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Keep Him Secret, Keep Him Safe  by shirebound

Thank you to the folks at the Stories of Arda Yahoo group and to Fiondil for Elvish advice.

Keep Him Secret, Keep Him Safe

Chapter Eight: Making Progress

“And after all, sir,” added Sam, “you did ought to take the Elves’ advice.  Gildor said you should take them as was willing, and you can’t deny it.”

“I don’t deny it,” said Frodo, looking at Sam, who was now grinning.  “I don’t deny it, but I’ll never believe you are sleeping again, whether you snore or not.”  ‘A Conspiracy Unmasked’, The Fellowship of the Ring

Aragorn had been back in bed and peacefully asleep for about an hour when Gimli and Legolas arrived at the beech grove.  The horse-drawn wagon contained several full baskets, a number of buckets, and a sealed keg, all packed within a large structure that took up most of the space: the bathing tub crafted for Aragorn’s use when the encampment had been set up.  Éomer unhitched the horses while Legolas and Gimli passed the baskets, buckets, and keg down to Elladan and Elrohir.

Sam, Merry, and Pippin paused in the preparations for their guests to watch the unloading, but Frodo remained inside the tent, loathe to leave lest Aragorn wake and need anything.  He sat at the table slicing carrots, humming a soft tune.

Last to arrive was Gandalf, and Pippin quickly ran back inside the tent to grab a carrot for Shadowfax.  The wizard drew from his robe a leather pouch containing a sheaf of written messages from many of the wounded Men, all wishing the Ring-bearer a swift recovery and bearing respectful greetings for the King.  He handed the packet to Sam, who solemnly took it to Frodo.

Legolas murmured soft words to the horses, and guided them in pulling the tub down from the wagon and across the grass.  At the very place where Frodo and Sam had awakened, beneath the sheltering beech trees, it was slid atop four thick posts which Gimli had earlier hammered into the ground.  The tub came to rest securely atop the low supports, which encircled a deep hole into which firewood had already been piled.

As the sun set, three Elves, one Dwarf, Éomer, Merry, and even Gandalf formed a line from the nearby stream and passed buckets along until the tub was more than half full of water.  The sight of such unlikely companions, doing such unlikely labor, would have made anyone pause in amazement had the grove not been off-limits to any casual visitors.  When all was ready, Legolas lit a fire in the pit.

“Well done, everyone,” Merry declared, wiping his brow.  The coolness of the evening air felt wonderful.

As Pippin was not yet fully recovered from his injuries, he had been excused from 'tub duty', as he called it; but when the number of peas Sam had declared he needed had been shelled, he stood up, brushed off his hands, and joined the others.

The arrival of fresh produce (and the keg) had been greeted with delight, but it was the bathing tub that truly caused Pippin's eyes to sparkle.  He walked all around it twice, munching thoughtfully on a ripe plum.  The tub was large and square, built of sturdy lumber, and the bottom was bound with thin sheets of iron so the fire would not set it ablaze.

“Well, Pip?” Merry asked in amusement.  “Does everything meet with your approval?”

“Aye,” the young hobbit replied.  “However, one can never be too certain. Strider should be protected from anything dangerous, you know; perhaps someone should test it first?”

“Such as his courageous esquire?” Éomer asked with a straight face.

“Indeed, my lord, such hazardous duty should not be asked of anyone else,” Pippin agreed, bowing low.

“Don’t you think Strider’s already tested this thing several times by now?” Merry chuckled.

“As a matter of fact, he has not,” Elrohir said, gathering up the empty buckets.

“He hasn’t?” Merry asked, aghast.

“He has bathed, of course,” Elladan said hastily, “in the stream, as have we all.”

“This wonderful tub has gone unused all these weeks?” Pippin frowned.  “What a waste.”

“It is about to be used,” Elrohir said, catching Elladan’s eye.  “The water is growing warm enough.  Shall we wake him?”

“No need,” Elladan said, motioning towards the tent.  Frodo was standing in the entrance, waving at them.  “That is the signal.  Let us prepare for battle, my brother.”


Sam had been pulling nicely-browned loaves from the hearth, rooting out from their supply crates enough platters, bowls, and cups for eleven people, and talking quietly with Frodo. As their conversation turned to the need for good Shire ’taters in the South, and how they might be shipped, Aragorn’s eyes slowly opened.  Frodo was instantly at his side, grasping his hand in relief.

“Frodo?” Aragorn asked with a confused frown.  “What time is it?”

“Nearly suppertime,” Frodo replied.

Frodo's face looked pale and drawn, and Aragorn's heart pained him to see it.

“I am sorry you are confined here, my friend,” he said.  “I would that you were out in the sunshine.”

“I don't mind,” Frodo assured him. “I'm enjoying the quiet, truly.  You look so much better; are you ready to eat something yet?”

“If supper tastes as good as it smells, I am more than ready,” Aragorn said, causing Sam to beam with delight. “When is the last time I had a full meal?” he mused.

“I don't know,” Frodo said, squeezing his hand anxiously. “But you'll make up for it tonight, if your brothers will let you.  We're having a feast!  There's a bath ready for you first, though.”

Aragorn stared at him.  “Gimli hasn’t built another tub, has he?”

“No, sir,” Sam smiled.  “They brought yours down from camp.  Mr. Frodo, wait until you see it.  Such a lovely large thing.”

“Is it?” Frodo asked wistfully.  “Oh Sam, when did we last have a long, hot soak?”

“Please forgive me, Frodo,” Aragorn said contritely.  “I have been meaning to tell all of you about that tub, and extend an invitation to use it anytime you wish.”

“May we really?” Sam asked eagerly. 

“Of course.  It would hold four hobbits comfortably.  In fact, I think we should leave it here in the grove.”

“That would be splendid,” Frodo said.  “Now don’t try to go anywhere; I need to let Elladan and Elrohir know you’re awake.”

“I don’t need anyone to--” Aragorn started to speak, but to his surprise, and Frodo’s, Sam stepped forward.

“There’s no shame in being carried, Strider,” Sam said firmly.  “Mr. Frodo let me carry him for a bit out there, and sometimes you need your friends to get where you’re going, if you take my meaning.”  Worried that he might be overstepping his bounds, he turned away abruptly.

“He's absolutely right,” Frodo said with a gentle smile.  He walked over to Sam and put a hand on his arm.  “We all need help from time to time, don’t we?  Without you, dear Sam, it all would have been for nothing.”

“You carried that foul thing all the way from the Shire, sir,” Sam protested.  “It was just there at the end, that...” His voice broke, and Frodo embraced him in silence before stepping to the front of the tent and waving to someone.

Aragorn lay quietly, realizing that he had been acting like a petulant child.  When had he become too proud to accept help?

When Éomer and the twins entered the tent, Elrohir announcing jovially that it was bath time, Aragorn simply nodded in agreement, causing the Elf to cry out in alarm.

“What is this?  Such compliance can only mean delirium or fever!”

Elladan, too, looked puzzled, but only for a moment.  He had suspected that the hobbits would be a good influence, and apparently something had occurred to prove him correct.  He gave Aragorn a drink, then straightened, his eyes twinkling.

“I advise you to remove your trousers here.”

“He's right, Strider,” Sam agreed, setting a pile of towels on the bed.  “It's more practical.”

“There is not a shred of dignity to be found in this tent,” Aragorn sighed resignedly, winking at the hobbits. He tried to look put-out, but failed miserably, causing Frodo to giggle. 

“I fear your life is about to consist of nothing but dignity,” Éomer remarked.  “Enjoy this respite while you may.”  He looked more closely at his friend’s smiling face.  “You are enjoying this, aren’t you?”

“Nonsense,” Aragorn insisted.  “Still... there is nothing quite like the company of hobbits.  They teach me a great deal.”  His voice grew soft.  “There were many times during these past weeks when I feared I would never again hear such sweet laughter.”

Sam blushed, but Frodo’s reaction was unexpected.  Reminded again of his and Sam's long sleep, and what it had cost Aragorn to ensure their healing, he felt tears welling up and hastily turned away.

“Frodo, did I say something to upset you?” Aragorn asked.

“It’s nothing,” Frodo said.  When he turned back, he was smiling once more, and eager to change the subject.  He looked up at Elladan.  “My friend, I am glad that you are so free with helpful suggestions.  I thought most Elves were like Gildor, believing that advice is a dangerous gift to share.”

“It is,” Elladan said.  “However, among friends and relations one can be a bit less cautious.”

“You met Gildor, Frodo?” Elrohir asked curiously.  “I had not heard that story.  I have not seen him for many a year.”

“Aye, on our way out of the Shire,” Sam said.  “He’s the one who told Mr. Frodo to take them as was willing on his road.”

“When we all thought you were asleep,” Frodo teased.  “I’ve never trusted you since.”

“Now, sir, I’ve caught you awake many a time when you shouldn’t ought to be,” Sam defended himself.

“That’s true,” Frodo admitted.  “It’s difficult for me to fall asleep as quickly as before.”

“Wait a moment,” Aragorn said to Elladan, who was stooping to gather him into his arms.  “I think I can manage to at least sit up on my own.”  The dizziness was subsiding, but not quickly enough to suit him.  He slowly sat up in bed, swaying just a bit.

“Well done,” Elrohir said.  “Perhaps we will allow you to walk, if you will allow us to assist.”

“Agreed,” Aragorn said with relief.

“You’re recovering so fast, Strider,” Sam said with admiration.

“As are you and Frodo,” Aragorn smiled at him.

“Thanks to you,” Frodo whispered, so quietly only an Elf could have heard it.

Si henion,” Elladan murmured.  He stared at Frodo for a moment, comprehension dawning in his mind.

While Aragorn wriggled out of his clothing, then secured the largest towel about his waist, the hobbits discreetly busied themselves talking with Éomer.

“Come, Elrohir,” Elladan said heartily, “let us escort our brother outside, and see that he does not dawdle.  The hobbits wish to feast and hear songs, and then enjoy the King’s Bath for themselves.”

Elrohir found fresh clothing, gathered up the towels, then helped support Aragorn as he rose shakily to his feet.

“I do not see why that would not work, Samwise,” Éomer was saying as the trio left the tent.  “I will consult with a master farmer when I return to Rohan about the hardiest varieties of trees.”

Frodo sighed.  Somehow, Sam had steered the conversation toward whether or not lemon trees would grow in Shire hothouses.

“Is something amiss, my friend?” Éomer asked.

Frodo was suddenly unable to keep a reluctant smile from his lips. He shook his head, and clasped Sam on the shoulder.

“Not at all, Éomer.  If I have learned one thing on my travels, it is that when Samwise Gamgee gets his heart set on something, it would take a more courageous hobbit than myself to get in his way.”


Once outside the tent, Elladan made sure they were well beyond the range of any hobbit's hearing before he stopped walking.

“I believe I know what is bothering Frodo.  He said he's having difficulty falling asleep, and appears so distressed whenever he looks at you...”

“What is it?” Aragorn demanded.

“He must have heard us,” Elladan replied, his eyes troubled.  “Estel, yesterday evening after the hobbits went to their rest, Elrohir and I sat talking about all you had endured over the past months.  I fear Frodo was not asleep, as we assumed.”

“But why are you concerned?  He could not have understood you,” Aragorn said.  “His knowledge of Sindarin is limited at best.”

“We were not speaking in Sindarin... or Quenya,” Elrohir said apologetically.  “We have become accustomed, while amongst Men, to speak in Westron.  Our voices were low, but if I am correct about this... not low enough.”

“What did he hear?” Aragorn asked in alarm, quickly glancing back towards the tent.

“Everything,” Elladan sighed.  “We spoke of your trials and how exhausted you had become... and how you further depleted yourself ensuring that he and Sam might return to us.”

“That explains it,” Aragorn said grimly.  “He is feeling responsible for what happened to me.  That, added to the guilt he has already admitted in knowing that his cousins and best friend were injured and nearly killed...”  He gazed fervently at Elladan.  “It is very important that you locate athelas... the sooner the better.”

Elladan nodded.  “Elrohir, will you search with me this night, after we leave the hobbits?  The scent of the plants will be stronger in the darkness.”

“Of course,” Elrohir replied.  He looked stricken.  The thought that he might have played a part in causing Frodo distress lay heavily on his heart.

** TBC **

“Si henion” -- “I understand now.”

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