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The challenge at LJ hobbit_ficathon was for an h/c story with a head injury. Quite fortunately, JRRT had already inflicted this injury, so I did not need to hurt poor Bilbo any more than he already had been in canon...
Bilbo knelt on one knee filled with sorrow. “Farewell, King under the Mountain!” he said. “This is a bitter adventure, if it must end so; and not a mountain of gold can amend it. Yet I am glad that I have shared in your perils--that has been more than any Baggins deserves.”
And nothing at all to ease the pounding in his head, as if any number of Dwarves had taken up residence there with all their hammers. He felt quite dizzy and sick. In fact, he could not recall a time he had felt any sicker--
Oh! He retched, bringing up everything he’d last eaten, and kept on retching. This was dreadful!
“Mr. Baggins!” a familiar voice exclaimed. “What is wrong?”
It was Balin, who had gone to look for the hobbit at Gandalf’s request. He put a gentle arm around Bilbo’s shoulders, and supported him.
Bilbo looked up at him blearily--why was everything so blurry? “I am afraid, Balin, that I do not feel at all well,” he whispered.
“Hoy!” called Balin, to one of the passing Men. “Come and help us! We need to take this hobbit to Gandalf!”
Bilbo felt large arms lift him as gently as a babe. “Papa?” he asked in confusion, before his thoughts all fled in darkness.
Bilbo woke, and found himself lying in a large cot. He blinked in confusion--where was this? The light was diffuse and had a greenish cast; it did not feel like indoors, yet it was not outdoors either. It most certainly was not Bag End, and he had been having the most peculiar dreams. And his head ached abominably.
“Where am I, and what is the time?” he asked.
“You are in the tent of Thranduil, the King of the Elves of Mirkwood; it is two o’ clock in the afternoon, and you have slept the clock round.”
“Gandalf?” Bilbo asked. He tried to sit up, but felt too dizzy and weak to make the effort. “What happened to me?”
“My dear Bilbo! You took quite a nasty knock upon the head during the battle, though you were too busy to notice!”
“But I was wearing a helm! And I woke up and went to--to--” his voice faltered, for he did not wish to remember the scene at Thorin’s deathbed just yet.
“You may have been wearing a helm, Bilbo Baggins,” said an unfamiliar voice, “nevertheless you were hit hard enough to be rendered unconscious. And I daresay that was not the first time you hit your head recently.”
Bilbo turned to look at his other side. There stood a tall and imposing and unfamiliar Elf. His face was composed and almost stern, but his eyes were kindly. “Wh-who--”
“I am Guilin, personal healer to Thranduil, King of the Elves of the Great Wood. It is an honor to be of service to you, Bilbo Baggins.”
Bilbo licked his dry lips, and said weakly, “And I am at your service, Guilin. Though it is of little use at the moment.”
“You have already rendered great service not only to me, but to all the Elves here! Had it not been for your bravery and quick wits, the Enemy would have arrived to find all the Free Folk who should have been united against them at one another’s throats.”
Bilbo’s eyes sparked with tears. He found it hard to think of what he had done that way. He had done the best he could, yet still, so many lay dead…
The Elf sat down upon the cot, at Bilbo’s side. “Now, about that other knock upon the head--you *have* had another recently, have you not?” He took Bilbo’s wrist as he spoke. “One that was sufficient to render you unconscious?”
“Well, yes. When the goblins captured us beneath the mountains, and we were escaping, I struck my head.”
“Ah, I see.” Guilin nodded sagely, and took up a candle, and peered closely into Bilbo’s eyes.
Bilbo submitted to this quietly, trying not to blink.
“How many fingers am I holding up?”
Bilbo stared intently--one--no, two--no, one, after all. Or was it? “I’m not sure,” he said hesitantly.
“Ah.” The Elf nodded again.
There was a brief silence. Bilbo felt quite exhausted by the short conversation. The Elf stood up, and placed a hand on Bilbo’s head. Bilbo felt a comforting warmth, and the pain receded. As he drifted off to sleep, he could hear Guilin speaking with Gandalf…
“And how is he?” asked Gandalf, worry in his tone.
“I believe he is mildly concussed. He should be fine with a few days of rest.”
“That is good. I am really rather fond of the little fellow…” But Bilbo heard no more, for sleep finally claimed him.
It was the lovely smell of mushroom soup that brought him next to wakefulness. He blinked and opened his eyes.
“Ah, Mr. Baggins! You have awakened. We were just going to wake you up for your supper!”
It was Bombur and Bofur who stood by his cot, a large tray with a generous bowl of steaming soup and a chunk of yeasty-smelling bread. Bilbo pushed himself back upon the pillows, halting briefly as a wave of dizziness came over him. It soon passed.
“Mushroom soup!” he exclaimed. “Oh thank you! Wherever did you come by it?”
“The Men of Laketown had some stores of stuff they had brought along with their army. They made it with dried mushrooms. But the bread is freshly baked,” said Bofur.
“It’s quite good,” said Bombur. “They fed many in the encampment.”
Bilbo looked in dismay at the huge bowl and giant spoon. “I’m not sure I can handle that,” he said sadly.
“We thought of that,” answered Bofur. He drew forth a mug of Dwarven make--larger than hobbits used at home, but still easier for Bilbo to manage than the tools of Men. The Dwarf carefully spooned some of the soup into the mug and handed it to Bilbo, who sipped from it appreciatively. Bombur broke off a bit of the bread and buttering it lavishly, handed it to Bilbo.
The two did not try to make conversation, but allowed Bilbo to concentrate on his meal. He was surprised to realize that he was quite hungry! But then, it seemed his belly had been quite empty for more than a day! For a moment, he wondered if he would be able to keep this meal down--but he could feel no signs of his stomach’s rebelling yet.
When he had quite finished--and he was able to drink all the soup, though he could not quite manage all the bread--Bombur took the mug from him, and Bofur handed him a goblet.
“That Elf said you were to drink this; it’s some sort of draught of herbs and wine.”
Bombur sniffed. “If you don’t wish to drink it, we won’t say anything. There’s no telling what might be in an Elf-draught,” he said suspiciously.
“Hush, Bombur!” said Bofur. “It’s medicine! He’s a healer, even if he is an Elf. Besides, Gandalf trusts him!”
Bilbo took the goblet reluctantly. Medicine usually tasted rather foul, but Guilin had been kind to him so far, so he did not wish to disappoint the healer. He screwed his face up and took a sip--and was surprised to realize that it did not taste bad at all! It was a good sweet wine, and though he could definitely tell that herbs had been steeped in it, it was neither bitter nor foul. He drank it appreciatively.
Bombur and Bofur collected the items up on the tray, just as the tent flap opened, and the Elf-king, followed by Gandalf, entered.
The two Dwarves stood up, and giving a very stiff nod of the head to the Elf-king, made a wordless exit, carrying the tray away with them.
Thranduil sighed. “Stiff-necked Dwarves! They still have not forgiven me for my imprisonment of them! Yet I ask you, Mithrandir, what else was I to have done with strangers in my Realm?”
Gandalf shook his head. “There are too many years of suspicion between the Elves and the Dwarves to put all right overnight.” He said something else, in the Elven tongue, and Thranduil nodded sagely. Bilbo was fascinated! What a lovely language it was! He remembered those weeks in the Wood-elves’ caverns, and how he had longed to know what they were speaking and singing about among themselves. He wondered if he could ever learn to speak their tongue?
The two turned their attention to Bilbo, who was at the moment, feeling very small and insignificant.
“Master Baggins,” said the Elf-king, “I hope that you are beginning to feel somewhat better.”
Bilbo blushed to be so kindly addressed by the King. “I am, thanks to you, and to your healer, Master Guilin. I am more grateful than you can know for your care of me. But I am sorry to be putting you out--I was told this is your tent! Perhaps you could find some humbler place to put me?”
Thranduil smiled and shook his head. “You are not putting me out, Master Baggins, for I will scarcely spend time here now the battle is over. It was useful when we were planning strategy, but I do not need to sleep in the same way as you mortals.”
“Oh. Well, thank you very much again, for your hospitality.” He bit his lip. “I am sure that there are those who are more sorely wounded, and who deserve this bed more than I.”
Gandalf chuckled. “My dear Bilbo! There are indeed those who are more sorely wounded--they already have accommodations, and are being treated for their injuries. But you are the hero of the hour, my dear hobbit!”
Bilbo looked astonished. “What? For allowing myself to get hit on the head with a stone?” He started to shake his head, but it made him feel dizzy, so he stopped, and said instead. “Why, I did not even fight a single stroke during the entire battle! Not that I would have been of any use if I did, for I most certainly don’t know how to wield a sword properly!”
Thranduil looked at Gandalf in amazement. “Does he really not understand how great his accomplishment was? Are all his people so humble?”
Gandalf laughed. “Hobbits are modest creatures, true. It‘s not the way of his people to boast.” He turned an eye on Bilbo. “Guilin has told us that you are to rest in bed for another day or two. We will be here for a fortnight while the wounded recuperate. I suggest you get some rest now.”
Bilbo wanted to object that he had slept more than enough already, but found himself yawning instead.
In the morning, his breakfast was brought to him by Dori, Ori, Oín, and Gloín. It consisted of bread, cheese, fruit and a small mug of ale--not what he would have thought breakfast food in the Shire, but welcome, nonetheless. He noticed that Ori sported a bandage about his head, and Gloín had his left arm in a sling.
At first the Dwarves conversed with him, but Bilbo made the mistake of asking Ori and Gloín how they had come by their injuries. They began to recount their fights during the battle, and all four began to discuss each blow they had taken or landed, with many gestures. When Gloín described in enthusiastic detail how he had taken the head of the goblin who had injured his shield arm Bilbo began to feel a bit green. He was much relieved when Gandalf’s arrival sent his Dwarf friends away.
Gandalf drew out his pipe, and found Bilbo’s among his things, which lay carefully at the foot of his cot. They shared a smoke, and some nice gossip, as the wizard recounted the story of Bilbo’s Uncle Isengar, who had run off to sea in his youth. Bilbo slowly drifted off to the sound of Gandalf’s voice.
Before he left, the wizard placed a large hand on Bilbo’s curly head, and murmured “Sleep well, my friend.”
Bilbo spent that day in his bed, alternately sleeping, and entertaining visitors. In addition to each of the Dwarves with whom he had travelled,
“I thought,” said Bilbo, “that you did not much care for company.”
The huge Man laughed, and said “No more do I, when they are uninvited! But you have an invitation this time, my brave little friend!”
Finally, he had his supper, brought him on a tray, this time by Balin, who kept him company and visited with him afterwards.
They were just finishing up a pleasant smoke when Guilin entered, bearing a goblet of the same draught Bilbo had been given the night before. Once more he took the hobbit’s wrist, peered into his eyes, and held up fingers in front of his face. This time his exclamations of “Ah!” seemed to be those of pleased surprise.
“Well, Bilbo Baggins,” the healer said finally, “I am most pleased with your progress! I do believe that after tonight, you may be up, and go out and about. Do take it easy for the first few days however! No strenuous exertions for a while! And you may still have headaches from time to time for a few weeks. Do not hesitate to seek me out for a pain draught if you do. I am most impressed at how quickly you are mending.”
Bilbo nodded, as he drank the draught gratefully.
The next morning, Bilbo gathered up his things, and made his thanks to the Elf-king. “I am most grateful to you for your care, but I think that I will go and stay among the Dwarves, with my companions from our journey, for once we leave, it will be long ere I see my Dwarf friends again.”
“I understand,” responded Thranduil, with a kindly gleam in his eye. “And you and Mithrandir--that you call Gandalf--will be stopping with us on your homeward journey. I will look forward to actually *seeing* you there, this time,” he added wryly.
Bilbo laughed, and was startled to realize it was the first time he had laughed since the battle. Perhaps all would be well after all.
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