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Author: Dreamflower
Title: The Hands of the King Are Still the Hands of a Healer
Rating: G
Theme:  Spring Fever
Elements: Chicory
Author's Notes: Notes on my resources can be found at the end of the story.
There are hints at unpleasant medical details. I tried to be subtle, but if those squick you, be warned.
Summary: The King is sometimes the personal physician to two elderly retired hobbits who reside in the Citadel. (An old-fashioned mild hurt/comfort featuring Merry and Pippin).
Word Count: 1,839

The Hands of the King Are Still the Hands of a Healer

Court was ended, and Elessar strode from the throne room; today's court had been somewhat boring and tedious. Truth be told, boring was better, since it meant that the Kingdom was at peace and there were no major troubles at hand, but it did make for a few hours of struggling to stay awake and show a semblance of interest.

He was making his way to the small office he used as a hideaway more than for anything official (Official usually called for the large and grandly furnished room where he entertained dignitaries), when he was waylaid. "Strider! Wait up! I'm not so fast as I used to be!"

His guards, who had been following at a discreet distance sighed and stood aside. They had standing orders to always allow the King's old friends from the days of the Nine Walkers to approach him. Aragorn turned, and gave the hobbit a stern look, belied by the twinkle in his grey eyes and a twitch at the corner of his mouth. "I am waiting up, Peregrin Took!"

The elderly hobbit came closer, his walking stick a rhythmic patter on the cold stone floors. He was puffing only slightly. He was fit enough for a hundred-and-one, though he did walk always with his stick, did not move nearly so quickly as he had when he was younger. "Where is your cousin, Pippin?" Since retiring to Gondor, the two were rarely seen apart.

"Ah, well, er, that's what I'd like to talk to you about." The hobbit glanced at the guards. "Maybe someplace less public?"

The King took a couple of steps and pushed open the door to his office. He gestured for the hobbit to precede him.

Once they were in and comfortably seated, Aragorn tried again. "What is the problem with Merry?"  

"Merry's still a-bed, and feeling quite sluggish. He's been cranky and contrary for days. I offered to find one of the healers and he told me off rather forcefully." Pippin shrugged. "He'd send away any of the regular healers. He can't send you away, you're the King."

Aragorn leaned forward. "Do you have any notion of why he's feeling poorly?"

"Well," Pippin fell silent, obviously trying to think of how to answer the question. "He, uh, hasn't made any...er, solid use of his chamber pot in days." He blushed to the tips of his ears.

Aragorn suppressed a smile. In spite of their ages, Pippin always remained "little Pip" to his older cousin. It went hard on Pippin to tell something Merry wanted kept quiet, though his worry for Merry's health had prompted him to speak up. But this was a problem solved simply enough, though it might be unpleasant for Merry.  "Let me get my medical satchel, and send a note to the herbalist." He reached across the table he used for a desk, picked up a pen, and scrawled a short note. "Come along, Sir Peregrin!"

As they went down the hallway, with Aragorn trying to abate his usual stride to accommodate the hobbit at his side, he handed his note to a page who sat near his office to do his bidding if needed. "Take this to the apothecary at the Houses of Healing, and wait for him to give you a packet. Bear that to me at the quarters of the pherriannath here in the Citadel. Do you know where to go, lad?" For he noticed it was a new boy.

His eyes grew wide, but he nodded briskly. "Yes, sire!" he said with a bow, as he had been taught.

"Very good. Off you go then!" and without a look to see if the child had gone, he and Pippin made their way down to the rooms that had been set aside for the elderly hobbits when they had come to the City.

Merry was not in his bed when they entered the room. Instead he was hobbling around, bent over and grasping his middle. He gave Pippin a venomous look. "I  see you had to go and tell, didn't you?"

Aragorn gave him a stern look. "Enough, Master Brandybuck! Your cousin was just looking after you, as you have always done for him."

His glare was transferred to the King, but gradually softened with shame. "I'm sorry, Pip, but this is so bloody embarrassing. You are right, Strider." He tried to stand up straight and then moaned, and shook his head.

Aragorn took two large steps, and swept the old hobbit up in his arms, and went back to the rumpled bed. Pippin came and smoothed the sheets and covers and fluffed the pillows without being told; then Aragorn carefully laid Merry back into the bed and propped him up.

"I know you have already tried some remedies. Tell me what you have done." Merry was by way of being an expert on herbal remedies himself, and Aragorn was certain he would already have dosed himself.

"Well, first of all stewed prunes. I've never known those to fail before," said Merry. "Rhubarb works, but it's the wrong time of year for rhubarb."

"And then we tried honey and warm water," added Pippin.

"If we had wild succory or buckthorn bark, they might be of use." Merry sighed. "I brought a lot of herbs from the Shire that could have worked, but I ran out of most of them long ago, or they lost their potency." He made a face as he suffered another cramp.

"I see. Well, I know that the herbalist in the Houses of Healing happens to keep a tonic of chicory--which is what they call wild succory here in the South--on hand. When Pippin told  me of the nature of your difficulty I sent a page to fetch some. If it does not work, Merry, there is only one other solution..."

Merry gave a shudder. Then he whispered, "That's one reason I didn't want to see a healer. Once, when I was about ten, Mum had the healer at Brandy Hall give me an enema. I didn't much like it."

"No one does," Aragorn replied. "Let us try the tonic first. If you have no results by tomorrow, then we will consider the other option."

There was a tap at the door. "That should be the page," said Pippin, as he went to answer. Indeed it would, and Pippin returned with a green glass bottle, which he handed over to Aragorn.

Merry scowled. "If that tonic is made of wild succory, it's going to taste nasty."

"Yes, it is," Aragorn replied.  He took up the empty water cup on Merry's bedside table and poured a small amount of the tonic into it.

Merry took the cup, made a face at it, and then swallowed it down quickly. "Yaghh! That's awful!" He gave a disgusted shudder.

"You should try to get some rest if you can, Merry." Aragorn turned to Pippin. "Keep an eye on him, Pippin. I'll give directions for some soup to be brought up. Liquid meals are best until things begin to move. Please send for me if you need me."

As the King left the room, Pippin had clambered up onto the bed next to his cousin. "Shall I sing for you, Merry?" he asked.

"Yes, Pip, if you please..." He began to sing softly:

When I was a lad so free
I had no cares to worry me,
Save what to drink and when to dine...

The King closed the door behind him.

Aragorn stopped by the next morning. His eyes watered, for the room smelled overwhelmingly of candlewax and orange blossom and soap, with a much less pleasant odour beneath. There were still scented candles burning. The windows were wide open. Merry was asleep, and Pippin sat next to him, stroking his brow. Pippin was looking wan and worn, every bit of his age.

"I take it that the problem is now solved?" He asked the hobbit.

Pippin nodded. "It was a rather unpleasant night," he said. "But the servants came in and helped us clean up." He sighed. "Merry was dreadfully embarrassed."

"He will feel better now, though. I am quite sure that you did not get much sleep yourself."

Pippin shrugged. "He's spent his share of sleepless nights worrying over me."

"I think, though, that now it is you who needs rest." Aragorn scooped the old hobbit up in his arms, and Pippin did not protest as he was carried to his own bed and tucked in like a faunt.

"Thank you, Strider. You are uncommonly good to us, when you have so much more important things to deal with."

"I cannot think of any at the moment," he replied. "Now, get some sleep. If both of you are rested and feeling up to it, you are invited to a private supper with the Queen and I tonight."

Pippin grinned. "Well, that thought should give me pleasant dreams."

The King bent over and gave the old hobbit a kiss upon his forehead, and then laid a hand on top of his head. "Sleep, Sir Peregrin Took, and dream of the Shire."

Pippin closed his eyes and soon was snoring softly. Aragorn watched for a few moments before going quietly out.



A Botanical Herbal by  Mrs. M. Grieve
Home of the electronic version of "A Modern Herbal" by Maud Grieve, originally published in 1931.

Synonyms Succory. Wild Succory. Hendibeh. Barbe de Capucin.
Part Used Root.
Habitat Wild Chicory or Succory is not uncommon in many parts of England and Ireland, though by no means a common plant in Scotland. It is more common on gravel or chalk, especially on the downs of the south-east coast, and in places where the soil is of a light and sandy nature, when it is freely to be found on waste land, open borders of fields and by the roadside, and is easily recognized by its tough, twig-like stems, along which are ranged large, bright blue flowers about the size and shape of the Dandelion. Sir Jas. E. Smith, founder of the Linnean Society, says of the tough stems: 'From the earliest period of my recollection, when I can just remember tugging ineffectual with all my infant strength at the tough stalks of the wild Succory, on the chalky hills about Norwich....'


Part Used Medicinally The root. When dried - in the same manner as Dandelion it is brownish, with tough, loose, reticulated white layers surrounding a radiate, woody column. It often occurs in commerce crowned with remains of the stem. It is inodorous and of a mucilaginous and bitter taste.
Constituents A special bitter principle, not named, inulin and sugar.
Medicinal Action and Uses Chicory has properties similar to those of Dandelion, its action being tonic, laxative and diuretic.


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 21st, 2017 04:10 am (UTC)
Poor Merry! Aragorn is so kind and caring for his old friends.
Mar. 21st, 2017 04:39 am (UTC)
I think the bond between the remaining Fellowship is as tight as family, and that Aragorn still feels as protective of the hobbits now at their age as he was on the long-ago days of the quest.
Mar. 21st, 2017 04:23 am (UTC)
Oh goodness, poor Merry! I'm so glad Aragorn and Pippin were there to give him the help he needed.
Mar. 21st, 2017 12:52 pm (UTC)
Poor Merry, indeed! But his friends will always be there.
Mar. 21st, 2017 05:06 am (UTC)
Aww! This is sweet, and genuine. I'm glad all three of them are there looking out for each other. This makes me want to read more set in this time period- when Merry and Pippin are in Gondor again.
Mar. 21st, 2017 02:24 pm (UTC)
I really think that they would always look out for each other; it seems to me that after the Quest, all the Fellowship would consider that a second family, after all they'd been through together.

This makes me want to read more set in this time period- when Merry and Pippin are in Gondor again.

I have a few other stories set in Gondor after their retirement:

L: Like a Nimble Nimrodel
Yestarë in Dol Amroth

I have always imagined them spending several years in Minas Tirith, living in the Citadel, and being spoiled rotten by the King and his court. For some reason, I have always thought of Pippin becoming good friends with Amrothos of Dol Amroth.
Mar. 21st, 2017 05:20 am (UTC)
"Thank you, Strider. You are uncommonly good to us, when you have so much more important things to deal with."

"I cannot think of any at the moment," he replied

I love that. What a sweet h/c story, most delicately related! *beams*
Mar. 21st, 2017 01:05 pm (UTC)
*grin* When I write this sort of cozy h/c, I kind of always have you in the back of my mind, so I'm always glad when you like it.

I try to be delicate, partly to make it less likely I'll trigger a reader, but also because I think it's fun to come up with ways to be subtle. I think euphemisms are among the most clever uses of language.
Mar. 21st, 2017 05:20 am (UTC)
"Thank you, Strider. You are uncommonly good to us, when you have so much more important things to deal with."

"I cannot think of any at the moment," he replied

I love that. What a sweet h/c story, most delicately related! *beams*
Mar. 21st, 2017 10:32 am (UTC)
Poor Merry! I'm glad Aragorn helped, though. I quite liked the way you were graphic without actually being graphic. ;)
Mar. 21st, 2017 01:20 pm (UTC)
Aragorn enjoys getting to take care of his hobbits, I think!

As I mentioned to Shirebound, I think it's fun to evade being graphic, while still leaving the reader in no doubt as to what is happening. Sometimes clinical language doesn't fit the setting, and cruder or more direct language can break the mood. But a clever euphemism or a subtle phrase can always work, and sometimes adds a light touch of humor.
Mar. 21st, 2017 03:00 pm (UTC)
You've captured the speech cadences of the characters extremely well here, and such a delightful story (if embarrassing to poor Merry). It was a joy to read.

- Erulisse (one L)
Mar. 21st, 2017 10:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you, dear! I'm glad you liked it. And it always gives me a good feeling to know I got the voices right!
Mar. 22nd, 2017 03:06 am (UTC)
This was really good! I liked the research you did and also it is quite a h/c topic that we don't broach that much so i think your healing of Merry was done with care and good humor. :)
Mar. 23rd, 2017 02:56 am (UTC)
Well, the topic was rather dictated by the particular herb I was given; the main medical use seemed to be as a laxative, so...

I like to always have some humor in my h/c stories, especially with hobbits, who scarcely know how to do anything without a little humor!
Mar. 23rd, 2017 01:18 am (UTC)
Even though this wasn't a pleasant moment, I still love thinking about Merry and Pippin's time in Gondor. Seeing the strength in their friendship and the deep respect they all have for each other is lovely.
Mar. 23rd, 2017 02:58 am (UTC)
I love to think that they had a grand time in Gondor for several years, being pampered by the King and his court, with all due respect for the services they rendered in their youth! And the love between those of the remaining Fellowship is always going to be deep and true.
Apr. 12th, 2017 05:38 pm (UTC)
Merry and Pippin are so fortunate to have Aragorn as their friend! I'm glad he outlived them, though I'm very sure it was very hard for him when they died. Meanwhile, he could enjoy spoiling them a little. =)
Apr. 22nd, 2017 06:08 pm (UTC)
I've finally gotten to archiving this challenge! I've added yours here; please check that I didn't make any mistakes. :)

Apr. 22nd, 2017 06:08 pm (UTC)
I've finally gotten to archiving this challenge! I've added yours here; please check that I didn't make any mistakes. :)

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )


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