This Little One was sick, of a certainty.
Boromir could scarcely keep his mind from the plague that had so decimated his people. So few, he thought, so few left to defend the White City!
He wondered if such a plague might cause the extinction of these Little Folk. What a sorrow that would be! He wanted to see the Shire and meet her delightful people. He wondered what it would be like to spend time with the Little Ones of the Shire. In his most secret heart, though he loved Gondor more even than his own life, he would have liked to go the Shire and return only at his leisure, but he also knew this would not be. Someday he must become Steward. So much of his life had been consumed with the study of military tactics and discipline that he’d had scarce had time to be a child at all. His younger brother had been spared some of this, and for that he was very grateful.
To go to the Shire! To see smiles on the faces of child, man and woman, and not the great sorrow and despair he was so familiar with in his beloved land!
To leave Gondor…at least for a while…to let Faramir take the Stewardship! Faramir, he knew, would be a greater Steward than he, Boromir, ever would. More like the Kings of old was Faramir, while he, Boromir, had only desired to be a simple warrior and defender. And after that, a simple but happy husband and father.
The weight of Stewardship was a heavy one, and he feared he had not Faramir’s patience and fairness and wisdom. It was simply not in his nature. He was born to lead, yes, but to lead battalions, regiments, troops and guards. It was meat and bread to him, while Faramir needed far more than just meat and bread.
He had always been close to his brother, and now he hoped that Faramir was safe. Perhaps Faramir’s deeds would sway the Lord Denethor…he rarely thought of his father as anything but the Lord Denethor, for he had not been so much a father as a taskmaster.
Less still a father to Faramir.
Boromir had taken it upon himself to shield his brother from the constant ire of the Lord Denethor. There was so much more to Faramir than to he, himself. He was but a soldier, one who took to the sting of battle as a bird to the airs above the earth. He would have liked to be like Faramir, but try as he might, he seemed unable to reign in his desire to be in action. Faramir was amused at his brother’s envy, but also touched by it. Boromir was more father to him than the man who was sire to them both.
Faramir was a great soldier in his own right, though, unlike his older brother, he was more skilled in covert action than actual battle.
Tactics and fighting, that was all I was ever good for, he thought. He took great pride in his deeds, yet he knew that he was nothing like his brother.
Boromir was distracted from this reverie by the heat that seemed to pour from the limp body he carried. By the Argonath! Was the Little One cooking in his own skin, like some ghastly orc dainty?
He remembered his brother falling ill, once. This, too, had born a high fever, and the memory of this jolted his spirit. He was terrified his brother, his dear Faramir, would die of the very plague that had taken so many to the Halls of the Fathers.
If the Lord Denethor had but known the fear in Boromir’s heart, he would have been upbraided, called “womanish” and “weak”. And so Boromir had closed off that part of himself.
He felt great anger at himself, and, yes, the Lord Denethor. That part of him rarely showed it’s face anymore, and something in the big warrior’s heart burned with shame and anger that it should be so. How he wished his mother had lived…perhaps if she had, the Lord Denethor would have been father as well as Lord.
Well, that would not happen to him! Something about the pheriannath seemed to wake a long-sleeping care, and he swore that when his time came, he would be Steward, yes, but in his house, sons and daughters would have time to laugh and play as well as learn.
He could recall only the most rare times a child of Gondor smiled, the adults smiled not at all.
These Little Folk, these pheriannath, now, they knew how to laugh! Especially this Little One that lay, burning with fever, on his shoulder.
Argonath, but the hobbit seemed hotter than ever!
Pippin stirred a bit, but weakly.
And then he spoke; “You shall not take it. Nay, do I say you shall not, though it be within the span of a hair’s breadth, shall you not. He shall flee as a fox before the wolf, though no wolf shall you be, but only in seeming.”
Boromir halted so suddenly the stop was nearly comical.
“Aragorn! Legolas! Gandalf!” he called, surprised by the panic in his voice, he, Boromir, who had faced death himself so many times.
He carefully lay Pippin down and knelt before him as though his body were a shelter with which to keep out all inclement weather.
“He’s hotter now than he was.” said the soldier, “and now he talks…it was nothing like his own natural self, but indeed his words seemed the words of a madman, or, or…. a soothsayer!” Boromir felt a shudder run through his body, followed by a chill.
Aragorn examined the burning little body. “Alas, you speak true. We must stop. We must take time for a proper search for feverfew.”
” I know nothing of these things,” said Boromir in a low voice. Aragorn sensed something in the way the words were spoken.
Could this be regret? Worry or fear, perhaps? Some long-ago memory come to trouble the Son of Gondor? No matter, now. There would be time to ponder this later. For now Pippin needed medicine, and badly.
“Gimli!” called Aragorn, `Take Merry with you and look for feverfew. If you don’t know what it looks like, Merry will tell you. Hobbits know their herbs. Legolas, Sam, you two go together. Though I’m sure you both are familiar with the plant, four eyes are better than two. Frodo, I think, should remain here with Gandalf and Boromir. Should any mischief come, Frodo shall not be alone. Here, at least, he shall be well guarded by Gandalf and Boromir. I go to look for medicinal herbs. Keep your ears and eyes sharp. The Enemy may show himself even here.”
Gandalf watched Boromir rip a wide strip from his own shirt, wet it, and apply it to Pippin’s forehead and temples. The shirt, Gandalf knew, had been costly, and knew that Boromir’s willingness to do such a thing showed some mark of character. The hobbit’s fever was so high that in moments, steam began to rise from the wet cloth. Boromir took it off and wet it yet again.
Pippin murmured, though the words were impossible to catch. He shook with almost palsy. Gandalf feared for Pippin, though his heart told him all would be well. Still, he had known this particular little fellow since he was but a babe and he hoped this would soon pass.
As if Boromir had read Gandalf’s heart, he asked the wizard, “Have you known him very long?”
“Yes, since he was indeed very small.” answered Gandalf. The wizard chuckled half to himself. “And such a child he was! It is a small wonder his father could catch him long enough to learn his name!”
Boromir smiled at this last statement. “I can well believe that. For all his mischief, he seems a bright enough little fellow. In some respects, he reminds me of Faramir. He wants to know everything, and that in less than an hour.”
Gandalf gave a small laugh. “Yes, in that respect he is much like your brother, but there are marked differences as well.”
“Unlike your brother, Pippin cannot be left with too much time on his hands, else those hands, and the head that commands them, will find some employ that is less, shall I say, than noble.”
“Come, now, he cannot have been as bad as all that!” said Boromir, one corner of his mouth lifting in a half-smile.
“Cannot? Cannot? Tell me, have you ever tried to remove green dye from your hair?” replied Gandalf, with that peculiar expression of face known as `pique’. “Did you not witness firsthand the results of an idle-minded Pippin? Who but Pippin would put soot in the boots of the heir of Isildur? The fact that Aragorn took it with such good humor bodes well for the throne. A lesser man might have dealt with him very harshly indeed.”
Boromir laughed heartily. “And who was the victim of this vile deed?”
“His sister, Pearl. All of his sisters suffered at his hands. It is a wonder they did not drown him. Yet, still, they adore their brother. I pity the creature who ever deigns to harm him. The Took sisters can be like a pack of small but dedicated little wolves, when it comes to their only brother.” the wizard answered, trying, but failing not to laugh . “Oh, make no mistake, yes, he is sharper of wit than is apparent, at times. In fact, it’s his wit that commands that nose for trouble. A dullard would never think of so many ways in which to wreak havoc.”
“This, then, is why you are so angered with him when he’s in his mischief?”
“Indeed.” said Gandalf, nodding his head. “He is both worthy and capable of better. Keep half an eye on these hobbits, Boromir. As much as even I know about them, they can surprise you!”
“I wonder,” mused Boromir, “how came it that they are so unknown to so many?”
“They are a quiet people, and love most peace and quiet. Were their deeds great deeds, be sure they would be famous! I am quite happy for their simple ways, for were they to catch they eye of some, I’m sure their lands would be forfeit, though at greater cost than any think. The Brandybucks and Tooks are not to be underestimated.”
Boromir took the cloth from Pippin’s forehead and re-wet it, then placed it back on the burning brow. “Will he live, do you think?” asked Boromir.
“I think he shall.” answered Gandalf, `These hobbits have remarkable power to recover. Still, we must make haste in this regard, for you can be sure He rests not.”
Yes, thought Boromir, The Enemy. Now that one would have wasted no time on a sick underling. Indeed, He may have made orc’s meat of him.