Gift of the Valar - Chapter 15: Changing of the guard

Later that afternoon the old healer said his farewells to his niece and rumbled off in an aging cart, behind an even older looking pony. Bilbo couldn't help but notice how his friend had aged in the past weeks, his formerly ruddy face having become quite pale and thin. ' He just needs time out and about I expect' Bilbo thought to himself 'we all do...'

Chrysanthamum waved her final farewell from the door of Bag End and feeling a little lost turned to make her way back into the hole when she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Come lass, have a cup of tea with your Uncles' old friend" the elder hobbit said with forced cheer...he too would miss the old healer.

"Thank you kindly Sir" Chrysanthamum said quietly as she followed him into the kitchen of Bag End. She stopped before she'd fully entered the room to ask " Had I better not check on Mr. Frodo first Sir?" "No, no...he's quite alright...sleeping sound as a babe, your Uncle's last sleeping draught really did 'em in..." Bilbo said and added as he saw a look of doubt cross the hobbit lass's face " I did just check on him a moment ago....come now my dear ...sit." he said as he directed her to a chair by the hearth. He fetched the kettle from the hearth and carefully poured the steaming hot water into the two cups set before him. Bilbo sat across from her and as he placed the tea in each cup to steep he slid a cup towards her.

Chrysanthamum looked at the delicate cup, nothing this fine had ever been made in the Shire of that she was certain. She started a bit as she noticed that the elderly gentlehobbit was beginning to speak. "Now, my dear Chrysanthamum I want you to know that I've known your Uncle for a good many years and I do very much appreciate him entrusting his treasure to me."

He paused a moment in his comment and she stared at him, a questioning look in her eye. When Bilbo realized she did not comprehend his subtle compliment he began again. "You dear, you are his treasure and I am trying to tell you how very grateful I am that you will help Frodo in his recovery." He paused to take a sip of tea " Of all my many friends your Uncle understands best the special place that Frodo holds in my heart." He took another sip and continued "You two" he tilted his greying curls in the direction of Frodo's room "have a lot in common...but you'll discover that about him I suspect."

Bilbo paused in his speech long enough to take a good look at the lass before him.She was interesting to look upon, not beautiful by hobbit standards, she was too thin to be considered comely by many. Bilbo was intrigued by her. She was simply dressed, yet all was neat and and well made. Her long auburn curls shimmered in the glow of the late afternoon sun, and her eyes...her eyes were a tawny red-gold that matched the shade of her hair to perfection. High cheekbones and a delicately long nose drew attention to her softly rounded chin and somewhat thin lips. He noted with amusement that she had a bad habit of chewing those lips as he saw how chapped they were.

She reminded him of a delicate woodland animal, shy and full of caution for the world about her...yet strong enough to fend for herself. He found himself wondering if Samwise had not been right...and vaguely feared that issues of propriety might arise. Then he smiled to himself...'not my boy, why he's never so much as looked at a hobbit lass...unless she was carrying a book that he fancied'. He sighed quietly and continued his musings 'as sick as the poor lad is now, well I'd not imagine he'd have the strength for making new social contacts'. He took another sip of his tea then rose to fetch the kettle and freshened the tea in both of their cups.

"I want you to know lass" Bilbo began kindly " that there are two types of hobbits under the roof at Bag End...Baggins' and dear friends of the Baggins'. I don't hold to notions of master and servant, but rather friend helping friend. Especially in your case my dear."

"Thank you kindly Mr. Baggins" Chrysanthamum said politely as she fiddled nervously with her spoon. "Now lass, I believe we can dispense with the 'Mr.' portion of that title. Can you not just call me Bilbo as your Uncle does?" The elderly hobbit asked gently. Chrysanthamum shifted uncomfortably in her seat and looked down at her hands. It felt odd to her to call this elderly gentlehobbit by his first name. She struck on a compromise "Can I not address you as 'Mr. Bilbo' the way that Sam does?" she asked hopefully.

Bilbo threw up his hands in mock defeat 'this lass is going to be very single minded' he thought and then said "Yes, yes you may call me 'Mr. Bilbo' ...that will do quite nicely for now." Chrysanthamum sighed in relief and sipped her tea. After an awkward moment of silence she asked "How do you find young Mr. Baggins..." she paused as Bilbo stared at her a moment "Ah...I mean Mr. Frodo's recovery so far?"

Bilbo smiled gently at the lass, he could see she was clearly feeling nervous and out of place. "Well to be quite honest I find this recovery to be very difficult, I am worried about the lad's state of mind." He looked thoughtfully at his teacup a moment before continuing "While his waking moments have been very brief so far...and perhaps it's too soon to tell...well, I'm worried that he's not the same Frodo who fell into the pond." Chrysanthamum saw the genuine concern that Bilbo was feeling...she could see it in the way he pursed his lips and kept making fists with his hands. She waited for him to continue. "He seems confused and Sam said that he didn't even seem to know who Sam was. I suppose with a head injury a certain amount of disorientation is to be expected but" the greying hobbit paused and looked thoughtfully out the kitchen window " I do find myself wondering when the clever, impish and inquisitive lad I used to know will return to us." Bilbo sighed heavily and Chrysanthamum was not surprised to see a tear trickle down his flushed cheek.

Chrysanthamum impulsively reached over and grabbed Bilbo's hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze as she said with great intensity "I will do all I can to help heal his body and his mind Mr. Bilbo." She looked deep into his eyes " I owe him much and he'll live to hear and appreciate my gratitude of that ye can rest assured." Bilbo was heartened by the strength and commitment in her voice and he found himself thinking 'by the stars, this one'll not be Frodo's in good hands of that I'm certain'. "Thank you my dear... your Uncle's sleeping draught'll be wearing off soon...perhaps you could go check on the lad."

Crysanthamum wordlessly got up to go when Bilbo's voice stopped her "er, your name is lovely you know, but sometimes the daily wear and tear of things makes me there not a shorter way I may refer to you?" he asked hesitantly. Chrysanthamum paused a moment "My Da called me Chrys" she said sadly and with a soothing swish of her skirts she was gone.

Chrys entered Frodo's room in time to see him struggle from his drugged slumber. He lay, head and upper body propped up by many pillows. There were layers of bandages wrapped about his head with dressings on his throat as well. She noted that his hands were still bandaged but felt that soon she'd be able to reduce the wrappings there. She brought a cup of water to his bedside, hoping that she'd be able to help him swallow. Her Uncle had prepared her for the importance of this step in his healing so she'd prepared a soothing lotion of lavendar and comfrey to massage into his throat as he learned to swallow again. She watched to see if his eyes would open, she was anxious to put her skills to the test. She didn't have long to wait as in a few moments he blinked weakly in the glare of the sun coming from his window. She moved closer to him and with her body blocking the glare of the late day sun he at long last opened his eyes fully.

Frodo fought his way towards the warmth from the depth of his sleep, the sun was so bright it hurt his eyes at first....then the pain was gone as the light faded. He opened his eyes fully and found himself staring into the warmest eyes he'd ever seen. He was startled by their proximity and involuntarily moved away. The voice belonging to the eyes made soothing sounds and spoke words to him he did not understand. He gradually grew to understand that the eyes belonged to a lass and that they wanted to help ease his many hurts and discomforts. She held a cup of water to his his lips and he opened them to take the water into his mouth....his throat felt like fire and his tongue thick and unweildy...he coughed weakly...the water would be welcome.

Chrys held the cup to his lips...."here ye go Mr. Frodo...that's it jest try a little now." He opened his lips and as the water entered his mouth she saw from the distressed look upon his face that something was wrong. She put the cup down and reached for the lotion as his eyes got bigger and bigger.

The water was a miracle in his mouth, he wanted to cry with the pleasure of the moistness....when he suddenly realized he did not know where it should go after it was in his mouth. 'down' he thought 'I need to send it down my throat'. He started to panic as he realized his muscles would not do what his mind commanded. Then he felt the softness of lotion and the silky feel of downward strokes upon his neck. He looked gratefully into the warm eyes as somehow her touch and his mind together made
his muscles work.

With a sigh of relief Chrys realized she'd gotten him to swallow. She wanted to dance about the room and laugh with the joy of it...for she knew this was the step her Uncle'd feared most. 'I did it' she thought, then she looked down at the gratitude eminating from the beautiful blue eyes below her and she thought 'we did it'.

They continued this way, a small sip...soothing strokes...bigger sip and more soothing strokes until Frodo had finished the entire cup.

With each sip Frodo felt his strength returning. He knew he should do something else with his lips, he felt his tongue loosen and his muscles start to relax...'talk' he thought 'I can talk with my lips.' He opened his mouth to try and speak but not a sound came out. He tried again and the warm eyes sat there patiently waiting. "mani naa essa en lle?" (what is your name?) he whispered, his voice barely audible. The eyes looked startled.

Chrys, still feeling the success of their swallowing, waited to see if Frodo would try the next step. She watched his face carefully for signs of pain or discomfort but saw only a look of fierce concentration, the wrinkles in the corner of his eyes a telling sign of his efforts. She watched as he exhaled forcefully and waited for sounds to travel on his breaths....but no sounds came. She was about to offer him more water when she heard his hoarse voice ask her a question.

Frodo waited and the face with the warm eyes made noises with her lips. He could not tell if what she used were words but he liked the tone of her voice. The warm eyed face tried again "Amin essa naa Chrys" ( my name is Chrys) she said. "Chrys" his voice sounded harsh to his ears "Diole lle" ( thank you) he whispered.

Chrys was startled by his use of elvish, she'd not thought that any hobbits in the Shire knew the tongue of the fair folks, aside from Bilbo of course. She tried to speak to him in common tongue and received only blank gazes in return. 'right enough' she thought 'elvish it is' and she continued to introduce herself.

Frodo looked into the warm eyes of the hobbit lass named Chrys...he must tell her one more thing before the world of dreams took him once again. He opened his mouth, speaking was such an effort and he was so very tired...the words came slowly "Amin essa naa Frodo"(my name is Frodo) he said with great effort, then licking his dry lips uttered one last thought "Amin anta est" ( I need to rest). as his eyes closed in exhaustion.

Chrys watched her patient become more and more weary...the effort of speech was too much for him. She listened to his final words and watched his eyelids close one last time as sleep claimed him. "Lle ume quel Frodo" ( you did well Frodo) she whispered as she gently stroked his chin.

From the shadow of the doorway Bilbo watched with tears in his eyes. 'Praise Arda' he thought 'he's coming home'.

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