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It took us four days of travel to reach the Grey Havens from Belfalas. The day after Isengar’s injury, we received word of Darion’s plan to join in Gondor’s aid at Dol Amroth. They would remain as long as they were needed, and would send word to Cirdan himself when they were ready to return north, unless they found sturdy horses that could bear them the long distance. Then we were at sea again, sailing back to the Grey Havens. It was just yesterday morning that we berthed at the Elven harbor. Amid many partings, both sad and tearful--for the crew and Isengar, we soon depart for the Shire.
Today, I am deep in thought as the rhythm of the pony’s gait make a droning noise as he plods along the road. I hold the reins loosely in one hand, letting the pony take the lead for a bit as I light my pipe. Tendrils of smoke trail behind me as I breathe out a long sigh, trying to imagine the welcome my young companion will receive when we reach Great Smials. Will they be delighted to see him, or will they reject him for behaving… unnatural? I’ve known for many years that my visits have been tolerated among the general population, and Gerontius is looked upon as being peculiar by taking up with a Wizard.
I glance at the young lad sitting next to me. He sits upon a small cushion that Cirdan gave him before our departure. It helps to absorb the bouncing of the cart as we ride over the ruts in the road. He also uses his arms to support the wound area whenever the jostling gets to be too much for him. I can see the long ride is making him drowsy, but the anticipation of his return home keeps his eyes from rolling closed--and I know the reunion has been weighing on his mind as well.
“What are you thinking about, lad?”
I can hear a long sigh as he deliberates on his answer. “My brothers.”
“Your brothers?” I would have thought his biggest fear would be his mother, the formidable Adamanta.
He looks at me with his sparkling green eyes. “Do you think that so odd?”
I answer him, “I believe it was your mother, not your brothers, that you disobeyed as I was departing Great Smials. Are you not fretting over her retribution?”
“No!” Isengar emphatically added, “Well, yes…well….no, I don’t think so. I mean, yes I will have to pay for my…disobedience when mother calms down, but it is my brothers Isengrim and Isumbras that have been looking after me. It’s them that I’m worried about.”
“The last time I got into trouble,” He explains, then gives me a sideways glance. Seeing my critical look in return, he corrects himself, “I mean, the last time I was in serious trouble, my father tried to take me over his knee, but…I outran him, Gandalf. I outran my father--at the age of eighty-five he simply couldn’t catch me. It was Isengrim who caught me hiding in the larder and…did the deed. It’s been like that ever since. My father has been getting more and more feeble over the past ten years, and for a long while now, it’s been Isengrim and Isumbras keeping me in order.”
I am concerned over this revelation. The thought of Gerontius being too aged to keep after his children did not occur to me.
Isengar gazes out over the golden heather in the meadow we pass. So much worry etched into his young face. Perhaps his brothers might be a bit easier on him if there were a guest about. “Would you feel more comfortable if I stayed a couple days?”
Even through the soreness of his wound, Isengar smiles. “Would you--please?”
“I will indeed,” I answer before ordering him to the back of the cart to lie down for the remainder of the trip.
It is nearly supper for the hobbits as we drive up to the stables at Great Smials. I help Isengar out of the back and give him a moment to find the strength in his legs. He holds firmly onto my hand as we slowly walk up towards the great entrance. I can feel him pulling on my one arm as his weight shifts with each arduous step.
I ask him, “Can you walk to the door, Isengar?” He nods. I resist the impulse to pick up the lad and carry him.
I notice two young boys running towards us as we trudge up the lane shouting and waving. The lads are Fortinbras and Adalgrim Took; Isengar’s nephews.
Isengar turns and smiles at them. “Hullo!”
Adalgrim was the first to run up to his uncle and throw his arms around Isengar’s waist. Isengar gasps, and his face goes white before doubling over in pain. Adalgrim is frightened as he backs away from his uncle. It is then that I lift Isengar into my arms and direct the boys to open the door.
Both children run ahead towards the main hallway calling for anyone who could hear them. I gently lay Isengar onto the couch in the parlor and wait for others to arrive.
~ ~ ~
Isengar’s fears were unfounded as his family was actually quite thrilled to have him back safe and sound--unlike one unnamed brother. A sad tale that I will not relate here, nor ever tell his family about.
As I said, everyone was happy to see the young fellow, patting him on the shoulders or tousling his hair. And yes, it was Isengrim who carried his hurting brother to his bedroom and then sent for the Smials’ healers. I offer Isumbras the flagon with Isengar’s medicine in it. I inform him to give the lad three sips, twice per day until the stitching is removed. Isumbras takes the cork off and grimaces at the smell of garlic and brandy. Once Isumbras recovers his senses, he thanks me.
It is not long before the young Took is tucked into his bed and surrounded by the familiar faces of his friends, nephews, and nieces. Adalgrim and his younger sisters are hanging on their uncle’s every word as he relates yet another embellished account of his adventure. All the children gasp and lean in for a closer look when Isengar lifts up his nightshirt to show off his stitches. Fortinbras cautiously touches the unsightly scar.
Everyone becomes silent as Gerontious and Adamanta enter Isengar’s bedroom. Isengar is still dramatically telling the lads and lasses about the large horse that he rode while leading the Dú nedain into battle when he sees his parents enter. The group of children run back to their mothers and fathers as the final reunion takes place.
Gone is the impudent rascal who stowed away on my cart the week before. Gone is the little warrior who so valiantly defended the life of a woman--nearly at the cost of his own. What I see before me is a young hobbit-tween, who is now feeling safe and sound in the arms of his weeping mother.
* * * * *
*”And not only Sam and Frodo here,” said Gimli, “but you too, Pippin. I love you , if only because of the pains you cost me, which I shall never forget.”
I had stood up and bid the young hobbits to bed, but the it seems the Dwarf misunderstood me. I was speaking of Peregrin as well. He, too, sustained injuries that will give him grief for a while yet. But he so desired to wait upon his king today in gratitude of his health and well being. I can only surmise that he also wanted to surprise Frodo and Samwise with just how much he has grown…both in stature and understanding. And knowing Peregrin as I do, I am certain he wanted them to see him in his new livery…as a Knight of Gondor. Hobbits!
I walk slowly towards the tents so that the recuperating hobbits can keep up. I feel like a mother hen with her chicks gathered safely underneath her wings. I have to watch where I step to avoid injury to the furry feet pattering nearby. I can tell by the way Peregrin is walking that he is in pain again. He has over done himself today. The other hobbits, Meriadoc and Samwise, prattle away while Frodo walks silently beside me, hands in his pockets.
We all come to a stop in front of Frodo and Sam’s tent. No one speaks for a long minute. Peregrin continues to lean from one swollen foot to the other in his discomfort.
Baffled at the inactivity of the group, I inquire as to why they stopped walking.
Peregrin speaks up, “I was waiting for Frodo here. I wanted to make sure he got into his bed all right.”
Frodo smiles at Peregrin, “And I was waiting for you, little cousin--for the same reason.”
Peregrin states firmly, “I’m not ‘little’ anymore, Frodo. I’m taller than you!”
“You may be taller, Pippin, but I am afraid you’ll always be little to me.” Frodo takes his hands out of his pockets as Peregrin embraces him.
Meriadoc and Sam exchange looks. “You take yours, and I’ll take mine, Sam.” Meriadoc briefly joins in the embrace with his cousins and then helps Peregrin towards their own tent.
I say goodnight to Frodo and Samwise and then start towards Peregrin and Meriadoc’s tent. I discover Meriadoc in the midst of rubbing his cousins swollen limbs.
“Peregrin, you really ought stay in bed tomorrow,” I advise. To my utter amazement I receive no protesting from the lad. I take the small bottle from the table and pour a bit of the medicine into his cup and offer it to him. Peregrin makes a sour face as he swallows the draught.
“I am sorry--not everything can taste like the beer at the Green Dragon,” I tell him.
Peregrin wipes his mouth as he lays back against his pillow. I sit nearby until I see his eyelids slowly blink for the last time and falls into a deep slumber. His aches forgotten until he overdoes himself again...probably tomorrow. Then I realize there is complete silence in the tent. I look over to Meriadoc. He is slumped alongside the foot of his cousin’s bed. It has been a long day for both young hobbits. I locate Meriadoc’s blanket on his cot and cover him with it, as there will surely be a chill in the early spring breeze this night.
Before I leave the tent, I gaze one last time at the sleeping hobbits. I know my time with them, with all hobbits, is coming to an end soon, and I am not looking forward to that day.
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