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A New Reckoning  by Dreamflower


There was a rap on Opal’s door, and Reggie wearily got up to answer. He had sent Amethyst and Garnet away for a few hours to have tea with Pearl. Opal had been weepy and fretful all afternoon, and the pain draught Poppy had left for her did not seem to be helping as much as it had done.

As he went to open the door, he wondered who it would be this time. There had been a steady stream of visitors, all of them concerned and wishing to help. Perhaps it would be the Elf again. Opal responded very well to him, and he seemed to be able to ease her pain.

“Frodo!” He was a bit surprised. This was the first time Frodo had come.

“Hullo, Reggie. How is she today?”

“She’s been in a lot of pain this afternoon. It’s made her fretful.”

“Why don’t you go out and get a bit of a breather. I’ll stay with her for a bit.”

“Are you sure?”

“Go ahead. I’m sure.”

Reggie went out with a sigh of relief. A cup of tea and a pipe would be nice. Poppy wouldn’t allow a pipe in the sickroom.

“Hullo, Opal,” said Frodo, going to sit in the chair vacated by her father.

“Cousin Frodo?” she said in surprise. She could not imagine why he would come see her. She had probably never spoken more than a few sentences to him her whole life. Hyacinth had always been disdainful of him, calling him “that odd Frodo Baggins, just as mad as his cousin Bilbo!” and her daughters had accepted her attitude. She would not have been a bit surprised if he had held those slights against her; she would have, in his place.

But now he sat in her father’s chair, gazing at her with those blue eyes full of sorrow and compassion, and yes, love.

“I understand you’ve been in a lot of pain today.” His voice was clear and gentle. There was no hint there that he even remembered how she had mocked him in the past.

“No one understands. The pain medicine can’t help.”

“Because the pain is in your leg that is not there.” He smiled wryly.

She stared at him in shock. How could he know?

He held up his right hand, and she gazed at the gap between his third and fifth fingers. It was the first time she had noticed it, though she had been told about it. “I often have pain in the one that is not there any more,” he said. “I have been told that this is not an uncommon thing.”

“How do you stand it?”

“Strider, my healer, gave me some herbs and an ointment that help. I brought some with me, to see if perhaps Poppy can make use of them for you.”

Opal burst into tears. “Why are you so nice to me? Why is everyone so nice to me? Do they just feel sorry for me because I’m crippled now? Will they still be nice to me when I get better?”

Frodo shook his head, and reached over to wipe her tears with his handkerchief. “It is possible that people do pity you right now; but I have learned that pity can be a very good thing. If you take it with the right attitude, you may be able over time to change that pity to friendship. While I have to admit that you have not been the most pleasant person in the world in the past, you certainly have the future in which to make it up. You did not deserve what happened to you, but you can do your best to let it make you stronger.”

She gazed at him in wonder. “Garnet said that they called you Frodo the Belovéd at the Ball.”

He blushed. “That was one of the King’s names for me.”

“I think I know why.” They were both quiet for a moment, and then she said “How can I learn to be nicer? I never thought I would need to be nice, I always thought ‘nice’ would be boring. But I think I like nice people. I want to be one, too.” She said it simply, like a small child.

“Well, dear,” he said, brushing back the curls from her damp forehead, “wanting it is the first step.”


Mellor looked at Eradan, and they both looked at their prisoner. He looked pretty pathetic. But they really did not wish to take a chance on his slipping off, and Mellor had experience of how stealthy hobbits could be given the chance.

“We have never been allowed to enter the Shire except for emergencies; and there is no reason to believe that those orders have changed now,” he said. “The question is, is this an emergency? The messenger from the Thain made it clear they think his capture is important.”

Eradan pursed his mouth and thought a moment. “Why don’t I go upstream a bit, see if I can spot any hobbits across the river who might be willing to deliver a message for us. Even if the Thain’s messenger does return in the morning, he may not be willing to take the prisoner if he does not know we have him.”

“That’s a good idea.” On any given day once the weather was warm, there were usually hobbits to be found on the bank dangling a line in the water. There might even be a Brandybuck or two boating. Usually Mellor kept out of their sight, but there was no longer any need for secrecy, at least. “Make sure you don’t frighten them if you should find any.”

Eradan nodded. “I’ll do my best.” He turned and headed off, walking along the bank.

Dago had been watching and listening carefully. He might be able to work something out with only one Man watching him. And this one was scruffier than the other. He might stand a chance. He watched Eradan until he had moved out of sight beyond a small copse of trees.

Mellor sat across from him, mending a strap from his pack. He seemed to ignore the prisoner, but he was keeping alert. Dago knew he had no chance to make a run for it, even though they had not even bothered to tie him up. He thought about the Men he had known before; they tended to be a greedy lot.

“You know,” said the hobbit, “if you let me go, I have coin--”

Mellor began to laugh. “Foolish hobbit. If I were the kind of rogue who could be bought, I would have no need to let you go. I would simply slit your throat and help myself to all that nice shiny coin you have on your pony. And now, of course, I shall have to report your attempt to bribe me to the Thain as well. How did you ever imagine you would get away? You do not seem to have any idea of how the world works outside the Shire.”

Dago quailed. He truly had not thought that far ahead. He had simply wanted to avoid being Marked, and to avoid the unpleasantness that would have come from everyone knowing of his dealings with Lotho. Of course, now they all knew anyway, and he was going to have to go back in disgrace. Blast Clodio and his sons!


After a while, Reggie returned to find that Opal had drifted back to sleep.

Frodo took his leave, and went in search of Poppy. He found her just returning to Reggie’s quarters after a brief trip to her home to freshen up, and a round of checking on some of her other patients.

He walked back with her. “I’ve just come from seeing Opal. You know she is suffering from phantom pain?”

Poppy looked at him, startled. He raised his right hand before her face and gave a rueful smile that did not reach his eyes.

“Ah,” she said. She had forgot that he’d lost a finger on his journey somehow, but that would explain how he knew about phantom pain. “There’s not a lot I can do about it.”

“Well,” he hesitated, “my healer in the South--”

“The King,” she interrupted.

“Yes. Well. I suppose Pippin told you he is a healer.”

She nodded. She noticed that he tried to avoid talking about his friend as a King.

“He gave me an ointment that helps, and some special herbs. If you do not think me impertinent for suggesting it, I would gladly let you have some to use for Opal. He sent me home with an abundant supply; I do not mind sharing it.”

“That is most generous of you, Frodo.” She was intrigued. If there was something that could help with the phantom pain, she wanted to know about it. The King must be a most remarkable healer; but she had already begun to suspect as much when she had examined Peregrin after his return.

He took from his pocket a small jar. “This ointment seems to help, and it does not take very much. I think that you may be able to figure out what herbs are in it, if you want to learn how to make it. Or I could ask him in my next letter.” Then he took out two small flat packets of waxed parchment, sealed with wax. “These are two leaves of athelas, also called kingsfoil. These have a particular virtue, as they were gathered and dried by the King himself; it seems to make a difference. He often uses a very small amount of it in hot water to lave a wound or injury, and it has a very calming and soothing effect.” Finally he took out a small pouch. “This is a bit of athelas prepared to use in a tea. It also is good for calming a troubled mind. All four of us have an ample supply of this on hand--it seems to settle the aftereffects of ill dreams very well.” He was trying to sound casual, but her trained ear could hear the strain in his voice. He had grown pale except for a flush in his cheeks, and she could tell a difference in his breathing. He was clearly uncomfortable. He did not like talking about these things, which made it incredibly generous of him to do so, all for the sake of a lass who had never been known for kindness herself.

She took the proffered items. “Thank you very much, Frodo. I hope that it will help her; are you sure you can spare this?”

“Yes,” he said, “I have plenty, and Sam, I’m sure, has even more put away for me.”

She nodded, and they parted at Reggie’s door. She watched after him with troubled eyes. He had not recovered nearly as well as his companions from their journey, and she sensed the melancholy that was not very deeply buried. He had been troubled with that before he left--since his parents died, in fact, but it seemed even deeper and darker now. She wondered who his healer in Hobbiton was. Maybe Lavender knew.


Hob Brownlock and his cousin Matty were about ready to call it a day. Each of the tweens had a nice string of fish, and they had long since finished off the basket of provisions they had brought with them. As they drew in their lines, they noticed a movement on the far bank.

“Hoy!” came a voice across the River. It was a Man. The lads were a-foot instantly, rocks in hand.

“Don’t you try to come across!” yelled Hob.

“Fear not!” shouted Eradan. “I am one of the King’s Rangers! We need someone to contact the Thain’s messenger for us; we have an important message for the Thain!”

The lads looked at one another in excitement. “We can do it!” they shouted.

“Tell them we have captured the one they have been searching for. We have him at Sarn Ford. They need to send hobbits to come fetch the prisoner back, or failing that, send permission for us to bring him back into the Shire! Can you do that?”

Hob repeated the message back word for word, and the lads hurried on their way, pleased and excited to be part of something that sounded so very interesting.

Satisfied that the message was on its way, Eradan turned and made his way back to Sarn Ford.



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