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Disclaimer: Middle-earth and all its peoples belong to the Tolkien Estate. I own none of them. Some of them, however, seem to own me.
28 RETHE 3019 ( S.R. 1419 )
In the dimly lit tent, Aragorn stood watch over his charges. There they lay in healing sleep, four small beings that had gradually stolen into his heart months ago, beginning at an inn in Bree. How was it that such small creatures had such great hearts?
Frodo and Sam lay each in his own cot near one end of the tent, cast deeply into a healing sleep. They suffered far more from sheer exhaustion, starvation and exposure than to any serious physical injuries, except for Frodo’s missing finger. But they were covered in innumerable small cuts, bruises, gashes and burns, all needing attendance, lest they infect and cause fever. It was not their physical condition that worried him most, however. When they had been brought in, their spirits had wandered far, and Frodo‘s, at least, had been reluctant to return to his call. He planned to keep both of them asleep for as long as possible. Two weeks at the least.
The fourth cot lay empty, for there were two hobbits in the third one. When they had summoned Merry from Minas Tirith in haste, it had been in the fear that he would be bidding farewell to all three of his dear ones. But again the hobbits had surprised everyone--especially Pippin.
When Gimli had found the youngest hobbit under the troll, they were certain that he was gone. But the spark of life was still there, and with Merry‘s arrival, it strengthened and remained. Pippin was not yet completely out of danger. He had a broken foot, a dislocated knee, a broken hand, and almost every rib in his ribcage was broken. Fortunately, none of them had pierced a lung. He had also had some serious cuts, resulting in blood loss, and he had ingested a great deal of the vile black blood of the creature he had killed. Yet three days later, it was clear that if there were no serious infections or setbacks, he would probably recover more quickly than any patient with similar injuries that Aragorn had ever tended.
Merry lay carefully alongside his youngest cousin, clasping Pippin’s uninjured hand in his own left hand, sleeping the sleep of the truly exhausted. But Aragorn knew that if Pippin even stirred, Merry would wake instantly.
“My sister has named him Holdwine,” said a voice behind him.
Aragorn nodded. He had known when Éomer had come in behind him. “Appropriate. It means ‘loyal friend’ does it not?”
“Yes. I have never seen anyone like him. He had every reason to stay behind in safety, and with such a disadvantage as his size gives, none would have thought the worst of him if he had done so, especially as unused to war as his kind are. But that one does not seem to consider his size at all.”
“Boromir thought he was a natural warrior. He has the heart for it. But then they all do, in their own different ways. I wish there were some way to show them how much they have done. I do not say repay what we owe them; that will never happen in a lifetime, no matter how much we shower them with. My own debt to them is boundless.”
“For myself,“ said Éomer “I plan to make Meriadoc a Knight of the Riddermark. He deserves no lesser honor. My sister suggested it, but I believe it only right. There is much else I would give him as well, if he will take it.”
Aragorn smiled. “A Knight? I think our valiant young Peregrin also deserves no lesser honor . And Merry would not be happy if his cousin were not so honored as well. Thank you, Éomer, for an excellent idea. I will make Pippin a Knight of the Citadel. I do not yet know how we will be able to honor these other two, our valiant Ringbearers, but I will put my mind to it.”
30 RETHE 3019 (S.R. 1419 )
Faramir looked at the list of things his new king wanted of him, to be sent to Ithilien. Medical supplies, food, fodder, blankets, and more healers to attend the wounded, all very much as expected. But it was the short list at the end that caused him to twitch his lips in a smile. Perhaps the Lady Éowyn would be willing to help him out with that one, especially considering that some of those items were at the request of her brother, the new King of Rohan. Some of them would be more difficult than others to find on such short notice.
“So, my brother is finally making my dear Holdwine a Knight,“ Éowyn laughed, and Faramir thought it quite a lovely sound. She did not do that nearly enough, and he found himself slightly jealous that the one thing guaranteed to make her do so was the mention of her little perian friend. “Merry will make a splendid Knight! And I see that they will be making his little cousin one also; that will please him. Let us see, what have they asked for? Four sets of livery each, in the colors of Gondor and of Rohan, a new sword for Merry--” a shadow came across her face as she remembered how he had lost the old one. She gave a brief shudder, and shook her head, before continuing. “a new helm for Pippin--apparently his old one was damaged beyond repair. Some of these things will be difficult at such short notice.”
Faramir nodded. “The Gondorian livery should not be too difficult. We have a store of livery in the Citadel used by the young pages which will do well for Pippin. But I am not so sure about the livery for Rohan. Your colors are green and white, are they not, with the device of the running horse? I will have to think on that.” He pursed his lips. “I think that one of the great merchant houses has green as its color. They use pages as well, you see. But we will have to see to having the device put on.”
Éowyn nodded. “And we will also need to seek the smithy, about the sword and the helm. For the sword, at least, the smith may know whether it would be better to alter a large knife or to make a small sword even smaller. I am not so sure about the helm. What about the silver?”
Now a shadow crossed Faramir’s face. “Coin? Coin is not a problem; Denethor was an excellent Steward.” There was a touch of bitterness in his tone as he considered his father. “ Minas Tirith does not lack for coin, and in luxuries we have a-plenty. It is the more needful things that are in short supply.” The other items, on Aragorn’s longer list, food and medicine, were not going to be as easily come by. Still the coin gave him an idea of his own. He had his own debt to Peregrin.
“M-mer?” It was the merest whisper. Merry sat up instantly.
“Yes, Pip, what is it?” It was the first intelligible sound from his cousin since they brought him in from the battlefield. Merry’s eyes filled with tears of joy.
Merry shot a questioning look to Aragorn, who stood nearby. He had been spending every minute he was not needed elsewhere in the hobbits’ tent. He quickly came to Pippin’s side, and taking a ewer that stood by the cot, poured out a bit into a cup, and handed it to Merry. “Just wet his lips, to begin with. Then a few drops at a time until he gets this down. If he does not bring it back up, in a short while he may have the same again.”
As soon as his lips were wet, Pippin looked fuzzily at Aragorn. “Frodo? Sam?” he managed to croak. His eyes were full of distress.
“They are here, they are alive, they are asleep right over there.” He gestured to the two cots at the other end.
“Mmm-hmm,” he murmured, satisfied. He swallowed a couple of sips from the cup his cousin held, and drifted back to sleep.
Merry looked at him tenderly, and then up at Aragorn. “Strider? He’s going to be all right now, isn’t he?” and then he burst into tears. Aragorn gathered him up, and allowed him to weep himself back to sleep in his arms, then he carried him over and placed him into the as yet unused fourth cot. He resumed his own vigil.
“Good evening, Aragorn.”
He glanced up at the entrance. “Gandalf.”
“It is time that you sought your own bed. It has seen far too little of you these last few days.”
Aragorn cast a look at the hobbits.
“I will watch. I think you may trust me in this?” Gandalf’s tone was kind but firm.
He suddenly realized how exhausted he was. “Very well. But call me at the least sign--”
The wizard sighed in exasperation. “My dear fellow, go to your bed at once.”
He stood up, and then realized that Legolas had come in behind Gandalf and he had not noticed it. That convinced him. “Are you going to escort me to my tent?” he asked the Elf.
1 ASTRON 3019 (S.R. 1419 )
Aragorn felt much better after a night’s sleep, he had to admit. Now he turned his attention to the breakfast tray that had been brought in to him. He smiled to himself. A man could get used to this being waited upon.
“May I enter?”
“Certainly, Éomer,” he said “I was thinking of sending for you, anyway, to discuss this matter of knighting our hobbits. Would you care for some breakfast? They brought me enough to feed four Men, or one hobbit.”
“No, thank you, I have already broken my fast. Have you given anymore thought to honoring the Ringbearers?”
“Yes, yes I have. That is why I would like to put forward the knighting of Merry and Pippin as soon as may be.”
“Aragorn?” Gimli’s voice was heard outside the tent. “You sent for me?”
“Yes, please come in.” He looked up at Éomer. “Gimli will be of use in this.” He took another bite of the bread and cheese in his hand, and washed it down with a sip of ale. “Gimli, I would ask a favor of you. What kind of condition are Pippin’s armor and sword in?”
“Well, except for his wee helm, which you had to destroy to get off his hard little head, it is in excellent condition, because I took it to see to as soon as it was removed from him. His sword is fine. As you should know, since you had to pry it out of his hand. I cleaned it thoroughly and sharpened it.”
“Thank you. It seems that I will not need to ask that favor of you after all, but perhaps Éomer will?”
Éomer nodded. “Master Gimli, if you would be so kind as to check the condition of my esquire Meriadoc’s armor, I would appreciate it very much. He has not had time enough to do so, with attending his cousins.”
“It would be my honor. I do believe I know what you lads have in mind, and I completely approve. Well, I had better see to it, then.” With a bob of his head, he was gone.
The two kings looked at one another and laughed. “Lads?” chortled Éomer.
Aragorn just shook his head.
It was only a day since Pippin had first awakened. Merry had transferred his attention now to Frodo, and sat by his older cousin, as he had by his younger. Pippin didn’t mind. He could still see his Merry there at the other end of the tent, and it was Frodo who needed Merry now. Besides, all he had to do was moan inadvertently or sigh a bit too loudly, and his cousin returned to him in a flash.
“Merry,” he croaked.
His cousin’s head whipped round. “Do you need something, Pip?”
“No, just wondering how he’s doing, and Sam.”
Merry shook his head. For all Aragorn’s insistence that this sleep was the best thing for them, it still seemed unnatural to him. “Aragorn says they are doing all right for now.”
“And they are,” came a familiar voice from the tent’s entrance.
“Strider!” said Pippin, almost in his normal voice. It was spoiled by a fit of painful coughing, which brought tears to his eyes from the pain in his tightly bound ribs.
“Merry, Éomer is asking for you.”
Merry gave him a look that said as clearly as words that he knew this was some kind of excuse to get him away from the “sick tent”. The King of Rohan had found some such little duties for him several times since Pippin woke up, usually something silly like copying a list or something. But he got up and resignedly went out without argument. Fealty was fealty, after all.
Pippin looked at Aragorn. “He needs to get some rest.”
“I know. Right now, this is the best we can do. Unless you want me to put him to sleep like Frodo and Sam?”
Pippin gave a shudder. “Oh, no, don’t do that to him.”
Aragorn moved to examine his small patient. He started with the left foot, and moved up, quirking an eyebrow in surprise. “You really are healing a great deal faster than even hobbit constitution would account for.” He placed a hand on the curly head, curlier and thicker now than it had been before he and Merry had met Treebeard, and considered. Could it be? “Tell me about the Ent-draughts, Pippin.”
Faramir and Éowyn looked over the items they had managed to garner: from the stores of page’s livery in the Citadel, there were two sets of black silk, and two of serviceable black linsey-woolsey which would fit Pippin excellently. One of the merchant houses did indeed have pages’ livery in green, and when they found it was intended for the little perian who had helped to slay the Nazgûl Captain, insisted on giving it to them at no charge. Some of the palace seamstresses had seen to sewing on the device of the running horse, and adding a bit of white trim to them. They had chosen two made of sturdy wool for daily wear and two of rich green velvet for formal occasions.
The smith had found a short sword of a kind that was often used by someone fighting with two swords, rather than sword and shield. It needed very little modification to make it suitable for Merry’s use. But the helm he had to make, and since it was for the Ernil i Pheriannath, he and his apprentices put everything else on hold to work on it day and night until it was finished.
Unasked, Faramir had taken it upon himself to find some other things to send for the pheriannath. He had found a goodly store of clothing that had once belonged to him and to Boromir as children: shirts, nightshirts, jackets, breeches and smallclothes. Most of it still looked like new; as sons of the Steward, their clothing was never subject to being handed down. It’s about time these things were of some use, he thought. No need, of course, for the small stockings and boots. He hesitated as he came across the little gilded shirt of mail that had been his brother’s Yule gift the year he was nine. It had been a gift from their uncle in Dol Amroth. Finally, he packed it up with all the rest, along with a message for Aragorn.
And there were two small chests of silver coin, to be the young hobbits’ stipend as retainers of Gondor and Rohan. Faramir took out a small pouch of his own, with another note, and slipped it into the chest intended for Pippin.
3 ASTRON 3019 ( S.R. 1419 )
Pippin lay back in his cot exhausted. Aragorn had allowed him up briefly this day, to see if he could put weight on his left foot, and then had been amazed when he could do so. It had been painful, though, and tiring.
Merry was out on another “errand” for the King of Rohan, but the hobbits were not unattended. In order to persuade Aragorn that he did not need to spend every waking moment in their tent, the other members of the Fellowship were also taking turns watching. Even when Merry was there, Gandalf, Legolas or Gimli were often there, also keeping watch. Once or twice, they had allowed the King of Rohan to watch as well, but mostly the Fellowship was jealous of its hobbits.
Right now it was Legolas, who sat between Frodo and Sam, singing in Elvish. Pippin quite liked the song. It was not one he had heard Legolas sing before. As the clear Elvish voice faded, Pippin spoke.
“Sing that one again, Legolas, if you please.”
The Elf looked over at him in mild surprise. He had been aware that Pippin was awake, but had not realized he was listening so intently. “Certainly, mellon nin.” And he began once more the soaring melody that had caught Pippin’s attention.
That’s nice, thought the youngest hobbit. He called me “my friend” in Elvish, just like he does Strider. To the sound of the soft singing, he drifted to sleep once more.
Merry sighed. This time, he had a pile of accounts, lists of horses, that Éomer had asked him to sort out by éored. It was so obviously easy busy work, meant to take his mind off his fellow hobbits and keep him away from their tent. The problem was, that while it succeeded admirably in the latter case, it was not enough to succeed in keeping his mind off Frodo, Sam and Pippin. He sighed again, more loudly, and stacking the documents, he tapped them rather loudly on the tabletop to straighten them.
Éomer gave a wry look to his cousin Éothain with whom he had been discussing which men were to be sent back to Rohan, and which were to remain.
“Holdwine,” he said to Merry, “is there something you wish to say to me?”
Merry flushed. “I am sorry, my liege. It is just that I know this task is not truly needful. If I must be away from my kin and friends, I wish I were at least doing something that *needs* doing.”
The King of Rohan stood up and walked over to where his esquire sat, on top of two cushions to raise him to the proper height for the table. He placed a hand on the hobbit’s shoulder. “Meriadoc, you are only partly right. This is a task that needs to be done, though not one which is urgent or important. If Aragorn and I could trust you to actually *rest* when you are in your tent, I could be persuaded to at least find more active tasks for you. But you do not sleep except at your cousins’ sides, and then restlessly, as you are awake instantly for their slightest sound or movement. We have discussed moving you out of their tent--”
Merry’s head shot up in alarm, and his grey eyes sparked dangerously.
“Never fear. We realized that would probably only make it worse if you could not be with them. What would you suggest, if you had a friend in like circumstance?”
Merry looked at his liege with wide eyes, but could not quite find the words to ask what came to his mind.
“Yes, Holdwine Meriadoc, I consider you a friend. You saved the life of my sister, and you defended my uncle and king in his last moments of life; how could I not think you are my friend?”
“Oh!” While not nearly as demonstrative as Pippin, Merry was a hobbit, and the only proper response to that declaration was to grab the startled Éomer around the waist in a fierce hug.
“I am sorry if I am being difficult,” he said finally, letting go. “If I sleep in my own bed at night, would you and Aragorn think that good enough?”
Éomer smiled. “It would be up to Aragorn. He is the healer, after all, not I. But I should say he might consider that a good start.”
“Thank you.” Grinning, Merry gave him another quick hug, and hopped down from the chair, scattering the cushions. “May I be excused now, my liege?” He barely waited for the young king’s nod before bolting from the tent.
Éothain was smirking with thinly disguised mirth. Éomer looked at him sternly. “The holbyltla may show their feelings more easily than do Men, but they are not children and there is nothing amusing about their loyalty or courage. Consider where *all* of us might be, kinsman, if not for the loyalty and courage of that one--or of the Ringbearers.”
Éothain flushed. Truly, he liked the little one himself, and admired his courage, but it was hard to keep a straight face around them. They just did not seem to take things seriously, and they had very little grasp of formality around those they thought of as their friends.
“Legolas?” Aragorn had been looking for the Elf. He did not like sending for his friends when he could avoid it. He supposed he would eventually get used to it, though. It happened more and more frequently now.
“Yes, mellon nin?” He was busy currying Arod, crooning in Elvish to the restive steed.
“Do you know of any minstrels in the camp?”
“There are several. What do you have in mind?”
“I think that a lay, honoring our Ringbearers, would be in order. I cannot reach Frodo, but this above all Samwise would cherish.”
“Ah,” the Elf smiled. “I think that can be arranged.”
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