The Trouble with Chestnuts by Dreamflower, Larner, Linda Hoyland, Raksha The Demon, Shirebound, Linaewen, periantari
(Written for the 2014 Fifth Anniversary Comment Round Robin.)
Contributing Authors: Linaewen, shirebound, Dreamflower, Linda Hoyland, KathyG, Raksha the Demon, Periantari, Larner
Title: The Trouble with Chestnuts
Rating: PG (for mentions of canon-level violence)
Editor's Notes: The story was slightly edited to blend the parts, correct mistakes, and to clarify the chronology.
Summary: On the Fellowship's trek through Hollin, a chance to forage turns into a potentially deadly encounter.
Sam was completely distracted by his discovery. He gathered as many of the chestnuts as he could, filling his pockets and then his handkerchief with the unexpected bounty. Mr. Frodo and the others would be so happy to have them. Boromir stood nervously behind him; Strider'd asked the Man to guard him when he gave Sam permission to go back up their trail and collect his find. Suddenly, he heard the sound of an angry squeal, but before he could even turn, large hands snatched him up and plunked him upon a branch of the chestnut tree. Sam stared down in horror as Boromir drew his sword and prepared to face the charging boar.
Sam gripped his bulging handkerchief with one hand and held on to the tree branch with the other, desperately hoping that he would not fall. Bad enough that Boromir had to fight to defend him – he didn't want to make things even more difficult by plunging down into the midst of the battle.
He watched, holding his breath in terror, as the boar charged straight at Boromir. With a sweep of his sword, Boromir deflected the charge and the boar ran past him. Quickly turning, the creature gathered itself for another attack. Boromir had but an instant to grasp the shield he wore upon his back, and set it before him to fend off attacks from the boar's fearsome tusks. Shield in hand and sword held high, Boromir did not wait for the boar's charge, but instead leaped forward to battle.
Sam cried out in fear, as Boromir's foot suddenly turned on a chestnut, and he lost his balance. Down on one knee he went, and then the boar was upon him.
Back at camp, Legolas leaped to his feet as his sharp ears picked up the faint, shrill cry of a hobbit -- calling for help.
"Aragorn, Gimli, with me!" he cried out. "Sam and Boromir are in danger!" He raced back up the trail without looking back. He didn't call out, hoping to take any attackers unaware. Sam's cries grew louder as he approached the chestnut glade, and when he burst through the trees he halted, frozen for a moment at the scene before him.
The boar was savaging Boromir's left shoulder. Any arrow that would kill the creature was likely to hit Boromir as well. Somehow he must distract it to get a clear shot.
Behind him he heard the others swiftly approaching. Time was of the essence.
Aragorn drew Andúril and raced towards the boar. Boromir's cries echoed through the clearing, hideous to the ear. It seemed that the boar intended to devour him alive! The thought flashed through Aragorn's mind that maybe this was no ordinary beast, but some creature of the enemy. He exchanged a swift glance with Legolas and the Elven archer nocked an arrow.
Aragorn ran forward towards the frenzied beast, yelling at the top of his voice.
Meanwhile, Boromir's shield had rolled some distance away. Gimli picked it up and prepared to hurl it at the precise moment at which Aragorn charged.
In that moment, Sam slipped and fell off the branch. His handkerchief bulging with chestnuts fell out of his hand, and the chestnuts that he had filled it with scattered all over the ground underneath the tree. Some of the chestnuts in his pockets slid out, joining them.
Immediately, the boar left Boromir and rushed at Sam. “Sam!” the gardener heard a horrified voice shout; it was Frodo. “Boromir!”
Clutching his bleeding shoulder, Boromir gaped in horror. “Sam! Look out! Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, save him!”
It was too late for Sam to get out of the way; the boar was upon him. He scrunched his legs up against his stomach and covered his face with his arms, as he felt those sharp tusks boring through his shirt and grazing his skin.
Gimli hurled the shield. It flew spinning through the air and hit the maddened animal squarely in the head. It turned, and pawed the earth, its beady little eyes now fixed on Gimli. Frodo, Merry and Pippin each picked up a stone.
That was all the distraction needed. At the same instant, Legolas' arrow entered its eye, three stones bounced off its skull, and Andúril pierced its throat.
It fell over dead. The hobbits rushed over to check on their injured comrades, tears running unchecked down Frodo's face as he sobbed, "Sam, oh Sam!"
Aragorn pulled Andúril out of the slain animal, and went to bend over the injured ones.
As Gandalf hastened towards the boar's victims, his sleeve caught on a branch, jeopardizing his balance for perhaps the first time in some seven hundred years. He tried to dig his staff into the ground, but it skittered off a heavy root and the wizard fell flat on his face. An ancient and undignified oath escaped him; but the others, consumed with worry for the boar's victims, did not hear. It was in Valarin, anyway. He wondered if his mortal form was growing even older. With luck, no one would notice a stray bit of moss in his hair. With luck, neither Samwise nor Boromir was hurt much worse.
"Harrumph", Gandalf snorted, clearing his throat. He stood up and walked ahead, only a bit slower. Behind him, a sparrow chittered. It sounded like laughter.
Boromir looked pale; his face was a stark contrast to the blood that was gushing from the shoulder wound that the boar inflicted. Both Sam's arms had nasty deep gashes and his forehead had a fresh cut as well.
Because both the man and hobbit seemed to be in poor condition, the Fellowship decided to tend to them right there and not bring them back to the nearby campsite. They moved the victims over to a nearby spot away from the dead boar.
"Legolas," cried Aragorn, "please go and fetch my healing kit and get some clean bandages from our camping site! We need to bind these wounds carefully!"
The Elf raced off. Aragorn turned to Frodo, who was distraught. All of the hobbits were crowded around in worry for their injured ones.
Gandalf approached, brushing his robes, his humour restored as he realized no one had noticed his fall. He noticed Aragorn's dilemma; hindered by Frodo, Merry and Pippin he could not examine the injuries properly.
"Frodo!" said the wizard, "you might be of some use if you would fetch one of the waterskins.
"But--" Frodo did not want to leave Sam, yet he knew that the water was needed.
"I'm not so bad off, Mr. Frodo," said Sam. "Mr. Boromir kept me safe, or would've, if I'd not been such a ninny as to fall."
"Pippin, go with him," said Gandalf. He did not wish Frodo to be unaccompanied, even though they were so close to camp. Legolas would be with them too, as soon as he had found Aragorn's healing pouch.
Gimli stood looking down at the dead boar. "Master Meriadoc! This creature has caused us a good deal of trouble. We should not let it go to waste." He pulled out a knife from his belt. "Come, help me butcher the beast."
Aragorn heaved a sigh of relief as he turned his attention once more to his patients, no longer under the eyes of worried onlookers.
Aragorn worked quickly with Gandalf aiding him. He cut some of the cloth he kept in his pouch and expertly applied several layers on Boromir's shoulder to stem the bleeding while he waited for Frodo to return with the water.
"I'll be all right, tend to the halfing first," gasped Boromir.
"Lie still," replied Aragorn.
Gandalf was tending to poor Sam. Sam's gashes were deep. With the aid of Legolas, they used the water Frodo brought back to clean the cuts and gashes of each and applied as many bandages as they could to stem the intense bleeding.
Sam was exhausted even though he did not move a muscle while Strider worked on him. Even though he hurt, the smell of athelas filled his nose and he slowly fell asleep.
Even Boromir could not help but feel a bit calmer with the smell of athelas and felt more relaxed and he did not fight further treatment. The boar had worn him out and his shoulder hurt.
"Both cannot be moved and we cannot move further today," said Gandalf gravely.
"Will they be all right?" Frodo was very worried as he saw how pale his dear friend was.
"Of course they will-- they are strong!" said Merry trying to comfort his cousin.
"That bear was a menace and odd to have been seen in these parts. I wonder if there is evil at hand," muttered Gandalf under his breath.
When Legolas, Frodo and Pippin had returned, they had also decided it was best to move the campsite back to the injured ones. Besides Aragorn's healer's pack and the water, Pippin led Bill, loaded with most of their possessions. Pippin tethered Bill next to a tree, and began to collect firewood without being told. He met Merry's eyes, and gave a sad little nod.
Merry returned his nod, and turned back to the task at hand. He gave a savage hack at the wild pig's haunch. The boar had hurt his friends, and there was some satisfaction in hacking it up to make a pork dinner.
He looked over at Gimli, and the two met one another's eyes. He saw the same grim appreciation of this rough justice as he felt. The anticipation of seeing the boar roasting over a hot fire had very little to do with hunger. Despite his reassurances, he was worried for Sam, and for Boromir as well.
As Pippin gathered firewood, he noticed the scattered chestnuts Sam had been trying to collect such a short time earlier. Looking about, he located the empty handkerchief and scooped it up. After sufficient firewood had been gathered and a fire started for warming the wounded and cooking the boar, Pippin set about picking up the chestnuts.
"It'll do Sam's heart good to see that these chestnuts aren't wasted," he muttered, though in reality, he simply needed something to do to keep his mind off the blood on Boromir's shoulder and his pale face, and the ghastly cut on Sam's head.
"Mr. Frodo?" Sam's voice sounded weak. He looked from Frodo to Pippin.
"I'm here, Sam." Frodo knelt beside his servant and took Sam's hand.
Sam swallowed twice. "Is--is Mr. Boromir all right?"
Frodo looked back toward Boromir, who was still being tended by Aragorn. It was Gandalf who answered. "He will be, Sam," the wizard said, as he pressed a folded piece of cloth against Sam's bleeding forehead. "He's in good hands." He looked at Frodo. "Frodo, if you'll hold this cloth in place, I'll have a look at Sam's arms." With a nod, Frodo pressed his fingertips down on the cloth, which was rapidly becoming soaked with blood.
At that moment, Aragorn, who had just finished treating Boromir's injuries, came over to Sam. Gandalf moved back so that Aragorn could take his place. "Boromir is going to be fine, Sam," Aragorn said, as he opened his healer's kit. "Now, let's have a look at you."
Boromir had gritted his teeth as Aragorn finished setting the stitches in his shoulder. He had enough experience of wounds (his own and those of soldiers under his command) that he knew he would be all right. The worst part of a wound from an animal was the risk of infection, and Aragorn had thoroughly cleansed the wounds before setting his expert stitches. The muscles were painful, and deeply bruised. Thankfully the injury was to his shield arm and not his sword arm. He felt a little weak from blood loss, but that would soon be replenished.
He was more worried about Sam. He had tried to protect him by thrusting him into the tree, but he should have realized the young gardener would not feel secure there.
He watched wearily as Aragorn carefully washed and bandaged Sam's scraped arms, and then turned his attention to the wound on the hobbit's curly head. Frodo was once more hovering over Sam's shoulder, but was making himself useful by pouring the water Aragorn needed, and passing him what he required from the healer's pouch.
Aragorn held up his hand. "How many fingers do you see?"
"Two," whispered Sam.
Aragorn smiled and peered into his patient's eyes, then nodded. He began washing away the blood that had poured down from the cut. "No signs of concussion. A few stitches should do the trick."
Frodo heaved a sigh of relief, but still looked worried. "There was so much blood..."
Aragorn shook his head. "Head wounds often bleed heavily, even when they are not too serious. You have been most lucky, Master Gamgee."
Boromir felt relief as well. While he had hoped Sam's injuries were not serious, he had not been certain until Aragorn had said so. His respect for the Ranger's healing skills went up. Meanwhile, he smelled the scent of roasting pork. At least that cursed boar would feed them now.
A good meal of roast pork did much to restore all within the Fellowship, Gandalf thought as he sought to share out some of his dwindling supply of pipe weed with Aragorn.
"Pippin," called Frodo, where he sat by Sam's side helping the small gardener to fill up the corners, "be certain that Boromir gets his share of the roasted chestnuts."
Aragorn gave a glimpse at the others, commenting quietly, "The color of each of them is much better, and I include that of Frodo Baggins in the evaluation. Although I predict that Sam will have quite a spectacular black eye by the time he awakens tomorrow."
"And I suspect that he'll have quite a sensitive knot where the boar's tusk glanced off his skull as well," the Wizard returned. He turned his attention to Boromir. "Now, our doughty warrior there will have another impressive scar to show to the maidens of his father's court, should fate lead him safely home again."
The Ranger merely grunted as he filled his pipe and pulled out his striker set. Gandalf sighed. If all went as he personally hoped, of course, it would be Aragorn's court rather than that of Denethor son of Ecthelion. But neither he nor Aragorn would speak such thoughts aloud now, not when so much was still in question.
Once he had his pipe lit and was stowing his striker set back into his belt pouch, Aragorn said in a low voice, "At least your own fall was not serious enough to require my services, my friend." His eyes were twinkling as the Wizard shot a glance his way.
So much, Gandalf thought, for my own spill going unnoticed! He tamped the last of his leaf into his pipe, and with a quiet Word set it alight.
While Aragorn prepared some willow-bark tea for Sam and Boromir, Frodo sat beside his gardener and Legolas sat next to Boromir. Merry and Pippin took the dishes to the nearby creek to wash them, accompanied by Gimli. Silence descended over the Fellowship as the tea came to a boil over the campfire.
As Merry and Pippin returned with the now-clean dishes, Aragorn poured some tea into a couple of cups. He handed one of them to Gandalf, who took it to Boromir, and then he took the other cup to Sam. Making a face, the gardener drank it.
"I'm afraid you're going to have a nasty lump on your head tomorrow, Sam," Aragorn told him, as he handed the empty cup to Merry. "We're going to have to stay here for a day or two, to give you and Boromir a chance to recover from that boar attack. I mixed a sleeping draught in with the willow-bark tea, so you and Boromir will be going to sleep shortly."
Sam nodded. "I could use some sleep," he said, yawning. A few minutes later, he closed his eyes and drifted into slumber. Boromir soon did the same thing.