Gift of the Valar - Chapter 22: Visiting Trouble
He looked in his glass to take stock of his appearance, and decided that he was fairly satisfied with what he saw. He'd gained enough weight back to not feel that his clothes'd drop off him. The blue shirt accented the deep color of his eyes and drew attention away from the still pale skin and somewhat shaggy and uneven curls of his hair. He nodded and said " 'twill have to do" as he wondered to himself what Chrys would be wearing that day. ' I hope it's one of her yellow frocks, her hair seems brighter when she's in yellow' he found himself thinking. He paused in his steps on his way out of his room 'I'm thinking of what a lass is wearing? I shall have to ask Bilbo what this means.' he found it curious that he should be thinking in such a fashion but shut the door to his room and wandered down the hall to the kitchen.
He came to the kitchen to find Bilbo bustling about, baking tea cakes, gingerbread and apple tarts. He had breakfast on the table already and had clearly been a wake for a while. Frodo went to get the tea kettle from the hearth "No, no lad, Chrys isn't here so let me see to it. Besides," Bilbo added with a grin "there really are only just enough tea cups left I'm afraid". Frodo smiled sheepishly "I'm truly sorry for my clumsiness Uncle, I'll do better, I promise." Bilbo ruffled his nephews hair as he sat next to him to have breakfast "I don't give a fig for crockery Frodo, I'm just tickled that you've come so far so fast....you gave us all quite a scare you know." Frodo nodded "yes, I am sorry for that as well" he said his eyes suddenly sad at the memory of what he and Bilbo had been through these past months.
"Well, 'tis but a memory....onward as they say" said Bilbo with a quick smile "now, eat up, you'll need strength to deal with those cousins of yours." Frodo nodded, his mouth already full of eggs and fresh baked muffins. Bilbo smiled to see his nephew take seconds before he pushed himself back from the table with a groan "That could be first and second breakfast combined Uncle...it was wonderful!" he said enthuasistically. He was about to add more when there was a sudden knock at the door. Frodo rose to get it.
As Frodo opened the door he was nearly bowled over by two frantic bundles of energy named Merry and Pippin. "Frodo" the both screamed with glee. Merry stepped back from his waist high hug to look carefully at his favorite cousin "you don't look sick, not like my father said you'd be least aways" he said. Frodo smiled and ran his hands through Merry's sandy curls "Why Merry, you know how grown ups exaggerate" he said with a raised eyebrow. Frodo looked down to see his cousin Pippin tugging on his leg "Fwodo, pick me up, I want a hug". Frodo bent down to gather Pippin into his arms and wincing a bit as he stood said "then you shall have a good one my little imp" Frodo gave Pippin a gentle hug and was surprised as Pippin hugged him back with a ferocity that caused him to gasp. Bilbo, noting his nephew's distress rushed forward "Well then, where is my hug Master Took?" he asked smiling. At that Pippin leaped to Bilbo's arms, transferring his loving squeeze to another.
Paladin Took and Saradoc Brandybuck came in and greeted Frodo " why Frodo my boy, you're ten times the hobbit I saw two weeks ago, and I couldn't be happier" said Paladin with a hug "How do you feel then?" Frodo stared into his Uncles eyes and with a smile on his face said " like a new old Frodo I suppose" and he laughed. Saradoc came forward "Why I agree Paladin, this is close to the lad I remember causing such trouble in his scrumping escapades about Framer Maggot's fields." Frodo laughed "Don't remind me Uncle, I am quite certain I shall never again be comfortable around dogs after my experiences with old Maggot." Merry looked to Frodo with confusion "that's not what you said to me Frodo." he said. Frodo turned to Merry "Shhhh" he cautioned with a smile in his eye as his Uncles laughed. Frodo invited his young cousins out into the garden to catch up with Sam.
As they trooped out of the room Saradoc watched Frodo's movements with criticism. "He's better Bilbo, no doubt of that, you've made remarkable progress, but he's still weak and his demeanor has changed. Too much book learning I'd imagine, although I am happy not to be hearing that elvish nonsense." Bilbo felt himself stiffen and he clenched his fist to surpress his rapidly escalating temper, what was it about this gentlehobbit that irritated him so? "Now Saradoc, Frodo deserves the credit for his recovery. He worked long hours each day to gain back his life.....don't be overly critical, for Frodo's sake, please give him a chance." he pleaded.
Paladin agreed "Saradoc, the lad's recovery is remarkable, you must approve of that at least." Saradoc sighed "Bilbo, please don't think me overly critical. I too want what is best for the lad, my Merry is quite fond of him and would like nothing more than to have him back at Brandy Hall..." Bilbo shook his head and interrupted "I'll arrange for Frodo to visit, he was on his way earlier this year..." "Yes, I recall the experience of the blizzard Bilbo" Saradoc said sarcastically. Bilbo continued "I will have Frodo make more frequent visits to Brandy Hall and would enjoy visits from Merry and Pippin as well" he paused to stare at Saradoc, his voice gaining in strength "but Frodo will remain here" he finished with great assurance. "Now Bilbo, my dear hobbit, I understand your wishes....but no decision has been made" Saradoc replied haughtily.
Bilbo walked across the floor to his desk and took from it's confines a roll of parchment tied with a faded red ribbon. "I'm afraid that you are quite wrong about that. You see, I took the liberty of visiting Michel Delving to chat with a friend of mine...who happens to be a clerk in the hall of records." He paused to shake the rolled parchment in Saradoc's face "I found that Drogo and Primula had changed their guardianship documents a week before they died. They have listed Rory and I as co-guardians. It is up to Frodo now to choose his home." Saradoc's eyes were wide with surprise "I must see such a document" he said stonily. Bilbo unrolled the parchment and handed it to the two hobbits before him. Paladin took it and showed Saradoc the five signatures, emblazoned in red, that adorned the bottom of the document. "It is quite in order Saradoc" said Paladin. Saradoc nodded and the room was silent for a moment. Finally, Saradoc had the good grace to seem contrite as he said "I am sorry Bilbo, I'm afraid that we had no idea..." he said awkwardly. "Bilbo clasped Sardoc's shoulder in a gesture of good will "Quite alright Sara, it seems we both sought the same treasure eh?" and laughed.
All of a sudden screams reached them from the garden, Paladin spun about, recognizing instantly the high pitched wail of his son. The three of them raced out the door and through the gate of the garden. Looking through the garden to the Orchard they saw Pippin dangling from a branch high in an apple tree. Paladin froze in fear as he watched his darling son begin to lose his grip. Frodo who'd been standing with Sam at the far end of the orchard saw Pippin's distress and dropping his cane he screamed "hang on Pip" as he ran to the base of the tree. He reached to tree just in time as the screaming Hobbit could hold on no more. With a last wail of "heeeeeelp" Pippin let lose his grip to land squarely in the arms of a breathless Frodo. Frodo was knocked to the ground by the force of Pippins landing and with a loud groan lay back hugging the mischievious Pippin to him.
Sam reached them first, followed by the three very relieved Uncles. Pippin was seated on Frodo's chest happily munching an apple "Look Papa....I got it" he said with a bright smile. Paladin moved forward shaking his head "Pippin, dearheart, what have Mama and I said to you about climbing trees?" Pippin cocked his head to one side "Dunno Papa...what?" "We'll talk about this later Pip, now come on, off of cousin Frodo now, give the lad some room to breathe" Paladin joked, not noticing the pale hobbit's labored breaths. "Thank you Frodo" Paladin said gratefully "I know he can be a scamp, but he is all the son we have." Frodo grimaced in pain, red faced and panting from the exertion of running through the orchard. "I hope the lad is OK, gave me quite a scare he did" Frodo smiled and tried to laugh.
Sam looked down at Frodo, worried that he'd hurt himself in his sprint to the tree. "Mr. Frodo, ye all right then?" he asked. Frodo struggled to sit up, but made no move to stand. He gestured to Sam to come closer "Sam" he whispered "I think I've hurt my ribs agian, help me to stand up." Sam nodded and positioned himself to help as Paladin said "I'd say that Frodo is in fine shape Saradoc, why Bilbo, from the sprint I've just witnessed I say enter him in the footrace at the fair this fall!" and laughed as he picked up a sticky and smiling Pippin to bring to the hole. Sam seeing Frodo's increasing pain caught Bilbo's eye and gestured that he needed his help. Bilbo moved quickly to his nephews other side and helped Sam to pull him to his feet.
Frodo gasped in pain as he opened his eyes wide "put me down...I'd best rest here a bit" he said and smiled weakly "I'm not in the best of shape I'm afraid Uncles." "What's wrong lad?" Bilbo asked "did you hurt yourself with the run?" Bilbo asked with concern. Frodo just nodded. Bilbo ran his hands gently along Frodo's sides and around his back. Frodo grimaced as Bilbo pulled his hand away to find it covered with blood. "Great Arda Frodo" the elderly hobbit exclaimed "what have you gone and done to yourself now?" he asked both exasperated and concerned.
"Sam, go get Miss Chrys....hurry!" he said. Sam took off at a run. "Now Paladin" Bilbo said trying to keep his voice calm as he saw the look of fear in Merry's eyes "why don't you take the boys in for tea?". Paladin nodded but Merry chimed in, "I can see to Pip's tea Uncle, you stay and see to cousin Frodo." Frodo smiled tiredly at his cousin "Brave lad Merry" he whispered and leaned back against the tree as Merry led Pippin into the smial.
Just then Chrys came running up the slope to the orchard, with Sam at her heels. She pushed past Paladin
and Saradoc to get to Frodo. "Foolish hobbit" she chided him "ye should only be catching apples as they fall from trees, not children" and she smiled through her worry. She observed his gradually whitening countenance and increased difficulty breathing and her fingers shook as she examined him. Frodo tried to smile in return but he could feel himself having more difficulty breathing "oh, but Pip is such a sweet child, rather like an apple don't you think?" he gasped. "Now you just be still Frodo Baggins whilst I find where this blood comes from." She gently tried to unbutton his shirt but as she saw his breathing become ragged and his lips begin to take on a blue cast she became impatient with her trembling fingers and with a fast tug ripped it open and pulled it from his shoulders.
The blood was coming from a spot on his back where his fall had caused an already weakened rib to give way and puncture his skin and lung. Saradoc gasped at the sight "My stays, where's Prody? Surely you'll want a more experienced healer for this?" he gestured to the blood before him catching Bilbo's eye. "No time" Chrys gasped as she ripped a length of fabric from her petticoat. "Bilbo, quick, hold him up...he's having more trouble breathing...must secure the ribs" she gasped "quickly" she demanded with fear in her voice. Frodo looked to her through swirling lights and fading colors, he felt himself slipping as his breaths became more labored. He reached up to stare at the fear he saw reflected in her amber eyes "shh" he tried to sooth her as he reached a hand to her face and fainted. She wrapped the strips of her petticoat tightly about his chest and motioned to the Uncles to help bring him into Bag End.
Bilbo and Saradoc each took one of Frodo's arms and draped them over their shoulders as they brought him into the smial. They brought him back to his room where Chrys continued to take charge. "Prop up his pillow Sam, he musn't lie down" Chrys demanded. Sam sat on the bed in front of Frodo holding him up so that Chrys could see to his back. "I'll need hot water, brandy and some clean dressings" Bilbo set out to find the needed items while Chrys readied her patient. She washed her hands and his back with an herbal cleanser and then sterilized her tools in a mixture of hot water and brandy. She unwrapped her makeshift dressing and revealed the protruding bone of his rib. Saradoc grew pale watching her and might have fainted himself if Paladin had not gently eased him into a nearby chair.
Sam tightened his grip on Frodo, holding him up and as still as possible. Chrys deftly worked the rib back under the skin and using her fingers to hold open the wound repositioned the rib to cover the damaged lung tissue. She used a needle and thin silken thread to sew closed the wound and washed it once more with a cleansing infusion. She carefully felt along his thin ribs and back to ensure that there was no more damage and tightly wrapped his chest and ribs with clean dressings. She sighed and said to Sam, "lean him back, but he must remain propped up to ease his breathing". Sam nodded and gently got off the bed and lay his friend back to a slightly reclined position.
Chrys sat on the side of the bed, oblivious to all in the room save Frodo, she took his hand and held it to her cheek sighing heavily. Bilbo came up beside her and placing his hand gently upon her shoulder said "he has a way of making my heart skip a beat time to time as well lass, although not for all the same reasons my dear." Chyrs just nodded, too relieved to speak
Saradoc stood up "Well Bilbo, her healing arts are something to be seen to be sure, but I still can not allow this level of impropriety to continue....why she ripped his shirt off him outside and near exposed her whole leg tearing at her petticoat!" he said indignantly. Bilbo was enraged "and what would you have her do Saradoc? Leave him to suffocate from his injury...be resonable."
A voice from the door chimed in "If ye can't be reasonable, at least show some compassion, can ye not see the lass loves the lad?" Prody stood there in the doorway. "Well, that's precisely my point" Saradoc said "If it has come to love, it's come too far" he exclaimed growing red faced in his anger. "Now that depends on where yer sitting when ye see it." Prody said narrowing his eyes. The room was silent as the two hobbits glared their unspoken challenge to one another.
"And how long it takes you to see it" whispered Frodo. He reached to Chrys's hand "I've been a fool Chrys" he said quietly " I am not smart nor sensible in all things" he smiled as he looked towards Sam " As I'm sure Sam would agree. It seems I've missed much." He shook his head slowly and holding her hand in both of his said "I will be better in affairs of the heart, your heart anyway, I promise" he said sincerely as he looked into her warm eyes. He closed his eyes feeling warmth, peace and contentment wash over him. Opening his eyes to stare again at Chrys he became aware of his Uncle's voice. Saradoc was incredulus "A scandal is what we have here" he roared. "No" said Prody " a betrothal, not a scandal...a conditional betrothal signed yesterday by Bilbo and myself in Michel Delving."
"Betrothed?" Frodo asked amazed "Yes son" said Prody "it seems that this old healer has run out of tricks" Frodo and Chrys stared at Prody, not understanding. "I have an illness that is wasting my heart." he said sadly. Chrys looked up in alarm and opened her mouth to protest "Shh my dear, ye know it's true...ye've seen the signs clear as I have." Chyrs nodded a tear sliding down her cheek. Prody turned to Saradoc and Paladin "I can not leave this earth leaving my lovely neice unspoken for and untended. My friend Bilbo offered to adopt her, but ye might well imagine the scandal that would cause. So," he gestured to the two young hobbits holding hands on the bed "we settled on a conditional betrothal. When they've both turned 21 they may agree to a formal betrothal and a term of engagement not to exceed two years."
Frodo's head was spinning, he was to be engaged, then married by the time he was 23. His Uncle Paladin was grinning from ear to ear, but Saradoc's face was dark and ominous "Bilbo, they are but children" he exploded. "In your eyes perhaps, but they've both had more sadness and tragedy than any hobbit I've ever known. It's aged them, give them a chance to reach to each other for the happiness they've missed" Bilbo pleaded.
"What will the Shire say of this? What will other's think? Saradoc asked horrified. "Those that love Frodo will say congratulations and think him among the luckiest of hobbits" Paladin said huskily as he grabbed the hands of the two young hobbits and gave them a good natured squeeze. Prody walked up to his neice, "it is up to you my dear, adoption or betrothal?" Chrys looked around the room, overwhelmed by the events of the past moments. She looked with sadness to her Uncle, with love to Frodo and she spoke "Well, I always was an only hobbit, not sure I could be kind to a brother...." Frodo looked to her with a twinkle in his blue eyes "But a husband" she continued "a husband...someone I could boss around some. That's more to me liking" She smiled as she looked deep into Frodo's blue eyes as he whispered "lle ne amin" ( you are the one). Chrys's smile and sob got all caught up together and in her jumble of emotions she reached one hand to her Uncle and wrapped one arm about Frodo's neck. Pulling both of their heads near to hers she whispered so that no other could hear "I shall always love you both." Prody smiled as Frodo whispered in return "then we are two very lucky hobbits" .