Aragorn was busy with making a poultice. It smelled awful, but he knew the good of it. He hadn’t wanted to build such a big fire, but felt also that this was a risk that must be taken. Time after time, he applied a hot poultice to the chest and back of the ailing hobbit. Pippin had begun to cough more, producing more of the thick effluvia than seemed possible.
Legolas was ever at his side to offer help in any way he could. He had mentioned to Aragorn that this was more than a common illness, and Gandalf had agreed. It was true that they had come down from the mountain, but it seemed that Caradhras itself had decided to strike out at them, to take the life of the one, single spirit that was able to lift his fellow spirits. Not for nothing was Caradhras called Caradhras the Cruel.
Aragorn set his jaw. He would not let the mountain have its cruel way with this innocent. He knew he was in for a fight for the very life of the young one, and he meant to come out of this victorious. Pippin would not be taken. Some may have scoffed at his commitment, but deep in his heart he knew that this Little One had a part to play that not even the wisest might guess.
The hobbit sometimes spoke from the deeps of his sickness. Much could not be made out, but once, he had heard the words as clearly as if they were the sounding of a great trumpet: “Tell Saruman this dainty is not for him. Just say that!”
As for Legolas, he often changed the cooling cloth on the fevered brow, and sang healing songs that Aragorn knew and had heard many times. Of all the fellowship, Legolas and Gandalf seemed most sure that Pippin would recover.
Boromir seemed to be most especially worried. This was not unusual. Boromir was one of those people who worried about everything. Had there been nothing at all to worry about, Boromir would have looked for something anyway. Aragorn had noted that the big warrior had been drawn into friendship with both Merry and Pippin. He watched over them as a parent would watch over his young, or an older sibling watched over a younger one. He could see Merry and Boromir huddled together, their heads close together, and knew that they were a comfort to one another.
Poor Merry was quite distraught. Merry could be as jolly as the next hobbit, but sometimes his demeanor was nothing like most hobbits. He took responsibility and accountability to heart. He was so much in the habit of watching over his younger cousin that it was quite hard on him that he was helpless to do very much now. Somber, serious Merry seemed to be a bit lost without his cousin’s company.
During the night, Pippin had mumbled, “Elves! What have they got to mope so about? They get to live forever.” Legolas had been quite amused at this. Death was so much a stranger to elves that it was odd to think of a hobbit dying. He wondered, what happens to hobbits after they die? Are they just gone, as though they had never been? No, he did not think so… he thought that, like men and dwarves, something of them goes on. Something abides.
Around midnight, the fever began to break. A sour sweat dampened Pippin’s clothing. Merry had brought some of his own clothing to change Pippin into, to keep him dry. The clothing was a bit big for Pippin, but his own, now wet and stinking of sickness, needed changing and washing. Aragorn watched with some amusement as Boromir, Merry and Gimli washed the sick hobbit’s clothes and lay them near the fire to dry.
As his friends had undressed Pippin, his eyes had opened just a slit and fastened on Merry’s face. A little smile had fled across the pale face, and Pippin had said, “My dear ass, what are you about now? If it’s a smoke you want, look in your own things!” Merry had smiled back, and with the single word “Rest,” Pippin had again closed his eyes and fallen back into that deep slumber.
There was no sleep for anyone that night, save only for the ill one. As the hours passed, his color improved and his breathing had eased. The sleep he slept now was different; the sleep of one that is healing. In the small hours before dawn, some of them had been able to drowse a bit, feeling that the worst was over.
Merry was not one of these. Aragorn had seen the poor fellow turn away, noting a single tear of relief traversing down Merry’s cheek. As the hours passed, Pippin seemed to be resting well and breathing much more easily. It was around dawn, when their worried heads were nodding with exhaustion that the small voice broke the silence.
“What’s for breakfast? I’m starving. I feel I could eat even an orc.” Pippin had raised himself on one weak elbow.
Aragorn laughed. He felt such relief! Caradhras had been defeated! Pippin would recover, and in the way of his people, it would be a swift recovery. It was true that he may be a bit weak and shaky for a few days, but the worst was over with now. Pippin, for his part, was aware enough to notice that Aragorn had for a few moments seemed a different Man, no longer so serious and sober, but as light-hearted as a summer’s day.
That morning Sam had prepared an especially good and copious breakfast. Pippin had eaten the last crumb on his plate, and looked as if he could have eaten more. He was weak, still, but now it was plain that the hobbit would soon be himself.
One by one, each member of the Fellowship walked by his sickbed, and as they passed it, they would take from their own plate a small offering of their own food and place it on Pippin’s dish. When he had at last finished eating and seemed quite content and full, an impish grin spread across his face.
“Perhaps I should get sick more often,” said the irrepressible Took. He lay down again and slept the sleep of one who has labored long and hard. He hadn’t been this tired since last harvest-time. He was sore all over, as well.
They would go no further that day, but remain where they were. This day was spent observing the recovering invalid. Pippin had wanted a bath badly, so water had been heated and he washed himself thoroughly, ridding himself of the last scent of both illness and curative. He still coughed occasionally, but he was most definitely on the mend. It was a fine, clear day, and unusually bright and sunny for that time of year. The general spirit of the day was one of relief and celebration.
The following day, they must move on, whether they will or no. Pip was still sore and tired, but felt now that he could keep up with the others, and was eager to be on the way. He and Merry spent their time helping each other pack their things up, laughing and joking as though nothing at all had passed. Such are the ways of hobbits: they do not make or say much of bad times, lest they say or make too much. Preparations were made, Bill was fully loaded down, and even that pony seemed to feel happier than was wont. .
“Come on, Merry, what are you waiting for, an invitation?” Pippin said, elbowing Merry in his ribs. Merry laughed and caught up with his cousin. He reflected that he’d spent much of his life “keeping up” with Pippin. It was worth the effort, though.
As they stood to tread on, Boromir pulled on his gloves. Something inside them was cold, wet, and very nasty. He pulled his hand out of the glove. It had been packed with wet pipeweed.
He couldn’t feel angry at this prank, though, but instead seemed to feel a great deal of relief and comfort. He ruffled Pippin’s hair; surprising the hobbit completely and smearing wet tobacco on Pippin’s head. “Never change, Peregrin Took!” the big Man said, wagging a finger at him, as if it were a warning.
Pippin shook his head in an emphatic `no’, shaking the wet tobacco from his hair. “Me? Never!” Pippin replied, but deep in his heart, he knew this was not true. He knew he had changed, at least a little. He knew that before this was all done, he would be changed even more. “Let’s go.” He said with a grin, giving the Man a little kick.
Myth, Lay or Legend, is it so?
Epic or Fairy-tale, who can show?
But that’s all I’ll tell you, for that’s all I know.