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8 ASTRON 3019 (S.R. 1419)
Frodo woke and found himself lying in bed. At first he thought that he had slept late, after a long unpleasant dream that still hovered on the edge of memory. Or perhaps he had been ill? He seemed to feel all this was familiar, as though it had happened to him before.
“Where am I, and what is the time?” he said aloud.
“You are in Ithilien, and it is eight o’clock in the morning,” said a familiar voice. “It is the morning of the eighth of Astron, or the fourteenth day of the New Year, if you want to know.”
“Gandalf!” cried Frodo, sitting bolt upright in astonishment. “Gandalf!” he exclaimed again, caught between laughter and tears. There was the Wizard, sitting on a stool by his cot.
“Oh, Gandalf,” he reached out, to see if this was real, and the Wizard caught him in an embrace.
“Yes,” he said. “I am here, and you are lucky to be here after all the amazing things you have done.”
Frodo lay back down, and a shadow passed across his brow. “It is gone; it is done.” He turned his face to Gandalf anxiously. “Sam?”
Gandalf smiled and gestured to the cot on the other side of his. Frodo saw the mound of covers, topped by sandy curls, from which issued gentle snores. He relaxed with a sigh of relief.
“And the others?” he asked fearfully.
“All the Fellowship live, save poor Boromir.”
Frodo nodded sadly. “I met his brother. He told me.” He noticed the cots at the other end of the tent.
“Pippin?” he whispered.
Gandalf nodded. With tears in his eyes, Frodo studied the face of his youngest cousin, a face he had never expected to see again. Relaxed in sleep, the young Took looked all of about seven years old.
Merry chose that moment to enter with the usual morning breakfast tray. He gave a gasp at the sight of Frodo awake, and would have dropped the tray had Gandalf not moved quickly. “Easy, Merry, I have it.”
Unencumbered, Merry flew to Frodo’s arms, sobbing. Laughing and crying at the same time, they hugged one another fiercely, occasionally drawing back to examine one another’s face. Frodo reached his hand up and touched the scar on Merry’s brow, and saw his own bandaged hand. He drew back, troubled. But Merry grabbed him again, and the shadow lifted. How could he be sad, with Merry there to cheer him?
Just then, Aragorn entered. “I see you wakened first, Frodo,” he said with a smile. He came over and placed his hand on Sam’s brow. “I think Sam will probably sleep for another three or four hours; and Pippin was tired out as well, and needs still to sleep. It’s a beautiful day, and the weather is mild. Let us take you outdoors, so that you and Merry can visit without waking the sleepers. When they do awaken, we will bring them out to you.”
He called two Men, and they carried Frodo out, bed and all, to a nearby grove of beeches, and then the two cousins shared the breakfast tray, as they talked and shared their news. About an hour later, they brought Pippin out to join them, and the three of them shared a pipe, and laughter, and reunion. They tended to gloss over the unpleasant details, and talked of Ents and oliphaunts, waterfalls and White Towers, rabbit stew and Longbottom Leaf. After a while, Sam’s cot was brought out, though he still slept.
“I thought he might like to waken among the trees,” said Aragorn. He turned to Pippin and Merry. “I am sorry to break up your reunion, but the two of you have some duties to attend to. So back to your tent, and into your liveries. I believe, Pippin, that with Merry’s help, you may walk that far.”
Leaning on his cousin, they made their way slowly back towards the tent, Merry stopping frequently to let Pippin rest. Frodo followed their progress with troubled eyes.
“Pippin told me he was injured by a troll he killed,” he said incredulously.
“So he was,” said Aragorn. “Both your cousins had a near brush with death, yet it was averted. And they have recovered remarkably well. I think that we have Treebeard and the Ent-draughts to thank for that.”
“They told me that he gave them a drink that made them grow. It’s astonishing to me to see them so tall; especially Pip.”
“From what I can determine, it did more than simply make them grow and make their hair curl; it seems to have made it possible for them to heal very quickly of any injury or illness. Aside from some lingering effects of their injuries, your cousins are in the bloom of health. Of course, Pippin’s injuries are not yet healed completely, but considering the extent of them, he is in remarkable shape considering that two weeks ago we did not think he could live. Here he is walking about; a Man with his injuries who lived to tell the tale would be yet abed and still swathed in bandages.”
“They have told me some of it, yet not all,” Frodo sighed. “I wish I could have spared them all of this.”
“I do not think either of them would thank you for that. They chose what they chose, and it is well for us all that they did. They had tasks of their own to perform, and though their tasks were not as important as the Ring, nevertheless they were important ones.” He looked at Frodo, who was stifling a yawn.
“I cannot believe I am still sleepy after sleeping for two straight weeks.”
“But during that sleep your body was busy repairing itself from all the abuse it had endured. That in itself is less than restful. Lie back down, and doze a bit more if you feel like it. Sam is near to waking, and you want to be fresh when he does.”
Frodo nodded, and slid back beneath the covers, his eyelids slipping closed.
Gandalf approached. “I will watch them for a while. I would be here when Samwise awakens. And you have duties to attend to. Your responsibilities extend to more than just four hobbits, no matter how valiant and beloved they may be.”
Aragorn nodded. No matter how reluctant he felt to leave them, he knew Gandalf spoke truly.
Legolas and Gimli awaited Merry and Pippin in the tent. “There is to be a ceremony for Frodo and Samwise,” said the Elf, “and a feast afterwards, in their honor. The two of you will serve at the feast. But Aragorn had orders for you Pippin: you are to rest until it is time, you are to sit down between removes, and if at any time you feel a weakness you are also to sit down. And you will be resting immediately afterwards as well. He said to remind you that he is your liege now, and you had better obey those orders.”
Pippin nodded. “I’ll do just as he says. I don’t want to spoil things for Frodo and Sam by having a setback.”
Merry looked at him in astonishment. “Who are you, and what have you done with my cousin?”
Pippin laughed. “I *do* have some sense, Merry.”
“Well, I must say that being squashed has had a good effect on you, if that is so.”
Pippin gave his cousin a light blow on the shoulder, and they spent a minute swatting at one another playfully. Truthfully, both were in such high spirits to have Frodo finally back that if they could have they would have been rolling about on the floor wrestling.
“All right, laddies,” said Gimli, “that’s enough of that. You are both knights now and need to have a bit of decorum.”
They burst out laughing. “Who ever heard of a hobbit with decorum?” said Pippin.
“Oh, I don’t know, Pip, your father has his moments.” This made them giggle.
Legolas shook his head. “Let’s get you both into your livery. Perhaps that will straighten you up.”
After they were dressed, they had a light luncheon, and then they separated, each to his own company of comrades. Merry went to be among the éoreds of the King of Rohan, and Pippin took his place with the Third Company. But they had prepared for him, and had a small seat for him.
Pippin looked about; all he could see was a sea of knees, in every direction. This was a bit frustrating, and he heaved a sigh of exasperation. Artamir looked down at him. “Sir Peregrin, if it would not offend you, I would be willing to lift you up so that you might see, when the ceremony begins.”
“Like a little lad on his father’s shoulder? Well, I will put my dignity aside then, if you don’t object, for I do not wish to miss seeing this for the world.”
So Artamir lifted him up, and put him on his shoulders, and Pippin could see the mighty host drawn up all in honor of his cousin and Sam. Soon enough, he saw their small figures escorted by Gandalf, approaching to the sounds of many voices, his own among them, lifted up in a hymn of praise.
And Pippin watched, swollen with love and pride, as they ran to embrace Aragorn, and he set them upon his throne, and cried out “Praise them with great praise!”
And after another mighty shout, the minstrel came, and sang for all the lay of “Frodo of the Nine Fingers and the Ring of Doom”. The tears of joy ran down Pippin’s face unnoticed as he drank in every word of the song.
The lay finally ended as the Sun went down, and Merry and Pippin were taken to the great pavilions where the feast was to be served, and were served first, so that they might not grow hungry as they served others.
Then they stationed themselves at the back of the pavilion near the cookfires. Merry had found a little barrel for Pippin to sit on while they waited. Soon enough the Kings and their guests of honor were seated at the High Table, along with Legolas and Gimli.
All rose for the Standing Silence, and then Merry and Pippin took the ewers of wine, and went forth to serve. Pippin poured wine for the Prince of Dol Amroth, who sat near Sam, and then turned, waiting for Sam to recognize him, as he poured his wine.
“Why, look Mr. Frodo! Look here! Well, if it isn’t Pippin, Mr. Peregrin Took I should say, and Mr. Merry! How they have grown! Bless me! But I can see there’s more tales to tell than ours”
“There are indeed,” said Pippin turning towards him with a wicked grin, “And we’ll begin telling them as soon as this feast is ended. In the meantime you can try Gandalf. He’s not so close as he used to be, though he laughs now more than he talks. For the present, Merry and I are busy. We are Knights of the City and of the Mark, as I hope you observe.”
The feast finally ended, and Frodo and Sam, along with Merry and Pippin and the others of the Fellowship went back to the beech grove where they had spent the morning, and began to tell all their tales. Aragorn had joined them, and he watched carefully over his patients. He was pleased with the way his gifts had been received, and Frodo seemed to be in good spirits. The darkness that troubled him was still there, but it was scattered and dispersed; perhaps it would remain that way, only an occasional cloud to shadow him. Perhaps it would not gather in on him again. Perhaps Frodo could return to his home and his life. Perhaps.
As he began to notice the signs of weariness on them, he was considering telling them the evening was at an end, when Gandalf forestalled him.
The Wizard rose. “The hands of the King are the hands of healing, dear friends. But you went to the very brink of death ere he recalled you putting forth all his power and sent you to the sweet forgetfulness of sleep. And though you have slept long and blessedly, still it is now time to sleep again.”
And then Gimli, who had become somewhat possessive of Pippin since finding him under the troll, reminded him that he had only been up a day, and so needed his rest as well. It was hardly necessary; the youngest hobbit was nodding where he sat.
Aragorn got up and gathered his newest knight into his arms; he settled him into the crook of his left arm, and offered his right hand to Frodo. Sam supported Frodo’s other side, though he too was stumbling from weariness, and Merry walked on the other side of Aragorn, with his hand on Pippin’s knee. They walked back to the tent, and he saw everyone each to his own bed.
He turned to leave, and was stopped by a quiet voice.
“You know, you don’t owe us anything. We did what we had to do. Besides, you gave us your best gift long ago.”
“And what was that, Frodo?”
“You gave us your love. Good night, Strider.”
In Part III sections in italics are quoted directly from The Lord of the Rings, from The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 2, Chapter 1, “Many Meetings” and from The Return of the King, Book 6, Chapter 4, “The Field of Cormallen”
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