Close Call by KathyG

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Prompt: From B2MeM 2009.  Day Two: March 2: Mercurial Monday!

 For Mercurial Monday, we offer B2MeM participants the choice of two prompts.  Participants may choose whichever they prefer.  In addition, the second prompt may be used in place of any other prompt in the challenge!

 Think of the most dangerous situation you can face.  Have you ever been in such serious danger?  What is the greatest danger that you have experienced?  Think or write briefly about your experiences (or lack of experiences!) with danger.

Write a story, poem or create an artwork where the characters face a great danger, or where characters reflect on their reaction to a great danger.

 Thank you, Dreamflower, for beta-reading my story!

 


Sam wearily trudged behind Frodo up the hill, his heavy pack lugging on his back.  It was so dark; because it was overcast, not even the stars could be seen.  The Company had been walking for hours, and now all of them were tired.  Sam hoped that Gandalf would soon call a halt.

Suddenly, Sam’s right foot slipped, and he lost his balance.  With a yell, Sam began to slide down a steep incline, scrabbling desperately.  But it did no good; he bounced down the rocky slope.  On the way down, his head hit a huge boulder.  An explosion of intense pain reverberated in Sam’s head, and everything went black.

 

XXXXXXX

 

“Sam!” Frodo screeched.  He had seen his gardener tumbling into a rushing stream at the bottom of the gulley.  He darted toward the edge, only to be pulled back by Aragorn.

“Careful, Frodo,” warned Aragorn.  “This edge is pretty steep.  I do not want you losing your footing, too.  We will go down together.”

“And I will go down to the stream, to rescue Sam,” Legolas said.  “Time is of the essence.”

“I will go with you,” Gandalf said.  “You will need some light to see Sam.”  He lit his staff.

While Legolas rushed down the gully’s steep slope, the other three picked their way very carefully down the slope into the gully.  Merry and Pippin followed slowly and gingerly; the rest of the Fellowship stayed at the top of the gully.  Legolas darted into the stream, where he found Sam lying face-down in the frigid water.  He lifted the unconscious hobbit out of the stream and carried him to the stream’s edge, where he laid him on the ground, removed the hobbit’s pack, and set it aside.  Aragorn knelt to check his respiration.  Sam was not breathing.

Aragorn loosened Sam’s rough homespun cotton shirt.  With Legolas’s help, he lifted Sam in a tilt above the ground, making sure that the gardener’s head was hanging down.  Together, the man and the elf shook Sam up and down three times.  Droplets of water spattered the ground as they jounced him.

“What are they doing?” Pippin whispered.

“They’re shaking the water out of his mouth and nose,” Merry said in a low voice.  “We’ve had to learn to do this in Buckland, since we live by the Brandywine.  My father had to save one of my cousins once, just this way.  I saw it.”

Aragorn laid Sam, who was still not breathing, flat on the ground.  “Will one of you loan me a handkerchief?” he asked the hobbits.

Yanking a folded, crisp, snow-white linen handkerchief out of his pocket, Frodo hurried forward.  “Use mine.”  What if Sam dies? he thought, as a burden of fear lay heavily in his gut.  This is what happened to my parents—they drowned!  I can’t bear to lose Sam the same way.

Aragorn nodded.  “Thank you.”  He opened Sam’s mouth and gently drew the unconscious hobbit’s tongue forward.  He tied Frodo’s handkerchief around the middle of Sam’s tongue.  “Why are you doing that?” Pippin asked.

“I am doing this, to make sure that Sam’s tongue will not fall back,” the Dúnadan said.  “If it blocks his throat, it will be impossible to restore his breathing.”

Aragorn grasped Sam’s forearms and pulled them upward.  He turned to Legolas.  “I will need your help,” he said.  Nodding, Legolas placed his hands on the lower sides of Sam’s chest.  While the elf pressed his hands hard against the gardener’s lungs, Aragorn laid Sam’s arms on the ground, above his head.  Immediately, Legolas took his hands off of Sam’s chest.

Aragorn moved the hobbit’s arms back toward his sides, and then lifted them back above Sam’s head; as soon as they touched the ground, Legolas pressed his palms against Sam’s lower chest again.  Over and over again, very rapidly, the man and the elf repeated the movements.  All the while, the worried hobbits, the dwarf, the wizard, and the other man looked on.

At last, Aragorn stopped to check Sam’s breathing.  “He is breathing,” he announced with satisfaction.  The others sighed in relief.

Aragorn untied the handkerchief from Sam’s tongue and gave it back to Frodo, who folded it and put it back in his trouser pocket.  The Ranger checked Sam for broken bones.  Finding none, he gently lifted the gardener up and carried him to the top of the gully, followed by Gandalf and the hobbits.  Legolas carried Sam’s pack.  Once they had reached the top, Aragorn carried Sam several feet away from the edge and laid him on the ground.  As the others watched, he felt Sam’s skull, and then examined the rest of his body once more for bruises and broken bones.

“Sam will not be travelling any further tonight or tomorrow,” Aragorn announced.  “He has a concussion, and he’s wet and chilled.  At the moment, he is unconscious, and I do not know how long that will last.”

“Then we will make camp here tonight,” said Gandalf.

“And build a fire,” added Boromir.  “Sam’s body desperately needs heat.”

“Yes, he will need some dry clothes and some heat.  And clean air, so no smoking around him until he is recovered.”  Aragorn glanced at Frodo, Merry, and Pippin and nodded toward Bill.  “If one of you will get him some clothes, and some blankets.”

While the hobbits unpacked some dry clothes out of one of the bundles that the pony was carrying, Aragorn and Boromir built a fire.  Gimli removed the blankets out of another of Bill’s bundles and laid them on the ground.  All the while, Sam lay silent and motionless.

Frodo, Merry, and Pippin divested him of his wet clothing; goose-bumps covered his arms and legs.  The three hobbits dressed him in a dry shirt, trousers, and braces.  Gandalf wrapped him in three blankets and laid him near the fire.

Aragorn set a pan over the fire.  “I am going to have to prepare some willow-bark tea for his pain,” he said.  “When Sam regains consciousness, he is going to have quite a headache.”  He removed some willow bark, betony, and chamomile from his pouch, and prepared them for steeping.  “The betony will ease his headache, and the chamomile tea will help him to sleep,” he added.

While Aragorn crushed the herbs and set a pot of water over the campfire, Frodo, Merry, and Pippin sat in a semi-circle next to Sam.  “I wonder how long it’s going to take Sam to wake up,” Merry said, with a worried frown.

Frodo bit his lower lip.  “So do I.”  He gazed down at his gardener’s pallid face.  “Soon, I hope.”  The three hobbits lapsed into silence, keeping their vigil.

Minutes later, Sam began to move his head from side to side, and to moan.  “He’s waking up!” Pippin cried softly.

“Yes.”  Smiling broadly, Frodo bent over Sam.  “Sam?  It’s Frodo.”

“Mr. Frodo?”  Sam slowly opened his eyes, only to immediately shut them again and wince.  “Hurts.”

“I know, Sam.”  Frodo laid a hand on Sam’s shoulder.  “You’ve got a nasty bump on your head.”

Sam forced his eyes open; this time, he was able to keep them so.  He stared at the blankets encasing his body.  “Where am I?  What—what happened, sir?”  He blinked his bleary eyes.  “All of you are blurry.”

“I’m not surprised, Sam.  You slipped and fell into a gully.”  Frodo brushed a stray curl out of Sam’s eyes.  “You hit your head on your way down.”

“Yes, you did, and you almost drowned.  You had a close call.”  Aragorn sprinkled the crushed herbs into the now-boiling water.  “You landed face-down in a rushing creek, Sam.  Fortunately, Legolas was able to get you out in time.  We had to get you breathing again, and then because you were wet and chilled, we had to change your clothes and wrap you up warm.”

“Thank—thank you,” Sam said weakly.  “All of you.”

“Just lie quietly, Sam,” Frodo said.  “Aragorn’s making you a potion to ease your headache.”

“And help you sleep,” Aragorn added.  “We will not be traveling any further today, Sam; you need to rest.”

“Sorry to be so much trouble,” Sam said feebly.  “If only I wasn’t such a ninnyhammer as to fall into that gully.”

“Sam, the same thing could have happened to any of us.  It could have happened to me,” Boromir told him.  “And you would have all done the same thing for me that we are doing for you.  Yourself, included.”  Sam smiled his acknowledgment.  Yes, he would have.

When the steaming potion was ready, Aragorn poured some of it into mug and approached Sam.  Holding up the hobbit’s head, he said, “I want you to drink this, Sam.”  Making a face, Sam obeyed.  When he had swallowed the hot, foul-tasting potion, Frodo gave him a drink of water to wash out the bitter aftertaste.

“Now rest.”  Aragorn laid his hand on the side of Sam’s head.  “We will unwrap the blankets when your body has warmed up.”  Obediently, Sam closed his eyes.  Soon, his breathing evened out.  He was asleep.

In a low voice, Aragorn told the others, “I do not want Sam to resume any physical exertion until his concussion has healed.  I also want him to rest his mind; he will have to refrain from any activities requiring thinking and concentration.  We will have to stay here for a few days, to give him a chance to recover.”

Gandalf nodded.  “That’s what we’ll do, then.”  Frodo positioned himself next to Sam, to look after his gardener.

 

XXXXXXX

 

“How are you feeling, Sam?” Frodo asked, a few days later.

“Fine, thank you.”  Sam smiled.  He was indeed feeling much better.  The throbbing pain in his head had dissipated; his vision had cleared; and his energy had returned.  As he rose to his feet, dizziness overwhelmed him, and he stumbled.  Frodo grabbed his arm and steadied him.

“And I am glad.”  Aragorn smiled.  He gazed down at Sam.  “For the next few days, Sam, I do not want you to fret or worry your mind.  Your head still needs to finish recovering from your concussion.  And since you are still going to be dizzy and light-headed for a while, we Big Folk will take turns carrying you for the next few days.”  He paused.  “Knowing you, Sam, you will be fretting about Frodo, and how to meet his needs.  Yes, I know that is your job, but consider yourself to be on holiday for the moment.  Let the rest of us concentrate on taking care of Frodo in your stead.”  Sam furrowed his eyebrows in displeasure.

“Now, Samwise, you are not to argue with the healer.”  Gandalf stepped forward as he spoke.  His voice softened.  “You are not the only one who is looking after Frodo.  So are the rest of us, and we will all see to it that his needs are met during our Quest.”

“We sure will.”  Pippin smiled at his friend.

Sam smiled sheepishly.  “Yes, Mr. Strider.”

Frodo nodded agreement.  “Healer’s orders, Sam.  Don’t worry, I will still be here for you to fuss over when you’re fully recovered.”  The others laughed.

Boromir doused the campfire, and the members of the Fellowship picked up their packs.  Merry and Pippin made sure that Bill’s bundles were fastened securely to his saddle.  Gandalf picked up his staff, and Boromir gently lifted the hobbit; soon, they were on their way.  Frodo and Sam smiled at each other as the Fellowship left the campsite.  Frodo, Merry, and Pippin walked alongside Boromir to stay close to Sam.

I am so lucky to have such good friends, Sam thought, as his eyes slid shut.

 




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