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Keep Him Secret, Keep Him Safe  by shirebound

My thanks to SurgicalSteel for advice about suitable drinks in Middle-earth that would help with dehydration.

Keep Him Secret, Keep Him Safe

Chapter Five: In the Keeping of the Hobbits

“In that hour I looked on Aragorn and thought how great and terrible a Lord he might have become in the strength of his will, had he taken the Ring to himself.  Not for naught does Mordor fear him.  But nobler is his spirit than the understanding of Sauron; for is he not of the children of Lúthien?”  ‘The Last Debate’, The Return of the King

Aragorn opened his eyes to see Gandalf smiling down at him.

“There you are,” the wizard said.  He slid a hand behind Aragorn’s head and lifted it slightly, then tipped a mug to the man’s lips. “Your brothers said you might wake periodically.  You must drink, my friend, unless your stomach will not yet permit it.  Frodo mentioned that you hadn’t been eating, and were nauseated.  You haven’t been drinking much either, have you?  That’s right, good lad.”  He nodded encouragingly.

Lulled by the wizard’s soft words, Aragorn cautiously sipped the warm beverage, noting the tastes of beef, herbs, and salt -- one of the drinks that healers gave dehydrated patients.  His stomach was still unsettled, but he found himself to be desperately thirsty.  Gazing past the wizard’s beard into the semi-darkness, he could make out several hobbits sleeping on the ground next to a fire.  Perhaps he was still asleep?  Gandalf set down the mug and lowered his head gently back onto the pillow.

“I was dreaming about Weathertop,” Aragorn said, “but it was I who was wounded and cold.  Frodo was speaking to me... holding my hand...”

“He hoped you might know he was nearby, lending comfort,” Gandalf smiled.  “How do you feel?”

“My head hurts... dizzy.”  Aragorn realized that he was in a tent, lit only by a hearth and candles.  He peered into the semi-darkness.  “Where is Andúril?”

Gandalf chuckled.  “Sir Peregrin has appointed himself its temporary guardian.  You should be very proud of him.”

“Of course I am.”  Aragorn tried to raise his head, but could not.  He felt completely confused and disoriented.  “I cannot think clearly.  Did someone give me poppy?”

“Your sleep has been deep enough without it... and will be again in a few minutes, I suspect.”

Aragorn frowned; nothing was making any sense.

“This is the hobbits’ tent, is it not?  What am I doing here?”

“So many questions,” Gandalf chuckled.  “You have been spending far too much time with hobbits.”

“Why are they not in their beds?”

One of them is,” Gandalf said, pointing.  Aragorn looked down, and suddenly realized that the warm weight pressing against him was Frodo.  The hobbit was curled tightly at his side, deeply asleep, one hand clinging to his own.  There wasn’t enough light to see more.

“Is he hurt?” Aragorn asked anxiously, fighting to stay awake.  His arm curled protectively around Frodo.  “Did he fall from Roheryn?  I never should have let him go.”

“No, he was not hurt,” Gandalf said gently.  “However, the Men in camp believe that he is ill.  It is good of you to tend him so devotedly.”

“You speak in riddles,” Aragorn murmured.  The effort to decipher what the wizard was talking about was too much for him. His eyes fluttered closed as he was slowly pulled back downwards into sleep.  “I... I must...”

“You must only rest,” Gandalf said softly.  His hand lingered a moment on the Ring-bearer’s dark curls.  He glanced over at the other hobbits, wrapped in their blankets, and smiled.

“Those who care for you will see to it.”


Frodo was having a lovely dream.  He was nestled tightly within one of the barrels floating down the river to Long Lake, but instead of being cramped and hungry, as Bilbo had told him the Dwarves were, it was well-padded and perfectly comfortable.  Better yet, it was filled with the delicious smells of bacon, scrambled eggs, and toasted bread.  But just as he was reaching for his fork, the barrel flooded with light and broke apart.  He gasped and thrashed, expecting to be dumped into cold water at any moment.

“Mr. Frodo, wake up!”  Sam’s voice was hushed, but insistent.

Frodo opened his eyes to find Sam’s anxious face peering at him.

“Sam, what are you doing here?” Frodo asked frantically.  “Where’s Bilbo?”

“He is safely in my father’s House,” said a gentle voice from somewhere behind him.

Frodo relaxed.  He was perfectly comfortable, and delicious smells did permeate the air.  One side of the tent had been rolled up, letting in sunlight and a warm breeze.  The sounds of birdsong filled the air, and he was relieved to realize that the storm was over.

“I’m all right, Sam; it was just a dream,” Frodo said reassuringly.  He spoke softly, so as not to disturb Aragorn.  “Did everyone sleep all right?”  he felt a sudden pang of guilt that he had spent the night in a soft bed while his fellow hobbits slept on the ground.

“We slept like logs, Mr. Frodo.  Don't you worry about that one more moment.”  Sam took a good look at his master, insisted on feeling his forehead, then smiled and moved back to the hearth.

Frodo turned his head to look at Aragorn.  The Man’s long hair was tangled, and he was slightly pale, but his sleep seemed deep and peaceful.  Frodo started to sit up, his muscles aching from the day on horseback.

“Ohhh,” he groaned.  “I’ll never volunteer to ride on one of those enormous beasts again.”

Elrohir came to sit on the bed next to Frodo.  “If you might lie on your stomach, perhaps I can--”

Frodo smiled and instantly rolled over, and soon was groaning again – with pleasure, as long, skilled fingers massaged his neck, shoulders, and back.  He felt warmth permeating his sore muscles.

“That feels wonderful,” Frodo sighed.  He was nearly asleep again when a clatter of plates brought him back to the present.  His stomach growled, and Elrohir laughed.

“You need your breakfast,” the Elf said, helping Frodo to sit up.

“How is Aragorn?” Frodo asked, gazing at his sleeping friend.

“He should be well in a few days, as long as he is wise enough to rest and regain his strength,” Elrohir replied.

“Come sit down, Frodo,” Pippin said, coming out from behind the crates where he had been changing into his livery.  “Sam made us wait for you to wake up before we could eat.”  He placed a well-padded cushion on one of the chairs with a flourish, and grinned.  “Nothing but the best for a creaky elderly relation.”

“A creaky elder relation, you disrespectful youngster,” Frodo waggled a finger at him.  He slid down from the bed and looked up at Elrohir.  “Thank you, I feel much better.  Have you eaten?”

“Not as yet.  I was planning to--”

“But you must!” Frodo took his hand and pulled him over to the table.  He went outside to the privy, then washed his hands and face before easing himself down on the cushioned seat Pippin had prepared.  “Where’s Merry?”

“Right here,” Merry said, coming inside the tent.  “Wait until you see what Gimli’s building.  He’s hammering away up near the dock so he doesn’t disturb anyone.”  He sniffed the air and smiled.  “Is that bacon?”

“It sure is, sir,” Sam said.  He brought heaping platters over to the table before sitting down next to Frodo.

The hobbits ate as only hobbits – especially those deprived of proper meals for so long – could eat, and Elrohir smiled at the sight.  Frodo looked up at him.

“I was so surprised to see you and Elladan here, in the South,” he said frankly.  “Is anyone else here from Rivendell?”

“Not yet,” Elrohir said cryptically.

“How is Bilbo?” Frodo asked.  “I miss him dreadfully.”

“Did you pass through Lórien on your way here?” Sam ventured.

“What’s it like being a twin?” Pippin asked.  “I think it would be quite jolly.”

It was a long and merry meal, with Elrohir endeavouring to answer questions that flew at him from all directions.  Finally, he pushed back his plate.

“Thank you for allowing me to break my fast with you.  I need to see if Elladan requires any assistance in the healing tents.”

“What should we do when Aragorn wakes?” Frodo asked.

“Encourage him to drink,” Elrohir said.  “Samwise is keeping beef broth warm, and there is lemon-water there.”  He motioned to a pitcher sitting on one of the chests.  “Both are very efficacious for dehydration.”

“No food?” Pippin asked in dismay.

“Soon,” Elrohir said, getting to his feet.

“What’s lemon-water?” Sam asked.

“Oh Sam, you'll love it,” Pippin said enthusiastically.  “It's made from little yellow fruits that make your face squinch up when you eat them.  The drink is very sour, yet very refreshing.”

Sam and Frodo exchanged a look; it was obvious that they had their doubts about how ‘wonderful’ this strange beverage might be.

“My brother or I will return as soon as we can, or we will send Gandalf or Éomer,” Elrohir said.

“We can handle things,” Frodo insisted.

“I have no doubt that you can handle nearly anything, Ring-bearer,” Elrohir said gravely.  “However, should Aragorn need to be assisted to the privy, or bathed...”

Frodo colored slightly.  “I hadn’t thought of that.”

Elrohir suddenly looked around the tent, frowning.

“What’s wrong, sir?” Sam asked.

Elrohir sighed.  “It grieves me to see hobbits confined in any way... even in a tent.”

“I’m the only one ‘confined’,” Frodo reminded him, “and I don’t mind a bit.  I’ve done more walking and wandering to last me for quite awhile.  Besides, I can see the sun and feel the breeze, and there are books, and you said it would only be a few days.”

“Very well,” Elrohir smiled.  Indeed, Frodo looked content and well rested, his eyes bright and alert.  The sunlight streaming into the tent made his dark curls, still rumpled from sleep, seem to sparkle.  It was still difficult to comprehend what he and Samwise... indeed, all four of the hobbits... had endured.

“My friends,” Elrohir said softly, “events have moved very swiftly of late, and I have not yet acknowledged your deeds during this War, which saved many lives from certain death or slavery under the Dark Lord’s dominion.”   His eyes were drawn to Aragorn.  What might have happened to him, had these small folk faltered?  A captive of Sauron... he would have been a prize like no other.  He closed his eyes for a moment, as if in pain.  The last heir of Elendil, my sister’s betrothed and our beloved kinsman, enslaved by the Dark Lord, his noble spirit utterly crushed...

“He’s safe, Elrohir,” Frodo said softly.

“We’ll not leave him alone,” Pippin declared.

“I know.” Elrohir shook off the dreadful images that had plagued his thoughts for months.  He opened his eyes and smiled.  “My heart rejoices that my young brother finds himself a captive only of hobbits.  He may not enjoy this brief confinement as much as you, Frodo, but I suspect he will be much the better for it.”  He bowed deeply, and left.

** TBC **


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