Tree Climbing for Beginners? by mattygirl

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Story Notes:

Theme: Summertime
Elements: "It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but now Frodo wasn’t so sure about that."
Author's Notes: All medicines used here are real, centuries old, organic cures for the given ailments. This is not intended to be used as a guide in place of real treatment. In case of sickness, please contact your real doctor not myself. Also, none of these characters (very regrettably) belong to me, I just use them for my own enjoyment and return them undamaged. :) Thanks to my beta Ladyhawke Legend. Also, while I realize that Frodo knew Gandalf from when he was young, I decided also to take some liberty and add in a canon character that Frodo did not know in his youth, and as such, this story is AU.

The trees were in full bloom; the roads and fields littered with their fragrant blossoms. There was not a shadow of doubt in any Hobbit mind – Summertime was here! The usually smoking chimneys of the smials were devoid of smoke, and all the doors had been thrown open in the hope of tempting in any feeble hint of a breeze. Work and businesses had stopped, since it was just too abominably hot for anything to get done properly.
Only the sturdy form of the Gaffer could be seen at work, hunched diligently under the windows of Bag End. Despite the fact that both Bilbo and Frodo had told the Gamgees that the garden and grounds could wait until later when the weather was more tolerable, the Gaffer, old and set in his ways, refused to even think of stopping.
“Here now, Mr. Bilbo,” he had said with a stern, yet respectful look on his face, “them gardens will overstep their bounds iffin ya let them go for too long. And this heat’s not about ta let up anytime soon. And I’ve only just got those bushes under the windows under control. It’d be a shame to let ‘em go now just on accounts of the weather!”
Bilbo had sighed and shaken his head, curls bouncing. He had clasped the Gaffer warmly on the shoulder and said, “Oh Hamfast, whatever would an old bachelor like me do without such a wonderful friend as you?”
At which, the Gaffer had blushed furiously and shrugged, muttering something about, “Well, it’s nothing to be gettin’ yourself all worked up over Mr. Bilbo, sir. Just some hedge trimmin’ is all…”
Bilbo had smiled and left Hamfast go about his business knowing that the old Hobbit would let nothing come between him and the reputation of Bag End’s gardens.
At that moment, Bilbo was sitting in his study once again working on his big red book. It was hot in the study, but not unbearably so. Bilbo had long ago abandoned his weskit which was now folded neatly over a study chair in favor of just sitting in his shirt.
A harried knock at his door interrupted his thoughts. “Come in!” he said somewhat distractedly. The door was opened with a sense of urgency and his tweenaged nephew Frodo fairly flew in with young Samwise Gamgee trailing behind him. “Well boys,” he said with a look of amusement, “what’s all the ruckus about?”
Frodo, who was so excited that he was bouncing up and down on his toes said all in one giant rush of breath, “The Gaffer says that Sam can come play today so I’m going to teach him how to climb trees! Is that all right Uncle?”
With a slight chuckle, both at the fervor of Frodo’s enthusiasm and at young Sam’s uncertain look about climbing trees, Bilbo said, “Well, as long as it’s fine with the Gaffer, it’s certainly fine with me--.”
At this, Frodo was already half way out the door, dark curls bouncing and cornflower blue eyes shining, dragging Sam behind him. Poor Sam was torn between wanting to spend time with “his Mr. Frodo” and the terror he felt toward learning how to climb trees. “Boys!” Bilbo called, beckoning the pair back into his study.
Reluctantly, Frodo came back into the room, now looking impatient. “Yes, Uncle?” He flashed his uncle a brilliant smile in the hopes that this wouldn’t take long. Bilbo gazed steadily into Frodo’s penetrating eyes. “You boys be careful – and don’t take Sam up higher than he’s comfortable with.”
Sam gave Bilbo a look of purest thanks for his remark while Frodo nodded hurriedly. Bilbo gave a small wave of his hand and said, “Go on, go on. What are you boys waiting for; there’s trees to be climbed!” And with a flurry of fabric and a rustle of excited feet, both boys were gone. Bilbo smiled and went back to his work.
Outside Bilbo’s study, Frodo was so excited that he couldn’t quite seem to form straight thoughts. Both Bilbo and the Gaffer had given permission to the boys to go off for a while and he could finally teach Sam how to climb trees! “Now Sam,” Frodo said, facing his friend excitedly, “first we’ll get some water and something to eat to take along with us in case we get hungry.”
Sam nodded and was about to make some suggestions as to good “tree climbing foods”, when Frodo raced away to the kitchen and returned not a moment later with a picnic basket filled with food. “That sure was quick, Mr. Frodo,” he said in awe of the bulging basket.
Frodo nodded proudly. “I put this together before I even came to get you. I just had this feeling that the Gaffer and Bilbo would let us go. There’s some ripe, red apples, some of those delicious custard cakes that your mum made the other day for Bilbo and I, two loaves of brown bread, a few wedges of cheese, and some jars of apple juice.”
Sam’s mouth watered at the mere mention of such a spread of food, and his stomach growled loudly in response. Frodo laughed and his eyes sparkled. “Maybe we should just eat the custard cakes now…?” Sam nodded eagerly at this suggestion.
A few minutes later, hunger assuaged and the picnic basket somewhat lighter, the two set off for the edge of Bindbale Wood, which lay only a mile or two from Bag End. Seeing the two lads coming out of the smial, the Gaffer stood respectfully and said, “You boys have fun, and be careful; there’s a storm a’brewin’.”
Frodo looked up at the sky to find only the purest of blues without a hint of cloud and bright glaring sun. He looked back down at the Gaffer and said politely, “Are you sure Mr. Gamgee? It looks like the rest of this week will be as bright and sunny as the first half of the week!”
The Gaffer shook his lightly colored curls and squinted up at the sky. “I’m afraid not, Mr. Frodo, sir. It might look like a clear day now, but you can be sure that it’ll storm later; something fierce too. I can feel it in these bones of mine.”
Sam nodded solemnly. “Dad always knows when it’s goin’ to rain.”
Frodo smiled at Sam’s faith in his father’s abilities and said, “Don’t you worry Mr. Gamgee; Sam and I will be careful.”
The Gaffer nodded went back to his gardening, his face shining with pleasure.
The walk to Bindbale Wood didn’t take long. Despite the fact that it was hot and sunny, both boys were in good spirits.There was sufficient tree cover to keep them from getting burned, and there was a nice breeze whispering through the trees; cool enough to feel pleasant, but not enough to chill. As the trees approached, Frodo broke into a run fueled by excitement, and Sam trotted obediently behind his Master.
Arriving at the bottom of a giant oak tree, Frodo turned to his best friend and said, “Now, Sam, the first step to any successful tree climb is finding a first branch that you can reach…”

It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but now Frodo wasn’t so sure about that. The lesson had gone horribly wrong. Sam was only a fourth of the way up the tree, but he was absolutely scared rigid. Frodo, who had climbed up higher than Sam was now being drenched by the Gaffer’s promised storm. Sam had caught his shirt on a tree branch, and Frodo was forced to climb down two thirds of the tree to help Sam.
The branches were slick, and Frodo had a very bad feeling about the whole thing. Why did I even want to teach Sam to tree climb? Why did I ignore Sam’s obvious reluctance about the whole thing? Why didn’t I listen to the Gaffer’s warnings about a storm? Why did I have to climb so high up in the tree? Was I trying to impress Sam? And why did it have to rain now?!?
Caught up in his whirlwind of thoughts, Frodo almost lost his balance. Large Hobbit feet met slick wood and could find no purchase. Frodo let out a cry as cold and wet small hands grabbed the nearest branch and held on for dear life.
Sam, hearing his Master’s cry, relinquished his lethal hold upon his tree branch and set upon untangling his shirt from the other tree branch. What had suddenly seemed so terrifying to him, was little more than a worry now, as his terror had switched to absolute panic at his Master’s plight.
Finally, Sam’s worn and dirty hands untangled his shirt with a dexterity the stout Hobbit had previously thought impossible. Now, the problem remained of helping Mr. Frodo. Realizing that he was of no use to his Master in the tree where his skills were near nonexistent, Sam scrambled down the remaining one fourth of the tree without even realizing that he had done so.
Once on the ground, wet and scared, but focused on the situation at hand, Sam tried to determine what to do next. The scene high above him froze his heart in his chest. Frodo was still scrabbling to gain a hold on the tree branch, but it seemed that all was against him. He was now very tired, wet, cold, and his fingers simply refused to cooperate, because the tree branch was too large for him to reach all the way around and pull himself up.
A crack of thunder exploded nearby and a great bolt of lightning seemed to fairly split the sky apart. Sam started and fell over, while Frodo thought that his heart just might explode. Sam knew he could no longer wait to do anything. Help was needed and he wasn’t big enough to do it on his own.
Fortunately, by this point Frodo had righted himself on top of the branch and was gripping so tightly that it was a wonder that the bark was still intact. “Sir!” Sam shouted up over the deluge. “You just stay put! Mr. Bilbo and the Gaffer can help!” Sam saw the dark curls bob once in acknowledgement and then he was off like a shot.

Alone, cold, and now very frightened on his tree branch, Frodo wished that Sam hadn’t gone. Perhaps he should try to get down the tree while Sam was gone? No, no. The memory of the last slip was still too fresh in his mind and he decided to simply lay, wet and tired, on the tree branch.
Sam ran faster than he ever had before. Slipping down a small hill in his haste, the stout young Hobbit was now mud spattered, but even more determined than before. Skidding to a halt beside the round door of Number Three Bagshot Row, he banged upon the door until the Gaffer opened it to see his youngest son.
Not even pausing long enough to allow the Gaffer to open his mouth to speak, Sam shouted, “Come quick, Dad! Mr. Frodo’s stuck up in one o’ them great big trees! He’s cold and awful scared! We need to get Mr. Bilbo and go help ‘im down from the tree!”
Hamfast Gamgee flew faster than he ever could remember before, stopping only long enough to grab cloaks for himself, Sam, who was by now soaking wet, and one of his other son’s cloaks for young Master Frodo. Tucking that one cloak securely in the folds of his own cloak, in an attempt to keep it dry until Mr. Frodo could wear it, Hamfast was off at a dead run after his son.

The sprawling smial of Bag End was brightly lit and well closed against the sudden storm. Despite the fact that it was not even dinner time, the clouds had so obscured the sun that it looked to be the middle of the night.
Sam pounded forcefully on the door so as to be heard over the ruckus of the storm and Hamfast was practically yelling, “Mr. Bilbo! Mr. Bilbo, sir!” The round door was flung open almost immediately and a startled looking Bilbo quickly ushered Sam and Hamfast in. He gestured to the parlor with a growing sense of dread. Where was Frodo? And Sam certainly seemed to be in such a state, hopping from foot to foot.
Sam’s hopping stopped and Hamfast nearly forgot his urgency when the two saw that Bilbo was not alone. Sitting in the parlor with him, clearly in the midst of a hastily prepared tea, sat a strong, rough looking Man and a grey cloaked, bearded old Man.
Sam had heard about the old Man from Bilbo’s fantastic stories – this must be Gandalf – of that he was sure. As to whom the other man was, he guessed that it might be Strider, a Ranger, that Frodo had said had visited the smial several times since he had begun living with Bilbo.
“Mr. Frodo’s caught up in that awful, big oak!” Sam blurted out in his anxiety over his Master. “And he can’t get down!” Bilbo, Strider, and Gandalf all seemed to move as one to the door in an organized whirlwind of action. Cloaks were grabbed, sword scabbards put on (in case anything might need to be cut to get Frodo down), and Gandalf put his tall pointy wizard hat on.
“Sam,” said Strider bending down to Sam’s height, “My name is Strider.” At this Sam, smiled inwardly at his correct guess based solely on Frodo’s descriptions. “I have known Frodo and Bilbo for many years and would hate to see Frodo come to any harm. While I am aware that you are cold and tired, would you be willing and able to show us where Frodo is?”
Sam’s golden curls bobbed up and down. “O’ course Mr. Strider, sir. I would just about go to the ends of the world and back for Mr. Frodo!”
Gandalf smiled at Sam and said in a gentle, yet hurried voice, “I have no doubt of your loyalty to Frodo, Sam.”
Sam blushed scarlet and said timidly, “Are you really the wizard Gandalf? You just seem so much like the one in all Bilbo’s tales and in the stories that Mr. Frodo told me a while back. You just seem so very wizardish!”
Gandalf smiled kindly and said, “I am the very same, Sam, but this is neither the time nor the place to discuss my ‘wizardish-ness’. Once Frodo is safe, then I will more than happy to answer all your questions.”
Sam’s head bobbed as Hamfast fastened Sam’s cloak firmly around him. The foursome was off in a flash, running after Sam.

Now shivering and disoriented, Frodo hardly realized that he was still on a tree branch anymore. Almost slipping into a state of semi-consciousness, Frodo was startled by the appearance of five forms below him. Two were very tall, far too tall to be Hobbits, and three smaller figures. Now Frodo was sure he must be dreaming. Big people? Out in the rain, with Hobbits no less? It seemed like utter madness. However, as the haze cleared a little, he could make out the tall pointed hat of Gandalf and long sword of Strider. Thank Elbereth, he would be just fine now that they were there!
There seemed to be a moment of conversation, and then Strider was climbing the branches carefully up to Frodo while Gandalf held his staff up. A bright light seemed to permeate through the dense rain and upon the branches which Strider was climbing. Wherever the light struck, the branches dried instantly, providing Strider with safe footing.

When he finally reached the branch upon which Frodo lay, Strider’s healer senses went into full gear. Soaking wet, a deathly pallor to his skin, and intense shivering told Strider that Frodo would most likely be sick as well as frightened. Releasing the Hobbit’s vice like grip on the branch, he gave the quick warning of, “Hold on tightly to my back,” and they were off again.
Down the branches with surprising ease, despite the abominable conditions and the added burden of Frodo’s weight, the pair were down in seconds. The group gathered around Frodo, whose lips were now blue and teeth chattering, Hamfast produced his extra cloak, and Frodo was bundled tighter than a babe. In minutes the group was almost back at Bag End, such was their haste.

“Now, complete rest!” said Strider sternly as he felt the tween’s hot forehead.
“Honestly, Strider, I’m fine, just a little tired is all.”
“Mmmhmm,” said Strider with a smirk. “Which is why you have a high fever, a sore throat, a stuffy nose, and are generally sneezing all over the place.”
Frodo opened his mouth to retort, but was cut off by Bilbo scoffing his displeasure, and so instead, Frodo was silent.
Strider looked gratefully to Bilbo and then turned back to Frodo. “Now, some teas and juice for you to take. First, here is some lemonade. The vitamins in this are good with helping you get better faster. Then, some Goldenseal tea, which is good for nasal congestion; followed by a warm salt and water gargle for your sore throat. Next, a mixture of peppermint, which is good for relieving coughs, and pectin, from certain fruits, which also relieves throat irritation. And finally, a nice sweet tea made of slippery elm, hyssop, marshmallow root, mullein, sunflower, and eucalyptus, all of which are excellent for relieving respiratory symptoms.”
Frodo visibly gagged at the thought of so much medicine which provoked a laugh from Gandalf and Bilbo. Strider merely grinned, enjoying himself in this situation a little more than Frodo thought appropriate. Sam, however, who had refused to leave his Master, merely gave him a sympathetic look and secretly smiled at the thought that he didn’t have to drink all that medicine.
After finishing off all his teas, Frodo was now beginning to feel sleepy and lethargic. As his eyes fluttered shut he murmured, “So Sam, about that next tree climbing lesson…?”
(I suppose I could continue this if there was interest. But as it is now, it’s sort of a one shot! How was the characterization of everyone, especially Hamfast and Bilbo?)

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