Three Nights Out of Bree... by Dreamflower

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THREE NIGHTS OUT OF BREE…

 

Sam leaned miserably against the tree and sighed. How had he got so turned around?

After a miserable day sludging through the marshes pursued by midges and the incessant sounds of the Neekerbreekers, they had finally stopped. Strider had led them to a small hollow to camp. It was a damp, cold place, and he had only grudgingly consented to their request for a fire. It had only been poor Mr. Pippin’s sneezes and runny nose that had finally made him agree, as of course it would slow them even more if he got really sick.

The Man had stalked off, saying he was going to find some herbs that would help, and had instructed them to set up the camp and not to stray.

Sam decided to go himself for the firewood; Mr. Pippin was too tired to move, and Mr. Merry and Mr. Frodo weren’t about to leave the lad’s side with him feeling poorly.

Sam at first had stayed nearby, but there wasn’t much in the way of dry firewood, and he found himself going further than he meant.

It wasn’t until he had an armload, that he realized the very thing that made the hollow safe for a campsite and a fire was the fact that it was rather hidden from view. He couldn’t see it.

There was no help from the sky. The night was damp and foggy. Looking at the trees around him, he realized he’d no idea in which direction to go.

And of course he couldn’t call out, not with the chances that there might still be Black Riders out there somewhere. He could well be just a few feet from the others--or not--and he’d never know.

With a sigh, he sank down against the tree, realizing that any attempt to find his way back could just as well take him in the wrong direction. Mr. Strider was going to be mightily put out with him.

______________________________________________

Tucked between his two older cousins, Pippin was shivering and sniffling. He gave another sneeze. “I’m sorry.” He swiped the back of his hand across his nose. He hadn’t any dry handkerchiefs left.

“It’s all right, Pip,” said Merry. “Sam will be here soon with some firewood, and we’ll get warm then.” Merry looked across Pippin to Frodo’s worried gaze.

He could tell that Frodo was thinking the same thing he was. Sam had been gone rather a long time to get firewood. What if something had happened to him? And how soon would Strider be back?

________________________________________

Aragorn made his way through the brush cautiously, keeping an eye out for any of the plants he knew would be useful in clearing up the youngest hobbit’s congestion. He had already found rosehips, and some wild garlic, but he hoped to come across a few things more useful. No sign of athelasof course, this was not near enough to any of the old settlements of the Northerners to have any growing nearby.

He found himself feeling a bit impatient. These small people were trying hard, but it was obvious they had no idea of what it meant to tramp the wilderness while trying to avoid pursuit, and they clearly were used to more frequent meals. And the youngest one did not seem to have the sturdy constitution of the three older ones. His healer’s eye indicated that the lad probably had weak lungs, and was prone to falling ill easily. He was surprised that his solicitous older cousins had even allowed him to come on this journey.

His mind kept wandering to Gandalf, and to the trouble caused by the delay in Frodo’s receiving the wizard’s letter. He hoped that when Gandalf did come through Bree that he put a good scare into old Butterbur. Ahh…there was some wild thyme, it would be useful, though not as useful as some others he could name. Still, it was going to have to do. He dared not wander any further from his charges. He would head back, and hope that a fire had been started. Some tea, and a bit of steam would help Pippin.

But they still had a long way to go to Rivendell.

______________________________________________

Sam sat there trying to see how many of the Gaffer’s names for himself he could come up with. He had started with “ninnyhammer” and “noodle”, and had proceeded through a goodly number of other less flattering terms, and was beginning to have to try and think up some of his own.

Mr. Gandalf had entrusted Mr. Frodo to him. He sure wasn’t doing much of a job of it right now. Or at all, come to that. The Elves had saved them from the Black Riders that first time; and then Farmer Maggot. And in the Old Forest it was Tom Bombadil who had saved them all from the angry trees and the Barrow-wights. And then they got to Bree and had to rely on Strider. Even in spite of the wizard’s letter and Mr. Frodo’s assurances, Sam was still none too sure of Mr. Strider. But at no time had *Sam* been of any use at all so far.

“Samwise Gamgee, you might just as well’ve stayed put in Bagshot Row for all the good you’ve done your master.”

He was beginning to feel chilled and stiff. Although he knew he needed to stay put if he were not to get lost any more than he already was, he stood up to stretch and move about a little, in order to warm up. He stacked the wood next to the tree, and then took notice of what kind of tree it was. Why, it’s a wild cherry tree, he thought. The bark would do Mr. Pippin good, if he remembered aright. He took out a small knife and carefully began to take some of the bark.

__________________________________________

Merry and Frodo had begun to exchange very anxious glances. Sam should have been back long ago. Merry could tell that Frodo wanted badly to go look for his friend, but they both knew it would not be wise to leave the area. It would be no help if the searcher also got lost.

Pippin sneezed again, then began to cough. “Frodo, shouldn’t Sam be back by now?” he whispered hoarsely.

Merry’s heart sank. If Pippin in his misery, was starting to get worried--

Frodo’s arm tightened around Pippin’s shoulders. “Don’t worry about Sam,” he said unconvincingly. “I’m sure he’ll be here soon.”

Merry gave a frustrated sigh.

____________________________________________

Aragorn stiffened at the sound of something moving. If it were an animal, maybe some small game, it would be worth the time to replenish their food supply. He glanced carefully in the direction from which the slight noise had come, and sighed.

“Master Samwise…”

Sam jumped as though stung. “Mr. Strider, sir! I’m that glad to see you! I got turned around finding the firewood, see, and--”

“It’s all right Samwise. I see that you have found the wood. But what were you doing just now?”

“Well, sir, seeing as how you were hoping to find things to dose poor Mr. Pippin, and seeing as how this is a wild cherry tree--”

“Very good, Sam. Wild cherry bark will be very helpful. I had hoped to find some horehound or some mallow, but had no luck.”

“I saw some mallow, Mr. Strider, just before we came to the campsite, but I don’t know where--”

“I’ll lead you to the spot where we approached the hollow, Sam, if you are sure.”

____________________________________

Just when Merry had reached the point where he thought he would have to get up and do *something.* anything, they heard the sound of approaching footsteps.

“Strider! And Sam!” Merry was more relieved than he could say to see them both.

“Sam!” said Frodo, “you were gone so long I thought you might have been lost!”

Merry got up and took the wood to begin making the fire.

Strider smiled. “I ran across Sam in his search for firewood, and asked him to lend his gardener’s eye to me. He helped me to find several plants that I believe will help young Master Pippin to feel much better.”

Sam met the Man’s eyes gratefully. Maybe he was a pretty good sort after all; at least now Mr. Merry and Mr. Frodo wouldn’t know he’d been such a ninnyhammer as to get lost.

Aragorn smiled at him in return. These hobbits might prove themselves more able than he had first thought




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