing them out of his eyes. “Everything itches, does it?”


Eglantine pulled away the covers a little and unlaced the top of Merry`s nightshirt. Merry just lay there, too weary and aching to really move much, and feeling that if he did move all he`d eaten the past week would come up. Pippin looked anxiously on, and Merry smiled at him. “It`s all right, Pip. I`ll be fine. You just wait and see.”

If Merry had what Eglantine suddenly suspected, she could very soon have a smial full of sick daughters on her hands as this could spread like a whirlwind. There was nothing much to be done for it but stay in bed if the child had a fever. Merry seemed more ill than what she thought was normal with this ailment, but then she reminded herself that he was older than children usually were when getting this and the older the child was, the more dangerous and painful it was. Pippin had suffered through this just a year ago or so, fortunately when his sisters had been visiting their Grandmother Banks in Springdell. He hadn`t had any fever and was up and about most of the time. Uncomfortable, yes, but certainly not like Merry seemed to feel now. Thankfully this was an illness that could only be suffered once, and as Pippin had had it, he wasn`t in danger of catching it, and could therefore stay with Merry without the risk of becoming sick himself. Eglantine was grateful that she wouldn’t have two sick lads on her hands. The problem was that Merry had likely been contagious for the past couple of weeks and he had hugged his cousins on more than one occasion, which meant that any of the lasses could get this too. She sighed. She needed to do what she could to prevent any of the lasses becoming ill, but it was probably too late.

As the nightshirt fell open she saw what she had suspected would be there: All over Merry`s chest there were little red spots that would be very uncomfortable and itch horribly for several days.

“Oh, Merry.” She sighed. “It’s the pox I am afraid. You will have to try and not scratch, dearest. If you do you will soon be covered in these red spots.”

Merry looked down at his chest, frowning. He had seen this before; it was something that went through the Hall from time to time. He remembered Merimas and Ilberic having the pox earlier in the year and that he couldn`t play with them as long as they were ill. He couldn`t have got it from them as it was too long since they were ill. Who could he have got it from then? Well, where he got it didn’t really matter at this point. He had it, and that was that. He would just have to focus his energy on getting well again. Merry sighed. It was very uncomfortable, but if he lay very still and did not move about, he might just sleep it all away.

“All right. I`ll try not to scratch then.” He closed his eyes again.

“Do you think you might want some breakfast, sweetie?” Eglantine wet a cloth and put it on his forehead, brushing away sweaty curls.

Merry shook his head minutely. “No, thank you.” He swallowed hard. “I don`t think I could hold it down.” Alarmed, Eglantine looked for Pippin.

“Pippin dear, go and fetch the wash basin, will you?”  She turned back to Merry. “Do you need to be sick?”

Merry pondered that a little. It felt as if he was on the brink of it, but he could control it if he lay still. “No, not at the moment.”

Pippin rushed back to the bed with the basin and held it out to his mama. “We`ll just put this here then, just in case.” Eglantine said and set the basin on the other bedside table so that Merry could reach it if he needed it.

“I`ll go make you some willow bark tea, Merry. It will help with your headache.” She patted his cheek and stood to leave.

“Oh Merry!” Pippin said in sympathy.

“What is it?”

“That tea tastes horrible.” Pippin couldn`t help but make a face at the memory of the taste.

“Oh.” Merry didn`t really know what else to say to that. He couldn`t remember being given willow bark tea before, so he just waited. A few minutes later Eglantine came back with a steaming cup and a bottle of tonic. She sat down on his bed again and lifting his head with one hand she helped him drink the tea. She then measured out a spoonful of tonic from the bottle, giving him that too. That Merry didn`t even ask what it was alarmed her a little. He just obediently swallowed it down, not even making a face at the taste.

“There you go my Merry-lad. You`ll feel better soon.” She settled him back on the pillows. “Is there something else you want?”

“No thank you, Auntie.” Merry closed his eyes and snuggled down deeper in his blankets, feeling cold despite how hot his face felt. He couldn`t think of anything else he wanted, except maybe his mum. She always made him feel better, but she was home in Brandy Hall and it would take days for her to come here, and Merry didn`t want to bother her. Surely he`d be well in a day or two. Aunt Tina knew what to do when someone wasn`t feeling well, he knew that from watching her tend to Pippin, still she wasn`t his mum and there were some things only mums were good for. She was the next-best thing though, and Merry was a big lad now, almost a tween. His thoughts got muddled as he fell asleep, but before sleep took him completely he thought that when he woke up again he should thank his aunt for taking such good care of him.

Eglantine kissed his cheek and rose to leave. “Sleep tight then, Merry-lad. We`ll be in the kitchen if you want anything.” She took Pippin by the hand and together they left for a delayed first breakfast.

“Mama? What is wrong with Merry?” Pippin said as he started on his second helping of bread and cheese. He had wanted to ask that all morning but every time he was about to voice his fears, something else came in the way. Now they had sat down to eat and he decided that he couldn`t wait any longer. Whatever Merry had, Pippin thought he was very brave, drinking that awful tea right down as if it was nothing.

“Well,” Eglantine paused in pouring out Pippin’s milk. “Do you remember last year when you had those itchy spots all over?”

“Yes! That was awful!” Pippin remembered that all too well. He had thought he was going to go mad with itching.

“Merry has that now.” She explained

“Oh.” But Merry seemed to feel much worse than he could remember feeling and he hadn`t needed to be in bed when he had this illness. So he asked his mama about that.

“He is feeling worse than you did because he is older and the older the child is, the worse this illness makes you feel.”

“Oh no!” Pippin`s cheerful mood disappeared completely then. Poor Merry! Maybe he would die after all, because if Pippin were to judge by how Merry looked this morning, he didn`t have long left. He had hoped that Merry being sick was something that would be over very fast and that Merry would be back to his own self now that Pippin’s mama had seen to him, but that hadn’t been the case. Mostly when Pippin was sick, he felt better when his parents or Merry or his sisters or Frodo came to check on him and talk to him, but he knew that sometimes he needed medicines too – foul tasting things he`d rather not think about – and his mama had even given Merry a spoonful of the tonic she usually gave him when he was ill. Pippin didn`t rightly know what it was, but he often felt better for it. He hoped Merry would feel better now too.

What if Pippin and his mama couldn`t help Merry? Maybe Frodo or Merry`s own parents were who Merry needed? Aunt Esmie was almost as good as his own mama for making him feel better when he was ill and she and Merry had always made the days go faster when he was ill while at the Hall. But maybe they couldn’t help either. Maybe this was one of those times that talking to someone or being fussed over didn`t help. What if he couldn’t do anything to make Merry better? What was he to do? Pippin sniffed a little. He couldn`t bear to see Merry like this and he had promised to take care of him! Seeing the reaction her words had on Pippin, Eglantine sat down beside him and took his little hands between her own, looking into his eyes. “You can help him you know.”

“I can? How?”

“By talking to him, playing with him and just being there with him. As you already have had what he has got you can`t get it again. I need to trust you to look out for him for me. Can you do that Pippin?”

There was something he could do! Pippin knew that what his mama asked of him was what Merry often did for him, and that helped him so much! Pippin nodded vigorously. “I will Mama! I will do all I can to make Merry better.”

“That`s my good lad! Now finish your breakfast and go do your chores and then you can go to Merry.”

“But I want to go now!”

“I know that, dear. But we have a farm to run and the animals need their breakfast too you know.”

“Mama?” Pervinca had listened to the conversation and saw how distraught her brother was. They were all worried about Merry, of course they were, but Pippin looked so sad. “I can do Pippin`s chores this morning. I think he needs to be with Merry.”

Eglantine looked from daughter to son for a moment. When had Pervinca grown up so? She was just a child herself, but she was beginning to act very maturely. “All right. That is very considerate of you, but only for today.”

“Thank you Vinnie!” Pippin gave his sister a hug.


PART FOUR: Watching and waiting

Watching over sick people was tiring and downright boring Pippin found after sitting with Merry for several hours with nothing happening. Even watching over his beloved Merry. He hadn`t thought that he would be bored sitting and watching over Merry, but he had so much energy pent up and he could scarcely keep from bouncing on Merry to make him wake up. At first he had just contented himself with watching his cousin sleep. Merry hadn`t so much as stirred at all after they had left him the last time, and he never moved the entire time that Pippin sat in the bedside chair watching him and trying to read a book. Why wouldn`t Merry wake up? It would be much easier caring for him if he were awake. Then Pippin could talk to him and give him water and maybe play a little.

What was he to do now? Mama had said he should sit quietly and not wake Merry. He was to sit in the chair and read and not sit on Merry`s bed. He looked out the window on the bright winter day, and thought about Merry`s promise to chase him through the fields. He loved to be chased through the fields by Merry. Though he could run ever so much faster than Pippin, Merry would run behind him and just as Pippin reached their goal and the game was over Merry would sweep him off the ground and tickle him mercilessly until they both laughed so hard their sides ached. Then he`d sit on Merry and tickle him and blow in his face or perhaps pull his curls a little just to see the funny faces Merry made at him when he did that. Merry`s curls were great for pulling, Pippin thought. Curlier than his and golden and springy. Not like Vinnie or Nell`s curls – caught up in ribbons and bows, and Merry didn`t shriek like they did when he pulled on them. He sighed and reached over to very gently pull one of Merry`s curls, not hard enough to wake him, but just so Merry might know that he was there. Just then the door opened and he sat back a little guiltily.

“Pippin?” Paladin quietly entered Merry`s room, looking worriedly at his sleeping nephew. Pippin had been in here all morning, quiet as a mouse, and not come out once. It was time for second breakfast and the morning chores were done.

“He won`t wake up, Da.” Pippin sighed as if in defeat.

“That is because he needs to sleep. The more he sleeps the better. He will probably be well faster if he sleeps a lot. Come now.”

Pippin ate second breakfast in a rush and went back to Merry`s room. What if he had woken up while Pippin was away? But Merry slept on. Pippin was pleased to see that he had at least moved about a little, and then to Pippin`s joy he opened his eyes.

“Hullo Merry.” Pippin climbed up on the bed and sat beside Merry. “How are you feeling? I have watched over you all morning and it is time that you woke up so I can make you better.”

“Hullo Pip.” Merry attempted to sit up a little, but decided against it when a wave of nausea hit him. “You have? Thank you. I`m sorry I`m such a boring patient to watch over. I am awake now though.”

He still felt terribly tired and the itching and fever was no better. Pippin could never be quiet or sit still for long, Merry knew this, and if he got Pippin talking or perhaps telling him a story he could fall back asleep without too much activity. “Why don`t you tell me a story?”

“All right!” Pippin bounced a little but stopped at once as Merry started to look positively green.

“Do you need…?” Pippin stopped short as Merry suddenly went very strange. Sweat broke out on his brow and his eyes looked funny. He pushed Pippin aside and lunged for the wash basin, but he wasn`t quick enough and most of the first bout ended up on the floor and the bedclothes.

“Mama!” Pippin scrambled off the bed and ran out into the hallway. “Mama! Come help!” He ran back to Merry but was at a loss on what to do.

Eglantine knew what had happened before she even entered the bedroom and she soon had things under control. As Merry retched she held the basin with one hand, rubbing his back soothingly with the other. Finally everything that Merry had in his stomach was gone and he slumped back on the bed.

“I`m sorry,” he managed. If he hadn’t felt so awful he would have been terribly embarrassed.

“That`s all right, sweetie. It`s not your fault.” She wet a cloth with water from the pitcher on the nightstand and washed his face, letting him rest a little and gather his strength. The bedclothes needed to be changed, though. “Here, drink a little of this first.” Helping him sit up again, Eglantine gave him a little water to drink. “Do you think you could manage to get out of bed for a few moments? I need to change the sheets.”

Merry nodded and Pippin rushed to him from where he had been standing by the foot of the bed. Merry needed to walk and that he could help him do. He put his arm around Merry`s waist and Merry steadied himself with a hand on Pippin`s shoulder, walking unsteadily over to the chair. As he sat there, shivering a little in only his nightshirt, the little red spots on his body started to itch again and without thinking he scratched at his chest and arms. It felt like all his back was covered in them too and he wriggled blissfully on the chair as he managed to stop the itching for a few moments. The problem though, was that even if it felt good to get the itching to stop, it worsened after a little while. When the bedclothes were changed and he was tucked nicely up in the bed again, he felt as if small and annoying pinpricks were prodding him all over and he just could not lie still. Thankfully he didn`t feel nauseated any more, but he was genuinely uncomfortable and the fever was not gone.

“What`s wrong?” Pippin watched as his mama helped Merry and tucked him back up as she had done with him so many times. Now Merry looked like he wanted to go back to sleep but instead of closing his eyes and lying still, his eyes opened wider and he wriggled in the bedclothes.

“I`m itchy Pippin. Auntie, isn`t there something we can do? I don`t want to complain but it`s awfully uncomfortable.”

“I`m sorry Merry-lad, I know that you are. Try to rest and lie still. The less you move about the less the spots will itch.” She stroked his cheek, trying to bring comfort. He was very warm still and his eyes were glazed. Should they send someone for the healer? She wasn`t sure how the illness would develop with a child as old as Merry, and it was better to be on the safe side, wasn`t it? Merry was as precious to her as the four children she had given birth to herself, and she often thought of him as one of her own. Merry was as a brother to the lasses and especially Pippin. She couldn`t bear to think about how devastated Esmie and Sara would be if something befell their dear one. They had only Merry. No. She would talk to Paladin, but if Merry didn`t get significantly better by the afternoon, she`d send someone to Tuckborough for the healer.

Eglantine continued to stroke Merry`s face and hair as she sat on his bedside, watching as he finally dropped off into sleep again. Poor lads. Pippin was distraught over seeing his beloved older cousin like this and Merry was no better. He had so little experience with being ill that he was frustrated that his illness was lingering.

Merry slept most of the day but awoke to answer nature`s call about teatime. Pippin had sat with him again after lunch and tried to read his book, but couldn`t concentrate for long. The whole smial seemed strange now that Merry was sick. His parents had had a long and whispered conversation in the study and Pearl had been bossier with Nell and Vinnie than Pippin was used to. It was as if the whole smial waited to see how Merry was doing. Restlessly he sat curled up in the chair and stared at Merry, wanting him to wake up and be better.

PART FIVE: Tonic and tea

“I think that we should send for the healer.” Eglantine said as she sat down with Paladin in the study. “I don`t like this and Merry`s so much worse than Pippin was. And then there is the fever. Pippin didn`t have fever.”

“How is he?” Paladin had been out and about the farm all day, as animals couldn’t be left to fend for themselves.

“I don`t know. I thought he seemed a little better after first breakfast, well at least not worse, but then he threw up and he`s still so hot and sleeping all the time. I know we`ve handled about every childhood illness there is in this smial and with Pippin ill so often as he is, I really shouldn`t be in doubt, but –“

“But this is about Meriadoc and he`s always well and happy, isn`t he?”

“Yes.” Eglantine sighed. “I have heard that if an older child gets the pox then one must be aware of complications, but I don`t know what to look for.”

“I`m not sure either.” Paladin sat back in his chair, looking into the fire. He`d had the pox as a child and so had Esmie. They had been mad with itching and resorted to scratching each other`s backs in desperation, but they hadn’t been much worse off than Pippin had been last year. But there was a cousin, he remembered, only a few years older than Paladin who`d somehow got the Winter Sickness from having the pox. Maybe Eglantine was right, maybe they should send for the healer.

“I think you might be right, dear. It`s no use to sit here and wonder when our lad is suffering so and we don’t know exactly what to do to make him well. I`ll ride down to Tuckborough right now.”


Paladin was glad it didn`t take too long to ride to Tuckborough and to his relief the healer was at home.

“Now then, let`s take a look at this lad of yours,” Daisy Took said as she and Paladin entered the little farmhouse just after Eglantine had given the children their supper. Merry hadn’t felt able to eat again, and that was very worrying, and Pippin had barely pecked at his own food, which was understandable. Eglantine followed her husband and the healer into Merry’s bedroom and entering they found Pippin sitting remarkably quiet in the bedside chair, reading his book, and Merry again fast asleep.

“You may wake Merry now, Pippin.” Eglantine said. “The healer is here, and I think she wants Merry to be awake when she looks at him.”

“Yes, that would be best. Go ahead Pippin dear.”

Pippin scrambled off the chair and very gently stroked Merry`s cheek, softly urging his cousin into wakefulness. He didn`t like the healer being here though. He knew her of course, as she had been to look at him several times, and she was very nice, but he didn’t like the idea of his Merry needing a healer at all.


“Hm…?” Merry`s voice was slurred with sleep.

“You need to wake up now. The healer`s here.”

“What? The healer?” Merry struggled to come awake and rolled over to lie on his back.

“Yes, sweetie. We were worried about you so we thought it was best.” Eglantine said. “Just lie still and rest.”

To Merry`s great relief the examination was over quickly and he was glad he didn`t have to move about much, weary and aching as he still was.

The healer recognised Merry at once as the cousin that often sat by Pippin`s bedside when he was ill. She remembered him as a bright-spirited, cheerful lad that had Pippin`s best in mind and who was clearly devoted to his little cousin. She had shooed him out of Pippin`s sick room on more than one occasion, but never been called in because he was ill. She was worried though, when Paladin came and told her his lad was ill. She`d seen to Pippin when he had his nasty cold recently and thought he had got a relapse but understood when Paladin had explained it was his other lad that had fallen ill.

Merry had looked quite groggy when he finally came awake. He was covered in red spots and the fever was high but not frighteningly so. Fever was a normal complication to the pox when older children got it, but nothing else seemed to be out of the ordinary.

“I don`t see any signs of complications at the present time,” Daisy Took said to Paladin and Eglantine after she was finished and they sat in the kitchen.

“Thank you! I was worried about that. What should we look for? Is there anything that we can do to help him get better?” Eglantine said, pouring out tea and putting a plate of fresh biscuits on the table.

“Keep him on liquids and if the fever rises again come get me. Other than that I don`t think there`s much to worry about now. If he is too itchy and he`s up to it, let him have a bath, with a cup or two of finely ground oatmeal in the water, or baking soda. That sometimes has a soothing affect on the itching. Also, you need to trim his nails and make him wear soft gloves when he sleeps so that he won`t wound himself. If a rash is scratched too much it can cause infections in the blood that are very serious.”

“What about the weariness? Merry`s usually very energetic and has never been one to sleep much.” Paladin asked.

“I think that mainly is because of the fever, but if the fever goes and he still sleeps too much, send for me. Also be aware of any stiffness in his limbs, especially his neck. That can be a sign of serious complications, and you should send for me at once.”

“Thank you. I`m sorry, I am afraid it must seem that we are overreacting for us to call you in for just a simple case of the pox, but Merry is never ill and that made us worry even more.”

“That is all right, Mistress, it’s always better to be safe. He seems to be a strong and healthy lad and he`ll probably be over this in no time. The rash might last as long as a fortnight though.”

“What about our lasses? All but Vinnie is older than Merry. Is it not risky for them to be around him? Pippin has already had this, but none of the lasses.”

“I should not fear overmuch, but it would probably be for the best if they tried to avoid touching Merry too much as this really is a skin disease. Although it may already be too late for that. We shall just have to see. “

“We`ll be careful with them then. Thank you for your time, Miss Took.” Eglantine said.

As Paladin escorted the healer back to Tuckborough, Eglantine went back to the bedroom to see to her lads.


Pippin had watched the examination with a certain amount of fear. Was Merry that ill? The healer was almost always called in when he was sick himself, and she had been to see him when he`d been sick just recently. And almost every time she came he was given some foul medicine. She`d even left some for Merry that Pippin had watched his cousin choke down. He didn`t want Merry to have to take that awful stuff, but it was good to see that he wasn`t always the only one subjected to such treatment. He`d hugged Merry afterwards and said he was strong and brave, but Merry had only smiled and wearily laid back, sipping a little water to take the taste away. And suddenly Pippin missed Merry`s laughter. A day never went by without Merry laughing, but today he hadn`t laughed at all, only smiled the littlest bit.

Mama had come back and trimmed Merry’s fingernails, and had him put on her second best pair of nice, soft, kid gloves that she wore when she went visiting. She refilled the water pitcher, and then left to tuck the lasses in. Now Merry was sleeping again. Pippin didn`t think the medicine made Merry sleepy, as he certainly had been managing to do that very well on his own, and his mama, and da and the healer had all reassured him that it was not a bad thing that Merry slept so much now as he had a fever. Pippin sighed. Maybe Merry would be better tomorrow?

Silently, so as to not wake Merry, he climbed down from his chair. He went over to the bed and very, very carefully put his hand to Merry`s face, stroking his hot cheek. He looked at the closed eyes that when open could turn the most interesting shades of blue. Blue like Frodo`s eyes, yet different. Today they had been dull and glazed, like a clouded sky. But when Merry laughed they were the most sparkling blue he`d ever seen. Not even Frodo`s eyes turned that shade of blue when he laughed.

In his sleep Merry turned toward the soft touch and a whispered “Pip?” escaped his lips.

“Sssh Merry. Sleep and get well. I`ll be here.” Merry grunted and settled into a deeper sleep, turning his head so that Pippin’s hand was unexpectedly trapped between Merry’s cheek and the pillows. Pippin was at a loss. He tried very carefully to slide his hand away, but froze when Merry made a disgruntled moan in his sleep.

And so he stood there with one hand trapped. He adjusted Merry`s blankets a little with his free hand, but if he was not to wake Merry he couldn`t move the hand Merry slept on unless Merry himself moved. Not being able to do anything else, Pippin`s stomach suddenly informed him that he was hungry! He had barely thought about food this day, and now, standing here stuck, he suddenly was hungry. He almost felt a little ashamed for thinking about food while Merry was ill, but he really couldn`t help it. He was a growing hobbit!

And it was like that, nearly a quarter hour later, Eglantine found them. “Pippin? What are you doing?”

“I`m trapped. And I`m hungry.”

Eglantine stifled a laugh, and extricated her son without disturbing her slumbering nephew. Then she felt Merry`s brow and wrung out a cloth in cold water before washing his face and neck. She wrung it out anew and placed on his brow. Merry shifted a little, and blinked up at her. She smiled at him gently.

“Sssh. Just sleep my love.” Eglantine adjusted the pillows a little and as Merry settled back to sleep she stroked his hair, gently untangling some of the curls.

Stirring up the fire and seeing to that everything was set for the night, Eglantine sat down in the bedside chair, taking Pippin in her lap.

“What are you thinking about, Pippin-lad?” Eglantine had noticed how her little energy-bundle of a lad had suddenly grown into this quiet child. That he would not leave his Merry for all in the world did not surprise her, but his care and tending of his older cousin, Pippin’s behaviour so quiet and considerate, was an eye-opener. She knew they were devoted to each other, and had seen Merry behave similarly towards Pippin, but seeing it the other way around was new to her, and she was proud of her son.

For a few moments Pippin didn`t answer. After looking at Merry for a moment he said. “When will he be well Mama?”

“Well… I think that as soon as the fever is gone he will be much, much better and also able to get out of bed. I think that he will be a little tired for some days but then he will only have the rash to worry about and it won`t be too long before that is gone either.”

“Promise, Mama?”

“Pippin…. I promise that we will take as good care of our Merry as it is possible, and I hope that he will be well soon. I can`t promise that he`ll be well by tomorrow, but we can hope that it will be so.”

“That is all right then.” Pippin knew from hard-earned experience that he didn’t always get well when he wanted to and sometimes wasn’t when he thought he was well again.

They sat like that for a little while longer, but soon Pippin`s stomach grumbled again and Eglantine laughed softly. “Let`s find you a bedtime snack, shall we? And then it`s bed for you, young master. I’ll stay with our Merry-lad this night.”

PART SIX: letters and games

“Ouch.” Merry twisted about in bed, scratching at a particularly itchy spot.

“No! Don`t do that! You`ll just get more of them. You even have some on your hands now. Oh, Merry.” Pippin climbed onto the bed and hugged Merry tight. Looking down, he saw that beneath his curls, on the back of his neck there were red spots. Pippin peered down the collar of Merry`s nightshirt and saw several spots on his back too. “You`re already covered in them.”

“I know, Pippin, and if I can`t do something to be rid of them soon I`m going to go mad.”

“Well wouldn`t that be interesting. How would we know?” Pippin said, trying to tease and flopping down beside Merry in the bed. Merry had woken up by himself this morning and seemed better, not so weary.

“How are you Merry?” Paladin entered the bedroom with a well-laden tray in his hands.

“I think I`m better. Not so tired. I`m not very hungry though.”

“That is good, but you still look flushed. Try and eat a little if you can. There should be enough for the both of you Pippin.”

And so the young hobbits set to eating. Merry managed a little toast with jam and a cup of milk. There was tea too, but Merry didn`t feel like drinking that. Pippin watched his every move and nodded approvingly as Merry started on the second slice of toast.

Feeling his eyes upon him, Merry stopped mid-bite. “What is it Pippin?”

“You`ve slept for almost two days, Merry!”

“I am sorry. I`ll try to stay awake for a while now Pip. I don`t feel sleepy now.” Merry wriggled a little. “Just very itchy.”

Merry looked closely at Pippin. His little cousin seemed tired. “You sat watching over me all day yesterday, didn’t you, Pip?”

“Well, of course I did. You needed me.”

“Thank you! I appreciate that very much. You must be worn out from watching. Maybe you should take a nap?” He hugged Pippin tight, but as Pippin sniffled a little Merry pulled away. “What is it?”

“I was so worried about you Mer! You slept and slept and Mama came and washed you and you had a fever and the healer was here.”

“I remember the healer Pippin, and I remember you being here every time I woke up. I know I slept most of the day yesterday, but I am very glad you are here with me. You are after all the brother of my heart, you know.” Merry drew Pippin in for another hug and then let Pippin coax him into having another slice of toast.

A little while later, Paladin came back to the bedroom and collected the breakfast tray. He looked at what remained on it and shook his head. “I suppose this has to do for now, lads. Pippin, it`s time for the animals to be fed. Why don`t you let Merry rest a little and come help Vinnie. You can come back later.”

Pippin looked regretfully at Merry and left with his father. Merry lay down in the bed again, pondering what to do. He felt better, so maybe he should attempt to get up? He pushed the blankets aside, and carefully put his feet on the floor. My, but it was cold! He stepped over to the rug in front of the hearth and looked out his window. It was a grey day and it looked to be quite cold outside. Merry stretched and rubbed his stiff muscles. He sniffed his nightshirt, feeling sweaty and in need of a bath. He still felt both hot and cold, so he suspected he still had a fever. A thorough wash would do then.

He padded over to the wash basin and poured out some water, found a cloth and was about to start washing when he looked down his body. Not only his chest, but his stomach, arms, legs, and neck was covered with those red and itchy spots! No wonder he was miserable!

Finished with washing he drew his fingers through his curls, and to his horror he even had little bumps on his scalp too. Practically all but his face was covered in itchy little spots.

Merry stared at himself in the looking glass and a pale and drained face with dull and glazed blue eyes looked back at him. Suddenly feeling tired of standing up and cold from his wash, he put on a fresh nightshirt and crawled back into bed. He`d just lie here and warm himself a little before actually getting up. He lay back and relished the feeling of the soft featherbed and the comfortable blankets about him. He let his aching head sink down in the soft pillows and within a few moments he was asleep again.


Finishing his chores in a hurry, Pippin went back inside and sat down to second breakfast. He hoped that Merry saying that he didn`t feel so sleepy today meant that he would be able to play a little or at least be awake so Pippin could tell him stories. Maybe Merry would be awake enough to read to him from one of the really big books. Pippin knew his letters, but he wasn`t very good at reading yet and Merry was so good at reading stories, changing his voice if new people entered and talking high and squeaking if it was a lass and deep and like a grown hobbit it if was a old gaffer that spoke in the story.

To his joy Pippin found that Merry was just coming awake again as he sat down beside the bed.

“You`re awake! Did you have a good sleep?”

“Yes, thank you Pippin.” Merry smiled at his little cousin. Pippin was acting so grown-up suddenly, saying things the adults sometimes did. 

“What do you want to do now?”

“Well…” Merry thought a little. He didn`t feel like getting up really, the weariness had come back, but he did feel awake. “A story or a game of farmers checkers* would be nice.”

Pippin poured out a mug of water for Merry – Mama had said to encourage him to drink a lot of water – and went to fetch the board. Da had made the board for him some time ago when he had been ill, but well enough to sit up in bed and be engaged in simple pastimes. Paladin had made the pieces too, and painted one set red and the other yellow. Coming back to the bed, he climbed up beside Merry and put the board down on the blankets.

“Which would you like to be?” Merry said as he set the mug aside and put pillows behind his back so that he sat more comfortably.

“I`ll take the red ones.” Pippin distributed the pieces and for some time they played in silence. Merry had played this a bit more than Pippin, but soon Pippin had all Merry’s tricks to winning figured out and they spent an enjoyable time besting each other.

Merry couldn`t help but scratch from time to time, and when Pippin caught him, he took Merry`s hands between his own and then folded them neatly in Merry`s lap, looking sternly at him. “You`re not supposed to do that, Mer.”

“I`m sorry, but I really can`t help it.”

Merry looked so sad just then, so Pippin scrambled over the game board and threw his arms around Merry`s neck. “I`m sorry too. I know it hurts and I want to do all I can to make you better.”

“You`re helping me a great deal with just being here with me, Pippin. You`re distracting me from what makes me uncomfortable. Thank you!” Hugging Pippin back Merry suddenly yawned and at that point Eglantine decided to check on them. She picked up the game pieces that had flown around the room as Pippin scrambled across the bed and set them on the nightstand, also setting down a tray with scones, jam, milk, a covered cup and the medicine bottle.

“Hullo lads, I thought you might want some elevenses. How are you doing now, Merry?” Eglantine sat down on the bedside and felt Merry`s forehead. He was still feverish, but not at all as hot as yesterday. Maybe the fever would break soon then. “Does your head still hurt?”

Merry nodded. “Yes it hurts a little, but I don`t feel as tired as yesterday.” He looked at the tray. “I`m still not very hungry though.”

“No, I thought as much, but I think you should try and get a little down at least. Drink this tea first though. It will make your head feel better, and perhaps take away the fever too.”

Merry took the offered cup and obediently drank everything down. It didn`t taste very good and as he gave back the cup, his face twisted a little in distaste.

“I`m sorry dear, but it will make you feel better. Now, take some of this.” Eglantine poured out a spoonful of the medicine from the bottle and fed it to Merry. That didn`t taste very good either, and knowing this Eglantine handed him a mug of water when he was finished. “There`s a good lad.”

Pippin was as most young hobbits are, always hungry, and while his mama saw to Merry and gave him the medicine, he climbed off the bed and helped himself to a scone and a cup of milk. “These are very good, Mer. You should try one.”

“I`m sure they are,” Merry mumbled. He was setting the mug with water back on the nightstand, but suddenly felt very drowsy and lay back against the pillows. Maybe he could manage a half scone if he set his will to it? He was thinking half-seriously about reaching for one when he yawned again and felt his eyes close against his will. His aunt adjusted the pillows and he slid down a little in the bed. Feeling the blankets being tucked in about him and a hand softly stroking his hair, Merry slept.

“Come along Pippin. You can eat elevenses in the kitchen.” Eglantine picked up the tray.

“I`ll just sit here and look out for my Merry,” he said around a mouthful of scone. “He needs me.”

Eglantine saw the determination in his eyes and nodded. “Yes he does, dear. You`re a good lad, Pippin.” She kissed his head and patted his cheek then left with the medicine bottle and the empty tea cup to write a letter to Merry`s parents. Pippin was a great support for their Merry. She couldn`t deny him this when Merry had watched over Pippin for days at a time with almost no sleep. If Pippin felt he needed to be with Merry, then she wouldn`t stand in his way.

Sitting down at the kitchen table, a lamp lit, she wondered what to write. If Merry only had a simple cold she wouldn`t worry at all about informing his parents but this wasn`t a little cold and he was still a child, even if he sometimes acted quite grown up. If she sent the letter today they could be here in four-five days time, depending on the roads and if Saradoc was at the Hall or somewhere around Buckland on business.

Dear Esmie and Sara


I hope you both are doing well. It is as always a joy for us to have Merry here and he is a great help to both Paladin and me. Pippin is of course very happy about his visit too. I am sorry to say though that I have bad news for you, and I thought you should know right away…

Finished with that letter, Eglantine thought it best to inform Frodo and Bilbo too. Merry and Frodo was almost as close as Pippin and Merry were, and Merry would be happy to have his Frodo here. Eglantine was fond of Frodo and thought it would be nice to have him and Bilbo for a visit too. They would also be able to arrive faster than Esmie and Sara would, and besides, Frodo and Pippin were good friends and Pippin could do with the support of another lad that loved Merry as much as he himself did. Eglantine sent Pimpernel off to Tuckborough with the letters and then informed her family that they would be getting more guests in a couple of days. Pippin was, as she suspected, overjoyed to hear that Frodo would come but sad that Merry would be sick when he arrived.

“I know dear, but he loves our Merry too, and I think he would want especially want to be with Merry now that he is ill. He can help us look out for Merry.”


Authors Note:  Farmers checkers is literally translated from the word “bondesjakk” in Norwegian and known in English as tic tac toe. I am using the name “farmers checkers” as I believe it is more hobbity.


PART SEVEN: Bath time

It was evening when Merry woke up again. Pippin had sat quietly in the chair beside him all day and when it was time for meals, one of his parents had come into Merry`s room with something for him. At last Pippin fell asleep in the chair, and when Merry woke up, Pippin slept, curled up in a ball on the big chair. Merry rose and put a spare blanket over him. He was thirsty and poured himself a cup of water from the pitcher. His head felt better and he was sweaty. Maybe the fever had broken? He felt his own forehead, but couldn`t decide if it was gone or not. Looking out the window he found that it must be past suppertime already, and that he had slept all day. Again. Merry sat back on the bed and pondered what to do.

Paladin entered just then and seeing Merry awake and out of bed, he smiled. “Are you better, lad? You look better I`d say.”

“Yes, thank you. I think I feel better. Except for the itching.” Merry added mournfully. The itching was turning into a true nightmare and his body actually hurt from it. It was uncomfortable to sit, to stand or lie about. Merry sighed. “I`m going to go mad with itching soon.”

Paladin sat down beside him and felt his face. “I think the fever`s broken. That is good.” He looked at the sleeping Pippin and continued in an even lower whisper. “How long has he been asleep?”

“I don`t know. He was asleep when I woke up so I put a blanket over him. He looks tired.”

“Yes. He`s not even left your side for meals, insisting that you needed him.”

Merry looked lovingly at Pippin for a while, and then turned his gaze to his uncle. “I do need him.” He put his hand to his heart. “He`s my brother.”

“I know, Merry-lad. I know.” Paladin put an arm around Merry`s shoulders and hugged him tight for a moment. “He needs you too, you know. As do the rest of us”

Merry nodded, reaching down a hand to scratch his leg. Oh, but wouldn`t this awful itching stop soon! Paladin stopped him and patting Merry`s hand he firmly put it down on the bed beside Merry. “I`ll ask Tina if there is something we can do for that itching, shall I? I think the healer mentioned something while she was here. You just crawl back into that bed. It`s no use getting better if you catch a chill.”

Merry nodded. “Thank you.” He crawled back under the covers and waited. It would be wonderful if there was a cure to help with the itching.

After a little while his aunt came in, wondering if Pippin or Merry wanted supper. Pippin woke then, and blinked around owlishly. “Hullo, sleepy.” Merry teased. “You`ve slept for a good while I think.”

“I have?” Pippin sat up and looked about.

“It looks like you needed it, though.”

“Yes, but it`s nearly bedtime now, Pippin.” Eglantine said. “Go eat your supper first, then it`s off to bed.”

“Oh, but I`ve only just come awake.” Pippin pouted a little, looking at Merry for help.

“Go to sleep, Pip. You need it. I won`t go anywhere.”

Pippin pouted a little more, but as neither his mama or Merry gave in to this new pout he finally gave in. “Good night then, Merry.”

“Night, Pippin.”

When he was gone, Eglantine turned to Merry. “I`ve made you a bath that should soothe the itching. Come now, lets get you into it.” She reached out her hand, but Merry looked at her, horrified.

“But…” Merry felt his ears grow hot. He would be absolutely mortified to let his aunt help him bathe. That would just not do! He looked pleadingly at her, trying to get her to understand.

“Oh, I see.” Eglantine said, suddenly seeing his discomfiture. She smiled. “Don`t worry Merry. I`ll get Paladin.” As she went to get her husband, Eglantine couldn`t help but laugh a little. Merry was growing up and suddenly felt horrified about letting his aunt bathe him. She had of course done so before, but not in recent years, and Merry probably didn`t remember that. Eglantine suspected he would be just as embarrassed if Esmie wanted to do it too. Poor lad, it wasn`t always easy growing up.

Oh, no! Merry thought as he sat in his bed, waiting. What had he done now? It was true that he would be horrified to be helped with his bath by his aunt, but now he felt embarrassed that she went to get Uncle Paladin. He worked so hard on the farm, and now Merry was making things harder. First off he wasn`t able to help as he usually did, and now he would be disturbing his uncle. Uncle Paladin was probably having his supper and would be tired and ready for bed himself when he was finished. Merry sighed. This was becoming quite a mess. The worst thing though was that he didn`t think he`d be able to take that bath by himself. He didn`t feel as weary and aching as he had earlier, but his body was sore and aching in a new way now that the itching had grown worse and he couldn’t scratch. He felt leaden in a way and sort of dizzy, even if the fever was gone and his head didn`t hurt so much. He sighed again. This was confusing. Couldn`t he be plain well again now that the fever was gone?

“Now then, Merry-lad. Let`s see about that bath, shall we? Your aunt informed me that you were quite embarrassed to be helped by a lass, so let us lads do this, all right?” Paladin smiled reassuringly, understanding growing young lads better than any lass could, and without further ado lifted Merry from the bed and carried him to the bathroom where a tub was ready and towels lay out on a stool by it. Paladin helped Merry out of his nightshirt and assisted him into the hot, but soothing water. Earlier Merry had looked to be almost well again, but when Paladin had come to fetch him now, he seemed to be in pain and dizzy. Was there something else wrong with him? Were there any complications? He searched the nightshirt and looked Merry over for blood but couldn`t see any. He hadn`t scratched himself enough to draw blood then. Still, Paladin had a feeling that something wasn`t quite right. Maybe the bath would help. He`d see how that went first before he discussed it with Eglantine and sent for the healer again.

Merry sighed as the water surrounded him and he looked at his uncle. “Thank you. I`m sorry to be such a bother, and taking you away from your rest and everything.”

“Merry.” Paladin said firmly but lovingly. “I am never too busy or tired to take care of my lad, do you understand?”

“Yes. Thank you, Uncle.” Merry smiled back at the uncle that was like a second father to him. He felt so loved and peaceful here with his Took family. His aunt and uncle were like a second set of parents, and the lasses were like the siblings he sometimes so longed for of his own. Pippin was of course very special to him, family bonds or not, but being family tightened those bonds between them even more and Merry couldn`t comprehend how life would be without his dear Pip. He did remember life before Pippin was born, and he loved Frodo very much, but everything changed after Pippin was born. The world had so many new dimensions and possibilities. Merry splashed a little in the water, relishing the feeling of not itching and aching for a moment. The water looked strange though, as if something was floating about in it.

“What`s this?” Merry scooped water into his hands and a few small pieces of something floated about in the hollow of his palms. It wasn`t flowers, he knew that, and besides, only lasses had rose petals or other flowers in the bath water.

“It`s oatmeal.” Paladin explained.


“Yes, the healer said it would be good for you, and help the itching. Here now, lean forward a little, so I can wash your back.”

Merry shook his head at the ways of healers and leaned forward. He`d seen Pippin being given or treated with the strangest things and he didn`t understand half of it. He hated to see his cousin suffer, but if the concoctions, tonics, poultices and what all helped him, Merry wouldn`t object, at least as long as it didn`t hurt Pippin in the process. If it so happened that he now had to be treated with some odd curatives himself, he`d accept that. When Merry had been awake these past two days, Pippin had looked so sad, and with all his heart, soul and mind Merry wanted to be well again so that he could make his Pippin happy again. Paladin helped him wash and rinse his hair and very gently more patted than rubbed him dry with a soft towel. Merry sighed as the itching subsided but was getting sleepy again, and Paladin had to get him into a clean nightshirt more or less by himself. He picked Merry up and bundled him up in bed again.

“Sleep, Merry-my-lad and get well.”


“Tina. I think someone should sit with Merry again tonight” Paladin said as he came back to the kitchen after putting Merry to bed.

“I was planning to. But do you think he is he worse?” Eglantine was just about to put away the last cups and plates after the day`s washing up.

“I don`t know if he`s worse, but he`s different in some way. He was quiet and seemed dazed in the bath. Now he`s sleeping again. Something has changed, and I`m worried about him.”

“Let`s go check then.” Eglantine put her apron away and together they went to Merry`s room. He was asleep, but unlike the previous nights he was restless and tossing a little. Eglantine sat down on the bedside and felt his forehead. He was hot again!

“Paladin!” she whispered, and Paladin reached out to feel the heat suddenly coming from Merry`s body again. “What is happening?”

“I don`t know.” Paladin rose and went to the wash stand to fill the basin and brought that and some cloths over to the bed. Eglantine wrung a cloth out and she lay it on Merry`s forehead. How could this come to pass? One minute he was getting better and the next the fever was back up. Gently they turned Merry to lie on his back and placed one cloth on his forehead while washing his face and neck with another one. Merry mumbled in his sleep but didn`t wake up.

“I`ll sit with him. You see to the lasses and get some sleep. I`ll call on you if I need help.” Paladin said. It was better that Eglantine got some sleep this night, one of the lasses could always help him with his tasks in the morning if he needed to sit by Merry all night.

“Should we get the healer?” Eglantine said and rose.

“I don`t think we need to yet. Let`s see how this goes. I`ll try and keep his temperature down.”


Early the next morning Eglantine tiptoed into the bedroom to find Paladin asleep in the chair and Merry stirring in the bed. He was very hot and seemed to have trouble coming awake.



“Wake up, Merry.” Eglantine shook him a little but stopped abruptly when Merry winced in pain. “What is it?”

Merry swallowed and licked his lips, trying to concentrate. Everything was so foggy and his body hurt. Was he awake or dreaming? Merry had thought he`d been awake already when a bone chilling fear had seized him and he knew he somehow had to get Frodo to safety, whatever that could mean. Bag End was one of the loveliest holes in the entire Shire and Frodo was happy there with Bilbo, Merry knew, but he had felt the certain knowledge that Frodo was in grave danger. And then he heard his aunt urging him to wake up and he tried to wake up and turn to her but his neck hurt so. “Can`t move my head. My neck hurts.” He mumbled, slowly and heavily reaching up with a hand to touch his neck.

“What love?” Eglantine reached down and felt Merry`s neck. Merry tried again to lift his head, but quickly stopped, tears springing to his eyes, leaking down his cheeks. She saw he tried not to cry, but his face was scrunched up in distress. Quickly she woke Paladin.

“Wake up. You need to go fetch the healer.”

Paladin woke with a start and looked from his wife`s worried face to Merry`s pale and strained one. “What?”

“Merry`s worse. He can`t move his head, and the healer told us to come get her if he felt stiffness in his limbs, especially his neck. Go Paladin, go!” Eglantine bit back the tears that threatened to fall and Paladin hugged her fiercely for a moment before stroking Merry`s forehead and hurrying out. Eglantine sat down again, taking Merry`s hands between her own and listened as Paladin quickly woke Pearl. A few minutes later she heard his pony galloping towards Tuckborough.

Merry looked worriedly at her, and wanted to bring her comfort, but sometime during the night his brain had gone all foggy. Muddled, he thought his fever was back up as he felt so cold but also so hot and something very bad must have happened as his aunt was crying.

“Auntie?” Now, why didn`t his voice sound normal? It usually sounded much more pleasant than this.

“Sssh, Merry. Lie still and rest. You`ll be better soon. I`m here.” A cool hand stroked his face again and Merry leaned toward the gentle touch, too weary to really object.

“Mama?” Pearl said, sticking her head into the room, still in her nightdress and with her curls in wild array. “What`s happening?”

“Oh, Pearl I`m sorry! Merry`s worse and I sent your father to get the healer again.”

Pearl looked at her young cousin, lying so pale and still and sick in the bed.  She shook her head a little. She`d never seen Merry like this and it tore at her heart to see her joyful little cousin so. “I`ll make breakfast then, and get the lasses to help Pippin with the chores.”

“Thank you dear.” Eglantine knew she could trust Pearl to help in a crisis; she had after all done so on many an occasion when Pippin had been ill and needed his mama or da. “Would you get that medicine bottle for me and make some willow bark tea for Merry? It shouldn`t do him harm to give him that now, even if we don`t rightly know what`s wrong.”

Pearl nodded, and returned a little later with the tea and medicine bottle.

“Go wake Pippin, dear, you shouldn`t be in here, and he can fetch and carry for me.” Eglantine said, already spoon feeding the tea to Merry, since he couldn`t raise his head.

“All right.” Pearl said giving her mama an encouraging and supporting hug as she went to wake Pippin. She wanted to hug Merry better, but had been strictly forbidden to touch him now that he was covered with those spots, poor lad. Poor Pippin too. He would be frightened to learn that Merry was so much worse. There was nothing for it though and gentler than she normally would have been she urged Pippin up and helped him wash and dress before she sent him off to Merry`s room. As she helped him get ready for the day she tried to stall his flow of questions with explaining that Merry had a fever again, and that Pippin needed to be very good and help his mama. He had of course been very sad to hear that but promised to be a good lad and help. Pearl set to making bread dough for the day and put the kettle on.

“Pearl?” It was Pippin. “Mama says I`m to eat here and bring something back for her.”

“All right dear.” Pearl sat Pippin down and put toast, jam, milk and a few other items on the table, before making a tray for her mama.

“Pearl? I`m scared.” Pippin was on the verge of tears and his lower lip trembled with suppressed sobs.

Pearl sat down beside him and drew Pippin over into her lap, rocking him slightly. “Why is that, sweetie?” She knew he was worried about Merry but getting him to talk would probably help.

“Merry`s so much worse and I`m scared. What if he dies?” Large tears fell down Pippin`s cheeks and he sobbed in earnest. “He promised he wouldn`t die!”

“I know, Pippin, I know.” Pearl didn`t really have the answers to Pippin`s questions at this time so she only rocked him, stroking his curls and humming softly. “I don`t know what made our Merry worse, but Da has gone to fetch the healer, and you know how she always makes you better.” Pippin started to protest. “Even if she gives you foul-tasting medicines, they do make you better Pippin.” Pippin nodded then. “Well, don`t you think that she would do that for our Merry too?” A reluctant nod, then a pause before Pippin nodded vigorously, drying his eyes with his sleeves. “There. You`ll see Merry will be all well. Blow your nose and wash your face, then you can take this to Mama. You need to help her help Merry now. That way you`ll be helping him too even if she might say that you can`t stay with him all the time.” Pippin didn`t like that last bit so well, but as long as what he did helped Merry, he`d do it.

Pippin balanced the tray quite well, all the way to Merry`s room and set it down on the table by the bed. His mama looked so sad and worried, and suddenly Pippin thought of Merry`s own mama, Aunt Esmie, and how sad she would be if Merry died. Mama had said that she had written to Aunt Esmie and Uncle Sara at the Hall too and that they would arrive in a couple of days. Frodo would be here sooner, Pippin knew, and he hoped that Merry would be better then.

Eglantine tried to eat a little. She knew she had to eat. But she didn`t quite know what to do for Pippin. He was sad and sat on a chair he had dragged in, looking lost and thoughtful. Now he climbed down and went over to the bed, taking one of Merry`s hands between his own. “I`m here, Mer. Be well soon, won`t you?” He then started on a story Eglantine hadn`t heard before, but clearly understood to be made out of some memory of a bright summer day spent with Merry and Frodo at Bywater. When the story was finished, he started to sing a silly rhyme Merry had loved when he was little and apparently taught Pippin, all the time holding Merry`s hand. After the rhyme was finished, he let go of Merry, going to the window to look for riders on the road. Paladin and the healer would come that way, Eglantine knew and she hoped that Daisy would be at home.

Authors note: Here is the rhyme Pippin sings to Merry. Thanks to Melilot Hill for writing it!

There was a pie on a windowsill,

Put proudly there to let it chill,

By the wife of Farmer Dee,

For the whole, entire Shire to see.

Falco-lad was passing by,

And naturally smelled the luscious pie,

His tummy rumbled suddenly,

And he eyed that pie most greedily.

He snuck to the window silently,

As stealthy as a hobbit lad can be,

In a flash he grabbed that pie,

And into the beech grove he did hie. 

He hid behind a great big tree,

Among the roots where none could see,

And there he swallowed every crumb,

And licked the juice from off his thumb.

He licked clean the baking tin,

And wiped the dribbles from his chin,

Then when he had had his fill,

He snuck the tin back on the sill.


PART EIGHT: Dreaming

Daisy Took opened her door to a breathless and shaken Paladin. “He`s worse.” Paladin managed before taking deep breaths to calm himself and explain more thoroughly. As she listened to his description Daisy found her bag and gathered some herbs she might need and they rode off towards the farm.

Pimpernel was in the kitchen cleaning up after first breakfast, and setting the table for second when she heard pony hoofs on the road and quickly set about making more tea and set out another plate. She was genuinely worried about Merry and was sorry that there was nothing she could do for him. Mama had said though, that helping her with running the house was a great help to Merry too, and really, Nell knew this after all the times Pip had been ill. Still, something was different now when it was Merry who was cooped up in bed, and it took her a little to understand what it was.

When Pippin was ill, Merry would be beside himself with worry, but he would always try to cheer everyone up with his bright smiles and cheerfulness. Pippin was good at cheering folks up too, but he didn’t have the practice in looking out for sick loved ones the way Merry did and was absorbed in his watching in another way than Merry was. Not in a lesser way of course, but different. Merry, she supposed, was more aware of the others that were also worried about their little sick one.

“Vinnie!” Nell called. “Help Da and Miss Daisy with the ponies, I`ve my hands full here at the moment.”

Pervinca had been helping with the laundry but at her sister`s call she ran out to meet her father and the healer.


In the sick room Merry was dreaming again. Pippin lay as if dead on a cot and for the life of him Merry couldn`t wake him up. Gandalf was there, which was strange too as Merry couldn`t remember dreaming of him before, but Merry didn`t manage to get through to him with his cries either. Everything was foggy and unreal and Merry felt he was smothering with the weight of his fear and sorrow.

“Pippin, go fetch more cold water for me, will you?” Eglantine said wringing out the cloth and washing Merry`s face and neck again. If the healer didn`t come soon she would have to give him a cold bath to get the temperature down. The problem was that she knew she would hurt him if she did that now, with Merry not able to move his neck. Just then she heard pony hoofs and breathed a sigh in relief. The healer was here and she knew what to do!

“Here we are,” Paladin said, showing the healer into Merry`s room.

What was happening to Merry, Pippin wondered. Pearl had said this morning that his fever was back up and Pippin had felt that, holding Merry`s hand, but Merry seemed so strange, much stranger than he had been the previous days and he had a fever then too. Now he was flailing his arms around and moaning. His head and shoulders lay completely still though, as if he couldn`t move anything else but his arms and legs. Mama washed his face and neck constantly and Pippin had run out to fill the wash basin twice. That was a lot of water! Mama had given Merry water to drink too, but he hadn`t managed to drink from the cup so Pippin had gone to fetch a spoon. What was most frightening of all was that Merry kept calling his name in his sleep, as if he was searching for him. Once Pippin almost started crying because of the frightened way Merry had called out for him, as if Pippin was lost. Pippin knew he needed to be strong for his Merry and his mama so he bit the tears back but it broke his heart to hear Merry call for him with such despair and terror. Pippin had wanted to still Merry`s thrashing movements but mama had said Merry could hurt him with his flailing and hadn`t wanted to allow it. Pippin knew Merry would never hurt him, not even in his sleep, and had taken his hand all the same and told Merry over and over that he was with him. Merry had calmed a little when feeling Pippin`s touch and hearing his voice, but soon he thrashed about again, trapped in his dreams. When Da and Miss Daisy finally arrived, Pippin couldn`t take it anymore and flung himself at his father, letting horror and tension go, sobbing as Paladin rubbed his back and stroked his curls, telling him Merry would be well. At last Pippin was spent and red-eyed, and scared and exhausted he leaned into Paladin`s embrace, watching Miss Daisy work from the corner of his eye.

As soon as she entered the room Daisy took Eglantines`s place on Merry`s bedside and after taking his pulse and feeling his brow she felt along his skull, neck and shoulders. The muscles were stiff and unmoving and when she touched him Merry moaned in pain and tears started leaking from his closed eyes. He scrunched his face up in his sleep but did not come awake. 

“Mr. Took, I know the lads mean the world to each other and that Pippin is loath to leave Merry`s side but I need both yours and your wife`s assistance here. Maybe Pippin could help Miss Pearl for a little while? He can come back when I`m finished.”

Pippin, remembering what Pearl had told him earlier in the day, climbed down from his father`s lap, going over to the bed. He took one of Merry`s hands in his and squeezed it gently. Again Merry`s thrashing stopped for a moment and it was if his whole body was listening. Pippin leaned over the bed and kissed Merry`s cheek. “Bye for now Merry. I`ll be back soon. I love you.” He had wanted to tease, but the lump in his throat and the tears threatening to fall anew prevented him from it. Squeezing Merry`s hand once more he padded out.

“We need to get him cooled down but first we need to give him something for the pain and something to fight the infection that is causing his muscles to stiffen.”

“What do you need?” Eglantine said.

The healer put herbs and tonics and other medical items on the bedside table. “I need boiled water for a tea and we also need to give him a sponge-bath to ease the fever. I also need to make a poultice to put on his neck and I need clean cloths and water for that too. We can`t cool him down in a tub yet as that would hurt him too much, but washing him down with cold water should help. The infection that causes his pain will get better when the fever lessens.”

“Will he be all right?” Paladin asked, stirring up the fire and filling more water in the wash basin.

“I will do all I can.” Daisy said and crumbled leaves into Merry`s water mug. Eglantine fetched a large kettle, clean cloths and set the water to boil and as the healer prepared the medicines Paladin and Eglantine did their best to cool Merry down. The task needed the both of them as Merry was trapped in delirious dreams and still flailed arms and legs about. Paladin held him as gently but firmly as he could while Eglantine washed his fevered body.

“Here we are.” Daisy sat down on the bedside and poured water onto the leaves she`d crumbled in Merry`s mug. With a spoon she fed the tea to him and Merry managed to get most of it down. She then gave him a little plain water and rose to prepare the poultice. When the poultice was ready, Paladin and Daisy did their best to not move Merry too much as they lifted him and Eglantine put a towel on Merry`s pillow and laid the poultice down upon it. Merry was gently and very carefully put down again and Daisy arranged the wrapped-up herbs around Merry`s neck.

“What do we do now?” Eglantine said, wringing out a cloth and placing it on Merry`s brow again. “He`s still burning up.”

Daisy felt Merry`s face and nodded. “Yes. We need to wash him down again. I can`t take the risk to put him in a tub until we can wake him and he can tell us how his neck feels. Continue to cool him down and I will make a strong dose of willow bark tea.”


“Mum?” It was barely a whisper but instantly Eglantine rushed over to Merry from where she had been pouring more water into the basin. She touched his cheek and found the temperature was somewhat lessened, but still much too hot.

“Hullo, Merry. Are you awake?” She sat down on the bedside, cupping his face in her hands, stopping Merry from trying to move his head from side to side.

Merry blinked, struggling to focus his eyes. Quickly Eglantine reached for the lamp and turned it down a little. The healer had turned it up earlier to better see, but the light was apparently too much for Merry and as soon as he managed to get his fever-glazed eyes open he scrunched them shut again. “Hurts.”

“I know sweetie. I`m sorry.” Eglantine turned to where Daisy prepared another poultice by the hearth. “Miss Daisy? He`s awake now.”

“Mum?” Merry was clearly not completely awake, he would never have misplaced his aunt and mother if he were clearheaded.

“No, sweetie. It`s Auntie Tina. You`re at our house now, do you remember?”

Vaguely Merry shook his head but immediately winced in pain.

“Well, look who`s awake.” Eglantine rose and Daisy sat down by Merry. She repeated the examination she had done when arriving. “Can you move your head?”

Groggily Merry tried to understand what was happening. He tried to blink his eyes open to see, but even the dimmed light was too much and he shut them firmly again. His neck hurt him and he remembered a series of strange dreams he couldn`t interpret or place but he knew that he had dreamed of both Frodo and Pippin being in mortal danger and somehow both Gandalf and Sam Gamgee had made their ways into his dreams too. When awakening he at first thought he was home in his own bed, but the very mum-like person caressing his face wasn`t quite Mum. Merry knew instantly that he knew her, but at first she was hard to place. Then someone else took her place and this someone felt his neck and head and asked if he could move his head. Very slowly Merry moved his head on the pillow, just a very little.

“Very good, Merry. Now, try lifting your head and place your chin on your chest.” The hands of this new person disappeared and Merry took a deep breath and tried to lift his pounding head. It was to no avail. Merry felt as if his head weighed a hundred times what it usually did and his neck hurt terribly.

“C… can`t do it,” he panted. “I’m sorry.” Merry kept his eyes closed and breathed heavily for a few moments. He hurt, and felt so horribly hot still and the itching was back, annoying, making him want to squirm. Weakly reaching out a hand he scratched his arm a little, but before he had finished the mum-like person took his hand away and laid it gently on the covers. “Don`t do that, Merry. It will only make it worse.” Then the other set of hands and the other voice came back and he was asked to open his mouth. As he did so a spoon was put to his lips and a tea trickled in. This happened several times over and Merry felt sleepy with the routine of it, slipping away into dreams again.

Eglantine watched in increasing worry as Merry barely moved his head from side to side and when he couldn’t manage to lift it at all, she was really frightened. “What do we do?” Eglantine looked at the healer with fear in her eyes.

Daisy turned from giving Merry the strong willow bark tea. “We have to wait and see. The tea should start working soon and I will make another poultice. Continue to cool him down.”

PART NINE: Visitors

In the kitchen Pippin was getting impatient. He`d tried to creep into Merry`s room a couple of times but had quickly been sent out again by his father. “You can`t come back yet Pippin. I`m sorry but I`ll come get you as soon as Miss Daisy says it`s all right.” Defeated Pippin had trudged back to the kitchen. Food usually made him feel better and perhaps a biscuit or two would do the trick now? Pippin reached for the tin and took out a ginger biscuit. Taking a bite, he almost choked. One of his favourite treats tasted like ash and he quickly drank a little water.

Impatiently he looked out of the window. It was past luncheon now, and the healer had been in Merry`s room for several hours. Finally his father came to get him, but Pippin hesitated just outside Merry’s door, suddenly afraid, then squared his shoulders and entered the room, his father behind him. Miss Daisy and his mama were still there. Eglantine sat on the side of the bed, one of Merry`s hands in hers, softly humming a lullaby. The healer had taken one of the chairs over to the bedside table and sat sorting out some herbs.

Pippin padded over to the bed on silent feet and standing beside his mama he looked carefully at Merry. Merry seemed to sleep more peacefully now, but he still looked like Pippin knew he himself looked when he had a fever. Once, when Pippin was very little, he had wondered why people could sometimes tell just by looking that he had a fever and he had climbed out of bed to look at himself in the looking glass. His eyes had looked wet and his cheeks had been bright red. His curls had looked like they did after he had been out in the rain, lying limply against his head. Now Merry looked like that. He turned his gaze to his mother. She looked tired and as if she had been crying and that made Pippin`s stomach knot and the lump in his throat grow.

Suddenly Merry started to mutter and move about again, and with a force Eglantine didn`t think was possible for one so weak and fevered Merry wrenched his hand from hers and in the process almost struck Pippin with it.

“Mama!” Pippin jumped as Merry almost hit him and grabbed his cousin’s flailing hand.

“He`s dreaming, sweetie. He doesn`t know what he is doing.”

Pippin nodded. “Is he having a nightmare?” Pippin had woken up beside Merry when he was having a nightmare once, and then Merry had turned and twisted in bed before waking up. Now he was behaving once again as he had this morning when he had called Pippin`s name over and over.

“Yes, I think so.” Eglantine said.

Merry cried out for Pippin, begging him to please not leave him and Pippin took a firmer hold on Merry`s hand and leaned over. “Don`t worry Mer, I`m here. I won’t leave you, not ever. Please wake up.” But Merry didn`t hear him and that made Pippin more scared. Earlier in the day Merry had at least reacted in some way to Pippin being there and talking to him. Now he just continued to flail about helplessly and moan in his sleep. Tears ran from Merry’s eyes, and Pippin felt tears of his own run down his cheeks. He turned to his mother, frightened. “He doesn`t hear me Mama.”

“I`m sorry, dearest. He`s very sick you know. Sometimes, when you are very sick and dream in your sleep, you don`t hear us when we call you either, but we are always here and I think Merry knows that we are here now too. He just needs to focus all his energy on being well again. And you want him to get well fast, don`t you?”

“Yes.” Pippin nodded eagerly. Oh, but he wanted Merry to be well now! It just hurt so much to watch him struggle so. He understood now why sometimes when he was ill himself, he woke up to find traces of tears on Merry’s face. This was hard, as hard as being ill oneself, even worse in a way because there was so little he could do to help ease his cousin’s suffering. What he really longed to do was take it away completely, even if it meant bearing the suffering himself, and he had no doubt that Merry felt the same way every time Pippin was ill, and he felt his heart swell with this even greater understanding of how much his cousin loved him.

“That`s my brave lad. Come here.” Eglantine lifted Pippin up onto her lap and hugged him tight. “Why don`t you sit here with me and we`ll watch over Merry together?”

Pippin nodded and snuggled into his mama`s lap. He was safe here and mamas always knew best what to do when someone was sick, and Miss Daisy and his da were there. Surely everything would be all right very soon with so many people to help him take care of his Merry.

When they needed to replace the cool cloth that constantly lay on Merry`s brow. Eglantine wrung it out and Pippin reached over from her lap to lovingly put it in place, caressing Merry`s face in the process. Merry slept and dreamed, sometimes quietly, sometimes in distress, and so the day went by. At frequent intervals the healer administered some tonic or tea. Paladin helped when the sheets and Merry`s nightshirt needed changing or when they needed to replace the poultice. Pippin finally fell asleep in his mother`s lap and Eglantine lay him down in his own bed for an hour or two. Waking up, he came back and resumed his vigilance. Tea came and went, but none of the watchers ate much. Paladin went to see to the animals and be with the lasses for a little time. They were equally worried about their cousin and were sad they couldn`t sit by him.  Pervinca had spent much of the afternoon sitting in the doorway of Merry’s room, which was as far as she was allowed, and both Nell and Pearl had joined her when they could. 

Merry seemed to dream of all those he loved for he murmured the names of Pippin, Frodo and his parents over and over, and was even overheard to call for Gandalf on several occasions.

Eglantine thought a little. Frodo and Bilbo could arrive any time now. It was more than 24 hours since she`d sent their letter. It was not that far to Hobbiton, and as the ground was mostly frozen the roads would be good for riding on. If they rode fast, they should be here about supper time. It was not unusual or frowned upon to cross frozen fields if one was in a hurry and rode light, and doing that they would arrive sooner than if they took the roads all the way. In some places there were also paths that went through the woodland and they could cut quite a bit of length off the journey, taking those.


Frodo had been beside himself with worry when the letter from Eglantine arrived. Poor Merry! Frodo didn`t remember having the pox himself, but he had been told he had it when he was very little. Cousin Esmie had said as much once when it went through the Hall and a lot of the children were sick. Trust Merry, though, to not get it when he was the most acceptable age for it, but to wait until now.

“Do not fret Frodo-lad. Our Merry`s going to be right as rain in a little while. Having you there will mean a lot to both him and little Pippin.” Bilbo said. He was worried about Merry too, and kept a steady pace towards Whitwell as they rode.

“I know, but I can`t help worry about him.” Frodo had watched Merry grow up but was as little used to Merry being sick as anyone else. When he`d told Sam about it, he too had worried. Sam and Merry had become fast friends and spent quite a bit of time together when Merry came to stay at Bag End. Merry had started to develop a keen interest in plants and growing things, especially herbs, and both Sam and the Gaffer were knowledgeable about such things and able to answer many of Merry`s numerous questions. On his last birthday Frodo had given Merry an Introduction to Herblore and the lad had devoured the book in a few days. Merry was born to be Master of Buckland, but if he hadn`t been Frodo thought he would make an excellent herb master or even healer. He certainly had the ability for both in him. Then there was the lad`s keen interest for everything to do with animals and ponies especially…


“There`s a letter for us both here.” Saradoc said as he looked through the post. “It`s from Tina.”

Esmeralda sat down beside her husband and together they read the short, but important letter.

“Oh, Merry! We must go at once.” Esmie was devastated by the news. With a mother`s sense, she had wondered if something was amiss for a couple of days. Merry had constantly been in her thoughts and now she had the confirmation she needed.

Saradoc went to tell his father. Concerned, Old Rory wished them a good journey and hoped Merry soon would be back on his feet. He said nothing to his son, but he thought about his Cousin Marulas, his childhood friend. Marulas had been stricken with the pox, at just about Merry’s age, and had lost his sight. Rory knew just how dangerous the pox could be for an older child, and he hoped that their Merry-lad would come through this. He was a strong lad, but still…Well, there was nothing he could do but wait for word from Whitwell. He returned to his work with a heavy heart.


Daisy Took was worried. She hadn`t seen such severe complications to the pox before. The herbs she administered didn`t seem to work effectively and the sick lad was getting worse. He had stopped thrashing about now and lay completely still. Despite the cooling cloths, the fever was still raging and he seemed completely oblivious to his surroundings. He`d not shown any signs of coming awake for many hours, yet he had not slept peacefully, and now his stillness was just as worrying. When they tried to rouse him to give him some broth, he hadn`t responded in the slightest. Had it not been for the stiffness in his neck Daisy would have put him in a tub of cool water hours ago, but she knew that he was in pain and would be even more so if they moved him about. Again she felt his brow. Little Pippin was beside himself with worry and if Merry didn`t get better soon she feared he`d worry himself sick over his cousin.

Mistress Eglantine had gone out for a few moments to get a little fresh air and to help with making supper, leaving her alone with Pippin and his unconscious cousin. Sitting on the bedside she removed Merry`s covers and started to feel along his limbs.

“What are you doing?” Pippin asked, standing beside her now and watching intently as she felt along Merry`s left arm.

“I`m checking to see if any other muscles besides his neck are stiff.”

“How can you tell that?”

“I can feel if his muscles are tight or not. Here,” Daisy placed Pippin`s hands on Merry`s upper arm. “Feel this? If Merry’s muscles were stiff they would feel less soft. Now, very, very gently feel his neck.” Pippin did so. “Do you feel the difference?” Pippin nodded. He could gently press his fingers into Merry`s arm, but he couldn`t press them into Merry`s neck.

It wasn`t often that Daisy let people help her check someone over, but seeing how very gentle and careful Pippin was with Merry, she deemed it safe enough to let him help her check Merry`s arms and legs, and it let Pippin feel that he was helping his cousin. Thankfully the stiffness hadn`t spread and that meant she could administer some strong painkiller before they finally risked a cool bath. Watching Pippin help, Daisy remembered allowing Merry to help her with Pippin once. She had let him listen to Pippin`s lungs and heart when Pippin had had the Winter Sickness and Merry had understood a lot more after he had listened to the sounds in Pippin`s chest. When Pippin was well again and she had checked him over one last time, Merry had asked if he could listen to how it was supposed to sound and she had watched in amusement as he had put his ear to Pippin`s chest, as serious as any apprentice she had ever had.

“Now I can listen for myself if you`re getting better or worse” Merry had said, and then Pippin of course insisted upon checking if Merry`s heart and breathing sounded as they should. Pippin was just as serious and worried now as Merry had been then, and Daisy smiled in encouragement.

“See, Pippin. He`s not getting worse. I am going to prepare some more medicine now. You sit here, and let Merry know you are with him.” She rose and Pippin took her place on the bedside and started to tell Merry a story.


Frodo and Bilbo arrived a little before supper. As soon as he entered the farmhouse, Frodo briefly greeted his cousins and together with Bilbo he hurried to the room where he knew Merry always slept when he visited his Took family. Frodo was not prepared for what he saw, and he was shocked and saddened to find Merry so terribly ill. Pippin didn`t look much better, exhausted as he was. Frodo rushed over and gathered Pippin in a hug. Pippin cried a little, and Frodo did his best to comfort him. When Pippin was spent, aided by the healer he told Frodo what had happened and together they settled down to watch over their Merry. Keeping Pippin in his lap, Frodo reached for one of Merry`s hands. “I`m here, Mer. Please, please be well.”

Bilbo had followed Frodo into Merry`s room and was just as shocked as Frodo to see how the young lad was doing. He went over to the bed and patted Merry`s free hand. He talked a little to the healer and then went out to the kitchen. Frodo would need some food in him if he was to sit there all night, and knowing him, Bilbo knew that there was no other place Frodo would want to be now.

Bilbo ate supper with Paladin, Eglantine and the lasses and together with Paladin he brought trays for Frodo, Pippin and Miss Daisy. When they had eaten, Paladin sent Nell, Vinnie and Pippin to do the evening chores in the barn; Pippin needed a break from his vigil and wouldn`t take one voluntarily. Daisy needed help and Paladin, Bilbo and Frodo listened to what she had to say. The painkiller should be working by then and if they were very careful they could try giving him a cool bath. Paladin made the bath ready and very gently and carefully lifted Merry and carried him there. Frodo and Daisy went with him while Bilbo changed the sheets once more.

As slowly and gently as they could uncle, cousin and healer put Merry down in the cool water, holding him still as his body protested weakly, still unconscious. Frodo held Merry tight, murmuring reassurances as the water did its work on the feverish body. Merry barely stirred.

“All right, take him out now.” Daisy said. Merry had been submerged in the water for ten minutes and his skin felt cooler to the touch. He hadn`t woken up though, something the healer found disturbing. She felt his neck and shoulders, and could feel a slight lessening of the tight muscles. She held out a large towel and as Paladin and Frodo lifted her patient out she wrapped it around him.


PART TEN: Getting worse

Author’s note: I usually write my stories book-verse, but in this chapter you will find a bit of movie-verse. Now, on with the story! We can`t leave the poor suffering hobbits waiting while you read nonsense from me, now can we?


That night nothing and no one could budge Frodo from being the one to sit at Merry`s side. The fever had gone down after they had bathed him but Merry was still too hot for comfort. Daisy deemed her patient safe and stable for now and went to take some much-needed rest in one of the spare rooms. She was still rather worried about the lad, but young Master Frodo, whom she also had met before, seemed a capable sort and she was only in the next room, not a few miles on pony back away.

Frodo sat in the bedside chair and watched his cousin breathe. He had done this with Pippin several times over, and just like any well-trained healer he watched and listened intently for any changes in Merry`s state. Merry never stirred, but looked to be sleeping peacefully curled up on his side with his mouth slightly open and his glove-covered hands tucked under his cheek.

Pippin had been allowed to sit with them for a little after supper and evening tasks, but had soon fallen into an exhausted sleep and was carried off to bed. Paladin and Bilbo had retreated to the study after coming in to check on Merry and Eglantine spent some time with the lasses in the parlour. Before long everyone went to bed, and Frodo was the only one awake in the household. For a few hours Merry slept on, now and again shifting a little on the bed but never waking.

Suddenly and without warning Merry`s breathing changed. He was snoring lightly, apparently sleeping heavily, when his face scrunched up and his breath came in heaving gasps. He started to flail about, and for a moment Frodo was sure Merry was going to wake up. “Merry?” He rose and took both Merry`s hands in his, calming his movements. “Merry-lad? Can you hear me? Merry?” He released one of the hands and stroked his cousin’s curls in an attempt to soothe him. He was burning up! Quickly Frodo found a cloth and wet it. He washed Merry`s face while listening intently for any more of the irregular breathing. He had been told about the nightmares. Maybe Merry was dreaming again?

Suddenly, Merry`s eyes flew open but they didn`t fix on Frodo or anything else, his breath coming in rapid and shallow gasps. It was a wrench to leave his cousin`s side for even a moment, but Frodo opened the door to the hallway and ran to where Miss Daisy slept. After waking her he ran to Paladin and Eglantine`s room and roused them too. Dashing back to Merry`s room he arrived to find Merry still in the throes of his bad dream. His face had gone completely white in the short time Frodo was away and now he was crying out.

“Frodo! No… Run, Frodo! Run!” There was a hitch in Merry`s breath and then he called out for Pippin to run too. Merry sounded as if he was about to cry and he shouted out for Pippin to run faster.

Frodo looked at his cousin in astonishment and shock. Merry was clearly having another nightmare and Frodo rushed over to the bed and grasped his hand, Miss Daisy at his heels. He mustered his firmest and most comforting voice and spoke. “Merry. I`m here. I`m all right. Wake up, come back to us Merry dear.”

Merry gasped, he thrashed violently for a moment and then slumped and lay as if dead on the bed.

“No! Merry!” Frodo dashed the tears from his eyes, shaking his cousin. “Merry!”

Daisy yanked off the blankets and for a few minutes there was a frenzy of activity. She felt Merry`s pulse, looked into his eyes and checked him for fever. Tersely she ordered Frodo to sit him up and lean him forward. She then proceeded to listen to Merry`s breathing.

Sitting with Merry leaning into his arms, Frodo saw that the rest of the household was awake now too and were hovering anxiously in the doorway or by the foot of the bed. Paladin held a sobbing Pippin in his arms and did his best to soothe the distraught lad. Vinnie and Nell were crying too and Pearl was white as a sheet as they huddled together in the door. Eglantine came up behind Frodo and pressed a wet cloth to Merry`s face while stroking his curls with the other hand, murmuring soothing nonsense. Bilbo stood beside the lasses, trying to give them comfort as best as he could, patting Pearl on the shoulder and keeping a reassuring arm around the youngest lasses.

Frodo held Merry as still as he could while the healer and Eglantine fussed over him and tried to hold his own tears at bay. Merry had lost weight during his illness, Frodo`s brain noted, and he had grown a bit since Frodo had seen him last. He had almost reached his full growth now, surely Merry must be three foot three at the very least. Merry`s hair tickled Frodo`s nose and through the smell of sickness Frodo smelled the familiar scent that was his Merry. His heart lurched to think what would happen if he died. He didn`t think he could live past that.


Pippin watched Miss Daisy work from the safety of his da’s arms. He had woken up when he heard running in the hallways and someone shouting. Instantly he knew that Merry was worse and ran from his room to be with his cousin. When he entered Merry`s room there reigned an ordered chaos. Frodo sat on Merry`s bed with Merry leaning up against him while Mama and the healer worked on helping Merry. Now Frodo looked at him with that wide-eyed blue gaze of his and Pippin saw that he too was frightened. There were tears in his eyes, and Pippin`s heart skipped a beat with the realisation of why Frodo was frightened. What if they lost Merry? What if Merry died? He had promised not to! Merry always kept his promises. Always. In all of the eight years of his life Pippin couldn`t remember a single time Merry had broken even the tiniest of promises, save for after he became so ill, and couldn’t go with Pippin out to the fields. And that hadn’t been his fault, he hadn’t broken the promise on purpose, it was postponed was all, because Merry was ill. But maybe Merry wouldn’t be able to keep his promise not to die, and that wouldn’t be his fault either.

Pippin felt very sad, so he did the only thing he could, he cried, great heaving sobs. He leaned into his father`s soothing and comforting embrace. He knew he shouldn`t lose hope and in his mind’s eye he saw Merry running towards him through a field of summer barley, his blue eyes sparkling and laughing like countless times before. It seemed to Pippin that Merry was somehow flying through the barley as he ran and at last he caught Pippin up in his arms, tickling and laughing, rubbing their noses together and plopping down between the rows with Pippin in his arms. This was his Merry. His cousin, protector, best friend and partner in mischief. Merry was his world and Pippin knew he couldn`t go on without him. Pippin raised his eyes to the bed again. Frodo was still holding Merry, now rubbing his back soothingly. Merry`s head lay on Frodo`s shoulder farthest from Pippin, and from this angle Pippin couldn`t see Merry`s face. Frodo looked pale, but he had stopped crying.

Paladin put Pippin down and he padded over to the bed, taking Merry`s hot hand between his own. Merry was still limp in Frodo`s lap and hadn’t stirred for several minutes. The grown ups were talking quietly behind him and suddenly Eglantine took Pippin’s hand, gathered up the lasses, and lead them away to the kitchen for a snack and to try to calm them down. “Come children. They`re going to cool him down again. Merry will be all right soon. The fever spiked and he had a nightmare. He will be well, soon. He will.” She bent down to earnestly look her youngest in the face, and after a moment Pippin wearily nodded. Eglantine gave him an encouraging hug. This was a sore trial for all of them but worst of all for Pippin. Was it only a few days ago that she had scolded Merry for having rumpled clothes and hay in his hair when he sat down to supper and shooed him and Pippin off to wash before they even thought about sitting down to eat? She would welcome a bit of hay, and muddy floors, if only Merry would get well.


Some time later Paladin, Frodo and Miss Daisy came back from the bathing room, Merry carried in Paladin`s arms. Pippin was looking out for them from the kitchen and followed after them into Merry`s room. Bilbo was changing the sheets again and Paladin sat down in the chair with Merry still in his lap. Pippin tiptoed over and gently touched his cousin’s face and took his hand in his. He was lost for words, but his heart reached out and somehow sensing Pippin`s presence Merry stirred a little and opened his eyes for the barest of moments before falling back to sleep.


Merry was dreaming. He was in a large and unfamiliar forest together with Frodo and Pippin. They were fleeing from hideous creatures that he knew to be orcs only because of Bilbo`s stories. The orcs were shouting to each other to find the Halflings, but Merry didn`t understand. What did the creatures want with them? Merry knew Men called hobbits Halflings – Bilbo had said so, so there was no doubt it was he and his cousins the creatures hunted. Pippin pulled him into a hiding place beneath a bush and suddenly Merry saw Frodo all alone and cowering behind a tree with the orcs running everywhere, searching for them. Frodo met his eyes and with a horrible sense of foreboding Merry knew that he had to let Frodo go on alone, burdened with some perilous task and that he couldn`t help him any more. He had to let Frodo go and his heart ached with the thought of it. He knew they had to distract the orcs so that they wouldn`t find Frodo. He grabbed Pippin`s hand and with a look made him understand that they had to do this, all the while choking on the thought that he was sacrificing one dear cousin to save another. It was an almost impossible choice to make, but it was the right one; Merry knew it, and somehow he understood that Pippin knew it as well. They dashed out into the open, shouting, and were seized by huge and cruel hands and struck and thrown about. Merry had one desperate glimpse of Pippin being battered by the foul creatures, and then all went black and he knew no more.

Then, after what seemed to be quite a long time, lost in the dark, he felt himself spiralling toward wakefulness, yet he couldn’t quite manage it. Hands, several pairs of them, moved him about and he felt cold but soothing water surrounding his body before he was carried in someone`s strong arms. He finally managed to open his eyes and saw Pippin, looking frightened. Merry wanted to reach out and comfort him, but sleep dragged him down again and the last thing he was aware of was being laid down on a bed, a wonderfully soft pillow beneath his cheek and snug blankets tucked lovingly in about him.


PART ELEVEN: Awakening

“Good morning lazy-bones,” Frodo said, rubbing the sleep from his eyes, coming instantly awake when Merry stirred in the bed. He leaned closer and gently touched Merry`s face, brushing his curls out of his eyes.

“Frodo?” Merry blinked. “It`s so good to see you! When did you arrive? I didn`t know you were coming.”

“Nor did I, until your aunt requested my presence. Bilbo is here too. It`s good to see you really awake, Merry-lad. I`m afraid you gave us all a fright last night.”

“Right you are about that, Frodo. Now, how do you feel Meriadoc? You look much better than you did last night.” Bilbo came into the room, bearing a breakfast tray groaning under the weight of enough food for several hobbits, and set it down on the bedside table.

Gingerly Merry stretched, and Frodo helped him to sit up. Frodo reached out and embraced him in a tight hug, his relief obvious. Merry wondered what had happened. He`d scared them? Had he been ill? Merry did feel a bit sore and hot and when the itching came back he suddenly remembered everything.

“I feel better I think. Itchy and hot, but not so wobbly. My head still hurts, and,” Merry reached out to touch his neck, rolling his shoulders a little and moving his head about, “my neck is rather sore. I can move it though, and it isn’t too bad.”

“That is very good news indeed. Do you feel up to some breakfast before the healer comes to have a look at you?” Bilbo said, pouring out tea and handing Frodo a cup. Both lads needed to eat and if he didn`t see to it, he was afraid Frodo would be too worried to think about breakfast.

Merry looked at the tray: Toast, jam, milk, tea, honey, butter, eggs and ham were on offer. “I`ll try some toast and milk, thank you. And a bit of that raspberry jam.”

“That`s a good lad.” Bilbo made the plate ready and gave it to Merry, setting the mug of milk on his nightstand in easy reach.

As they ate – Bilbo joining them in the spare chair – Merry told them what he could remember of the past days. Frodo and Bilbo listened and Merry was relieved when they told him that they both had had the common pox as children and were perfectly fine after.

“I had such strange dreams, Frodo. I don’t remember them all, but they were all frightening. I do remember that I dreamt of you being in danger and that we were in a strange forest running away from hideous creatures, orcs I think. Pippin and  I had to let you go though, and distract the creatures from finding you. It was horrible. Tell me you`re not going away somewhere, off into danger?”

Frodo put down his cup and hugged Merry tight. “No, Merry-lad. I`m not going anywhere. At least not yet, and not anywhere where there are creatures that would want to hurt us. And if I ever do go anywhere, you`ll be right at my side. You can count on that.”

“That is good. I need to look after you, you know,” Merry said, smiling through the tears that threatened to fall.

They all laughed at that and as Frodo and Bilbo filled up the corners, the healer arrived together with Pippin. He had been allowed to sleep in and now he was ready to see his Merry.

“Good morning Merry, Master Frodo, Mr. Bilbo,” Daisy said.

“Hullo,” Merry answered and reached out to embrace Pippin in a tight hug. Pippin had bounced onto his bed with a squeal as soon as he saw Merry was awake. Merry realised he had not actually talked to or properly greeted the healer before and suddenly felt ashamed for his lack of courtesy. Blushing slightly he looked up from where his face had been buried in Pippin`s curls. “Thank you for helping me Miss Daisy.”

Daisy couldn`t help but smile at the sudden embarrassment on her patient`s face. Merry was a polite and courteous lad and she had never seen him fail to show respect towards anyone. This was a sure sign that the lad was feeling better. “You are very welcome Merry. Now, may I have a look at you?” Bilbo excused himself for the time being, but Frodo stayed put, taking Pippin in his lap.

Daisy repeated the same examination she had done several times over now, but in addition she checked the red spots more closely and was pleased not to see any new ones, and that Merry had not been scratching. The lad should come through this with very few scars. “Very good. You shall soon be as good as new. Are you still itching much?”

Merry nodded a bit mournfully. “Yes, I`m afraid so.”

“Hm…” She felt his brow again, the fever lingered, but he was not alarmingly hot. Still, Merry reflexively leaned into her cool touch. She motioned for him to lie back, and Merry did so without protest. Daisy wrung out a cool wet cloth and placed it on his brow. “Does your head still hurt?”

“A little.”

“Do you feel sick to your stomach?”

“No. I managed to eat some toast and drink some milk at breakfast.”

“Excellent. I am very pleased.” She tucked the covers back up around him. “Rest and sleep, Merry. You`ve not had any proper rest for some days and what you need now is peaceful, undisturbed sleep and calm. You will stay in bed today and tomorrow. If your fever is gone by tomorrow afternoon, which I think it will be, then you can get up for short periods the next day, but you must still rest frequently.” She looked at Frodo and Pippin. “You two help him to remember and do as I said, all right?”

They both nodded. “Yes, Miss Daisy. We will.”

She turned back to Merry, her pleased smile turning into a serious expression and she looked Merry in the eye. “Merry, you have been very ill, but you have been very fortunate. You are not completely better yet, but I daresay that in a week or two you will scarce remember that you were sick. What stiffness you feel in your neck should be gone by tomorrow or the day after. If anything and I repeat anything, changes for the worse, you tell your family at once and they will come and get me.” She smiled at him. “I`ll go talk to your aunt and uncle now.”

“Thank you,” Merry said, already feeling sleepy again.

As the healer turned to leave, Pippin scrambled down off Frodo`s lap and enthusiastically hugged what he could reach of her. “Thank you for healing my Merry, Miss Daisy!”

Daisy bent down and hugged Pippin back. “You are very welcome, Pippin dear.”

Merry scooted down a bit lower in the bed and closed his eyes, thinking that he was very lucky that so many good people loved him and how thankful he was for having this wonderful family.

As he drifted off to sleep, Frodo moved to sit down on the bedside and took Merry`s hand in his, softly singing an elvish lullaby Bilbo just recently had taught him.


Merry slept soundly, and shortly after he woke again, Frodo went to get the three of them second breakfast, and Merry managed to eat a little of the eggs and bacon. He drank all of his milk and Eglantine came to give him a dose of the medicine that the healer had left for him.

Pippin was very pleased to have Frodo there, and for a while the three lads caught up on things that had happened since they had seen each other last, on Frodo and Bilbo`s birthday.

Merry slept again until luncheon and Frodo and Pippin played farmers checkers while watching over him. It was Frodo who first had introduced Merry to the game when he was little, in his turn having learned it from his father, and Merry had quickly learned the strategy of the game and could nearly always beat Frodo. Later, Merry had brought it with him on a visit with Pippin, and now Pippin showed that he too had worked out how to easily win the game.

“How have you been holding up?” Frodo asked, watching Pippin as Merry slept peacefully.

For some moments, Pippin didn`t answer but looked at Merry with such deep love and devotion in his eyes that Frodo’s suspicions were confirmed. This had indeed been a hard trial for his little cousin.

“He`s really sleeping now. He looks so much better,” Pippin said, quietly. Turning back to look at Frodo he added in a tearful whisper, “I`ve been so scared, Frodo, but he`s my Merry and he promised he would be well and I know that he will be. I never thought I would be as happy as I am now just to see him sleep.”

Frodo reached out his arms and Pippin climbed into his lap, taking comfort in Frodo`s tight embrace. “I know, Pippin. I know. And you`ve been such a brave lad. You`ve watched out for our Merry for all of us. What would we have done without you? I`m proud of you Pippin!”


Merry slept through tea, but woke not long after. Bilbo sat by his bed, reading a book, and looked up with a smile when Merry stirred.

“Hullo, Merry. Have you had a good sleep?”

“Yes, thank you. I think I can manage to stay awake for a bit now.” Merry scooted up a little in the bed. Bilbo rose and poured him a mug of water.

“Drink, Merry-lad. It`s good for you.”

Merry drank and watched his elderly relative. Bilbo was over 100 years old. That was really old for a hobbit and Merry marvelled at how young Bilbo looked. Why, Grand-da Rory was several years younger, and at 96 he appeared much older than Bilbo did.

“Now then,” Bilbo said as Merry finished drinking his water. “Your uncle informs me that your parents will be arriving shortly, perhaps as early as tomorrow morning, so I suggest you rest and get better. Would you like to hear a story?”

“Yes please!” Merry was grateful that his parents were coming. He had missed them and wanted very much to see them. Now Bilbo was offering him a story and eagerly he accepted, finding a comfortable position on the bed.

“All right, now I don`t think I`ve told you about…”


Merry ate a little more enthusiastically at supper and Pippin and Frodo joined him. After, as Merry had been quite miserable with itching much of his time awake, Paladin again made ready a bath with oatmeal and with Pippin and Frodo as support, Merry walked to the bathing room, smiling blissfully as he submerged his itching body into the soothing water. Of course, when lads and bath water are involved, there is bound to be some splashing and singing. Merry raised his voice in Bilbo`s favourite bathing song and with Pippin`s eager help drenched all four of them.

After his bath Merry was quite tired. He was still feverish, and felt a little weak. Frodo and Paladin helped him dry off and into a clean nightshirt, then Paladin carried him back to bed, where Merry went to sleep immediately.

Frodo and Pippin went to change their wet clothes for nightshirts and then bundled themselves in blankets and snuggled up in the armchair in Merry`s room. Pippin was so happy Merry was better! Hearing Merry sing in the bath had made his heart leap with joy and it was all he could to not join Merry in the tub, fully clothed and all. He had helped Merry make an impressive splash that had soaked all of them, but Da had not allowed any more splashing, saying the bath water had some kind of medicine in it to make Merry`s skin not itch so much and that it would be nice if the water actually stayed in the tub on this occasion. Pippin had tried to be good about it, but he was so happy about Merry being on the mend and awake and laughing again, that it was hard not to splash. Instead he told silly jokes, delighting in the sound of Merry’s laughter.

Now Merry was sleeping peacefully, and Pippin was overjoyed to see his cousin resting so comfortably, his breathing calm and even. Merry lay curled up on his side, face towards them, and looking closely, Pippin saw a small smile play across his lips.

“Look, Frodo,” Pippin whispered to not wake Merry. “He`s smiling.”

”Yes,” Frodo said. “He`s dreaming good dreams now I think.”

“Maybe he is dreaming about an adventure we`ll have someday. We will have an adventure, don`t you think, Frodo? I would very much love to have an adventure.”

“Yes, I think we will, Pippin. I think we will have a wonderful adventure some day, all three of us.”


PART TWELVE: Promises kept

Merry awoke late the next morning. He had slept long and well. He couldn`t remember his dreams save for a vague satisfaction that they had been good. Coming awake, Merry felt a gentle hand stroking his curls and the familiar and comforting scent of pipe weed, spices and pony told him it was his father. He opened his eyes and looked into his father`s concerned and loving gaze. “Da!”

“Hullo, Merry-my-lad.” Saradoc said his voice full of emotion. He helped Merry to sit up a bit before hugging him long and tight. “It is good to see you are on the mend. Tina and Paladin told us everyone has been awfully frightened for you, but that now you’re almost as good as new. We came as soon as we got their letter.”

A few seconds later, the door opened and his Mum entered, carrying a laden tray in her hands.

“Mum!” Merry said, looking up from where his face was buried in his father`s shoulder and without letting go of him reaching an arm out to her. She hurriedly put the tray down and joined their embrace.

“Merry." It was all Esmie managed to say for a few moments. She pulled back a little and looked intently at her child. She and Saradoc had arrived to find that Merry had improved greatly just the day before, and that the healer thought his fever would break today. Esmeralda had wished for wings as they drove towards Whitwell. They had not stopped more than absolutely necessary on the road and she was tired and hungry, but after receiving that letter, there was only one thought in her mind, beating along with her heart. Merry. Merry. Merry. Now that she was here, she was overcome by joy. She had had plenty of time to imagine the worst of scenarios and more than once had wondered how she would bear it if she lost her merry Merry-lad. Seeing him now, she pushed all her fears away. Merry didn`t look like his usual healthy self but he was awake and he was much better than he had been and they were together. A bit more sleep and rest and he would be right as rain. She hugged him tight, stroking his curls and caressing his face. Her Merry would be all right.

“Everyone at the Hall sends their greetings and wishes you a speedy recovery, dear. Aunt Peony sent you some of her raspberry and strawberry tarts and Berilac and Merimas said they counted upon your swift recovery so you can help them copy down those old history books that are falling apart. And Uncle Mac says he counts upon you to help him with the new ponies from Dwaling that are arriving just after Yule.”

Merry couldn`t help but laugh in delight at this. He loved his family dearly and was happy to be on the mend. As much as he loved to stay with his aunt and uncle and the lasses and Pip at the farm at Whitwell and with Frodo and Bilbo at Bag End in Hobbiton, there was no place like Brandy Hall and Buckland. Home. As pleased as he would be to go home when the time came, he had promised Pippin not to leave early, and besides, he wasn`t fully recovered yet.


“Don`t scratch Merry.”

Merry stopped scratching his shoulder and folded his hands in his lap. A moment later his head itched and he absently reached up to rub at his curls.


“All right, all right. Distract me then, so that I don`t notice the itching.” Merry sighed and clasped his hands together once more. After his parents had arrived that morning, Merry had eaten breakfast with them and slept a little. Now his Mum sat in the bedside chair.

“Maybe you should try to sleep a little more.”

“I don`t think I’m sleepy at the moment, I have just woken up.”

“I know, dearest, but you do need to rest. I`m sorry you are so uncomfortable. It will be better soon. Lie back and see if you can sleep some. You`re still a bit hot and your body needs to rest.”

Sliding down in the bed, Merry closed his eyes and felt his Mum tuck him in. As it happened, he did actually fall asleep and woke sweaty and clammy in time for lunch and smelled something delicious cooking. He was alone at the moment, but not for long. It was barely a minute or two before Auntie Tina brought in a heavy tray, Pippin right behind her with a jug of fresh milk. Feeling hungry Merry sat up, thanked her, and eagerly dug in to the food on the tray.

“Where`s Mum and Da?” Merry asked after a few bites.

“They are sleeping at the moment dear. They rode almost straight here from Buckland and were very tired. They insisted on seeing you first though. They should wake up in a little while.” Eglantine said. She`d keep their lunch warm in the oven.

“All right.” Merry said. They continued to eat and Pippin was once again bouncing with good spirits, happy that his Merry was getting well, almost spilling the milk onto Merry`s plate in his eagerness to help.

“Whoa there, Pip,” Merry smiled. “Slow down.”

“I`ll leave you to it then, lads,” Eglantine said as Merry righted the milk jug and left to see to the rest of her family and guests.

After eating, Merry decided he`d attempt to get up. He hadn`t been out of bed on his own for many days and he needed to get up and move about.

Pippin sat cross-legged on the foot of the bed, watching as Merry rose and padded over to the wash stand, a little wobbly at first after lying about for so long, but soon he was steady and calculated in his movements. Merry washed and after a few moments consideration put on shirt and breeches instead of a fresh nightshirt. It felt good to wear real clothes again. The healer had said he needed to stay in bed this day, but no one had said he had to wear a nightshirt. Going back to the bed, he noticed the sweaty sheets and decided to change them. As Merry started to take off a pillowcase Pippin spoke.

“What are you doing?”

“I`m changing the sheets. Why don`t you come help me?” Merry pulled off the pillowcase and put the pillow on the chair.

Pippin crawled to the head of the bed and pretended to accidentally hit Merry over the head with a pillow as he took the case off. One thing led to another, and soon there was a veritable pillow fight going on. Merry didn`t last for long though and slumped down in the chair after a few minutes, calling for a truce. Pippin laughed uncontrollably and Merry couldn`t help but join him.

“Just give me a moment, Pip.”

Seeing that Merry indeed looked weary, Pippin sat down on the bed, watching his cousin. Oh, but he was glad Merry was better! Was it just a little over a day ago that Merry had been so dreadfully ill? Suddenly a pillow hit him in the face. Merry had taken advantage of Pippin being lost in thought and hit him square on the head with his pillow. Merry was going to be right as rain very soon, Pippin thought and threw his own pillow back at Merry laughing breathlessly.

Hearing the ruckus both Frodo and Saradoc entered, putting an end to it, and soon Merry was back in the freshly made bed, this time sitting with only a light blanket over him so that he would not get a chill. They talked for a while and Saradoc had all the lads laughing with stories of the latest goings on at the Hall. Afterward, feeling a little tired, Merry slept until it was time for tea.

That night for the first time since he became ill, no one sat to watch over Merry as he slept.


It took another few days before Merry was well enough to manage a whole day without any rest. He tried not to scratch, but couldn`t always help himself and did it anyway. On a sunny and unseasonably warm day a week after Merry`s fever broke, Pippin decided to take Merry up on the promise he had made the day he fell ill as Merry would return to Buckland with his parents in a few days, the time for this visit at an end.

Searchingly Pippin looked Merry over. When he was satisfied with what he saw he spoke. “Merry,” Pippin said solemnly. They sat in the sun on the front step and except for a few red spots here and there Merry looked to be back to his normal self. “How do you feel?”

“I feel fine.”

“You`re not tired?”

“No.” Merry looked at Pippin suspiciously.

“Good!” Pippin grinned. “That is good. I want to run some after sitting inside for so long and I wouldn`t want to do that if you couldn`t do it with me.“ Pippin shot to his feet and before Merry could as much as stand up his little cousin was half way across the lawn towards the barn. “I`ll race you to the old oak!” Pippin called over his shoulder.

“Oi, Pippin, that’s not fair!” Merry said and ran after him. To his amazement he found that he managed to run without getting tired and also that Pippin had become a much faster runner since they`d done this last. As Pippin rounded the huge old oak that had stood at the far end of the wheat field for hundreds of years, Merry caught up and swept Pippin off his feet and tickled him mercilessly until they both laughed so hard their ribs ached. Merry plonked down on the frozen ground and Pippin sat down on top of him.

“I won!” Pippin exclaimed, sitting victorious on top of Merry and tickling him in his turn until they both once again were out of breath, reduced to gasps and giggles.

Lying side by side, Pippin propped himself up on an elbow and looked seriously at Merry. “I`m so glad you`re well again and didn`t die! Thank you for keeping your promises.”

Sensing the sudden change in his cousin`s mood, Merry propped himself up on his own elbow and solemnly looked Pippin in the eye. “You`re very welcome, Pippin dear. I always try to, you know.” He pulled Pippin into a great hug. “Thank you for looking out for me when I was sick.”

“I always know when you are there when I am sick. Did you feel I was there too?” Pippin said, his voice muffled from his face being buried in Merry`s shoulder.

“Yes I did. I wasn’t so frightened because I knew that you were with me.”

Pippin fell silent for some moments before he spoke again. “You had some awful nightmares though.”

“Yes I remember that, though I can’t remember all of the dreams. I am sorry. Did I scare you?”

Pippin nodded. “You screamed out for me and it sounded like you couldn`t find me and you cried and then you called out for Frodo too and it sounded like you couldn`t find any of us. I was so scared Merry!”

“I am sorry, Pippin. They were only dreams though. You are here with me and so is Frodo.”

“Will you promise to not dream like that again, Merry?”

“That’s not a promise I can make Pip. I can`t guarantee that I won`t ever have bad dreams again. I think that the dreams I had were because I was sick, and that I won`t have such dreams again unless I get very sick again. And I wouldn`t want that to happen.”

Merry thought a little. “What I can promise, Pippin, is that I will try to stay well and we can hope that I won`t ever get so sick again. Is that a good enough promise for you Pippin-my-lad?”

Pippin considered this for a moment, and then nodded. “Yes it is. And I promise to always be there for you when you need me.”

“Thank you, Pippin. I know you will be.”

They both fell silent and then Pippin asked curiously, “What did you dream of?”

“Well, as I said, I can’t remember them all… but I remember that I dreamt that I couldn`t find you and Frodo, as you guessed. And then I dreamt that orcs came to find us and that you and I had to distract them so that Frodo could get away.”

“That doesn`t sound very good, Merry. Did Frodo get away?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“That is good then. I am glad that we helped him, even if it was just in a dream. I wouldn`t want Frodo to be captured by orcs.”

“Me neither, Pippin.”

Again there was silence.

“Merry. You don`t think that we ever will have to help Frodo run from orcs, do you?”

“No. I don`t. We`re safe here in the Shire and when we go on our adventure one day, we`ll not go where there might be orcs.”

Pippin rose and wrapped his arms around Merry`s neck, hugging him tight. “All will be fine then. I am so glad that you are well Merry.”

Merry hugged Pippin back. “Yes Pippin. I am well now.”



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