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“If You Could See What I Hear…”
“Along a Path of Light”
Do you seek the road to Faerieland?
I’ll tell; it’s easy, quite.
Wait till a yellow moon gets up
O’er purple seas by night,
And gilds a shining pathway
That is sparkling diamond bright
Then, if no evil power be nigh
To thwart you, out of spite,
And if you know the very words
To cast a spell of might,
You get upon a thistledown,
And, if the breeze is right,
You sail away to Faerieland
Along this track of light.
From “The Road to Faerieland”
Ernest Thompson Seton
A/N: I want to thank Dreamflower, Pearl Took, and Larner for lending me some of their OC's for the search party! Also, a big thank you to Minniemoggie for her help with the elvish in naming the river, and to everyone else who came up with numerous suggestions!!
”What is it, Pad?” Milo Chubb was at his friend’s side in a flash, peering at the find. Paladin held up the scrap of wool for his inspection. Milo grinned. “That from his toy piggy? He snagged it on some of those brambles yonder, eh?”
“Aye! He must have come this way and perhaps stopped to get a drink of water, just as we did.” Paladin turned in a semicircle, squinting into the fading light. He made a quick decision. Raising his voice, he called over his shoulder. “Come, let’s go lads!” He waved his party in the direction of a thick cluster of oak and ash as he set off at a brisk trot, the reins of his pony clutched tightly in one hand. He tucked his find into his shirt pocket and breathed a silent plea to he knew not what, that he would find his son soon.
“Easy, Pad, watch where you’re going.” Milo grabbed him by the arm as Paladin stumbled and nearly fell in his haste. “No sense in you breaking your fool neck along the way.”
Paladin frowned at his cousin, shrugging out of his grasp and tossing a look over his shoulder at the others. “Night is falling fast, we need to hurry it up!”
“Aye, that’s true, but we also need to keep our wits about ourselves.”
“I’m nearly out of patience.”
“So I see.” Milo patted his shoulder and leaned close to whisper, “We will find your boy, Pad. I know it. I’ve a good feeling about it.”
“I know. I’ve got a very strong sense that he’s about, somewhere nearby. I just need to figure out the correct direction.”
The friends walked side by side, speaking softly while the others followed Paladin’s lead, their ponies in tow.
“You’ve got one of those ‘feelings’ like you get sometimes, don’t you now?” Milo shook his head in wonder.
Paladin simply grunted and plowed ahead.
“All right, let’s go.” Saradoc directed the small gathering into the waggons. After dumping the last armload of supplies into the back, he clambered up into the driver’s seat and snatched up the reins, eager to be on his way. Daylight was wasting fast and it was going to be difficult enough to search inside a cave. His mind was already awhirl with his plan of action and he wondered how small the entrance was. Twisting around, he called to his son.
“Merry! Come, hop up here with me lad, I want to talk to you.” Saradoc patted the seat beside him. Esmeralda joined Eglantine and the other lasses in the Took’s waggon, where Pearl already waited with the reins in hand.
They had managed to find two more of the farmhands who had returned in order to regroup and grab a quick bite to eat. Sparrow Tunnelly’s party now joined them, adding another three hobbits to the new search party. Frodo and Bilbo brought the number to three in that waggon.
“Hoi there, wait Doc!” Malco Chubb was hurrying his way up the path, with his younger cousin, Gil, in tow. Out of breath, he pulled the ponies to a stop and nodded to them. “Dremma and I were in Whitwell visiting and we happened to hear about young Peregrin going missing when the Shirriff and his party passed through. Gil and I wanted to come help you all look for him.”
Saradoc nodded. “Thank you, we can use all the help we can get.”
“We’re headed for another spot. You’re very welcome to join us, and I thank you.” Eglantine looked every bit as thankful as she proclaimed.
Alfie gazed around at her eager audience and smiled. Pippin felt his heart soar and by the way she held her breath, he knew Tulip felt the same way. There was something very special about the pretty lady and the fascinating creatures he’d met here. Pippin wondered why he had never seen them before. He wriggled in excitement, waiting impatiently for the story to begin, and shushed Tulip. “Be patient! It won’t be long now.” Tulip chuckled at her lad’s admonishment and told him it seemed their roles had been reversed. Pippin turned to Ealdhun when he heard the merry laughter and grinned sheepishly. The earth faerie’s eyes twinkled at the hobbit’s actions and his warm gaze pleased Pippin. He shrugged, and Ealdhun’s smile widened. The little circle of friends felt warm and cosy. Relaxing, Pippin settled his chin in his hand as Alfie started to speak.
“This story is very old. It has been told countless times over many, many years…but only to a certain few. It is a very special tale, and one that bears repeating, and yet it must be held close to your heart and treasured. You should share it with another only after great consideration.” She watched Pippin closely; hers eyes shone in the twilight. “Do you understand, young Peregrin Took?”
Pippin hesitated. It wasn’t often that the lad was without words, but this was one of those rare moments. Before he could respond, she leaned forward and gently tilted his chin upwards with her hand. “What I mean is that you should use good judgment when you do share it. Yes?”
Pippin nodded. He still wasn’t certain he understood. Rhoswen giggled and draped an arm around his shoulders. “It is all right, Peregrin. Alfie will help you understand.”
Alfie spread her arms wide, indicating their surroundings. “I will begin by telling you of our home. This place is called Sidhe, and is our world, and it is much the same as the one you call Middle-earth. While it exists alongside your world, you may see it only at special moments when you are invited to. Many things here are different than what you are used to, and that is why you must exercise caution.” She pointed over Pippin’s shoulder. “That is the direction of the River Cenedril o’galad, and it has an important meaning to us. It is also the place where my story begins, for it is where two people met many years ago, and where a promise was made, marking the beginning of a special union that neither of our worlds have seen before. Or since.”
Pippin wrinkled his brow. Whatever was Alfie talking about? He settled his chin in his hand once more and thought very hard as he listened. For once, Tulip rested silently on his shoulder, offering no opinion. Alfie leaned forward again and stroked his curls tenderly. “Ah, your face is so very puzzled, little one! Do not fear. I will make certain you understand what I am telling you before we are through.”
Pippin’s face lit up again. As the twilight deepened he was astonished to hear soft music coming from all around, yet he could see no one playing an instrument. “Where does the music come from?”
Alfie pointed over his shoulder again. “Behind you…” She laughed when Pippin spun around, trying to catch a glimpse of someone. “And, beside you.” She indicated the place near his companions and Pippin scratched his head and looked confused. “In front of you,” Alfie pointed to the ground, “and all around you.” She gestured at the garden and beyond.
“I…don’t understand,” Pippin began, and then laughed with delight and clapped his hands as all around them an odd assortment of beings materialized. Tulip squeaked her amazement and her eyes grew wide. The beings perched in trees, and sat on the ground. A number hovered in the air near him, while still more of them rested on the rocks next to Alfie. A few stood along the tree line. They were a mixture of sizes and colours. Some had skin of a deep golden hue, while others were fair like Rhoswen. A few were the same as Ealhdun, and one even resembled a slender green sapling. Several held harps; some had flutes, and many of them played instruments that were entirely foreign to him. All created music such as he had never heard before. He listened, captivated as the melody swelled, then played on softly once more.
Alfie smiled. “They want you to know how much they appreciate the music they have heard you make, Peregrin. You sing like no other they have heard before, with a voice that is sweet and clear, and that rings with joy and purity.”
Pippin sat up straight, his eyes wide. “Really?”
“Yes, really,” Alfie chuckled and touched his hair again, while Rhoswen and Ealhdun joined her in laughter. The tiny butterfly beings shimmered in the fading light and Pippin thought they too, appeared amused. He grinned when Tulip whispered in his ear and reached up to pat her head.
“Why, thank you m’lass. I like your singing too!”
As their merriment settled down, Alfie began her story again. “You are like us, Peregrin, in a very special way.” Pippin’s green eyes widened in surprise, as Alfie continued. “We are the Daoine Sidhe, keepers of the natural world. I will tell you of our land.” She smiled and lifted Pippin’s chin once more. Gazing into his green eyes she whispered, “And of our people.”
Paladin raised his head abruptly and listened. The searchers had stopped for another brief rest and he sat by himself, not wishing to join the others, not even his cousin. He couldn’t lose hope, but feelings of despair warred in his heart despite his best efforts. He had been so sure, but that was several hours ago and it was now full dark again. The moon wasn’t high yet, but its fullness lent enough light for them to see fairly well, even without their lanterns.
But he had heard…something. Music? A crystal melody, sweet and otherworldly, captivating…it was as nothing he had heard before in his life. Could it possibly be there were others here in the woods with them? Others who chose to remain hidden? There were stories of Elves passing through these woods long ago, but even as a lad playing about the woodlands around the family’s farm, he had never yet laid eyes on one. He strained to see beyond their circle of light, and the shadows cast by the glow of the rising moon. Hobbit ears were sensitive and he had always possessed exceptionally keen hearing. Now he tuned his attention to the night sounds of the great forest and sat very still. The soft conversation from the search party faded into the background as another voice emerged.
Come…into the woods…deeper…he is not far…
Paladin was entranced by the sweet call and he allowed himself to be drawn in by the enchanting voice that seemed to harmonize with the night music of the forest. He was not afraid. Quite the contrary, he was soothed by the voice and his spirits soared.
Slowly, Paladin rose and followed the sound without further thought. He trailed past the clumps of oak and ash, his heart becoming lighter with each step. An eerie glow formed along the path at his feet, illuminating the ground, and he walked decisively as if knowing the way. Gradually a vision took form in front of his eyes and he stopped. Staring in wonder, Paladin watched a circle of small, strange creatures gathered around a tall female in a garden filled with flowers of every description. She was clad in a filmy white gown and resembled the Elves he had seen pictured in books while visiting his cousin Bilbo at Bag End. Her wheat-coloured hair was long and slightly curly. The lovely tresses were swept back and held in place by an ornate clasp of silver. She rested on a large rock and appeared to be talking. The vision was silent though, and he could hear nothing of the conversation.
His view shifted ever so slightly and then he spied Peregrin. A broad smile of relief settled over Paladin’s exhausted features. His son was safe after all. Indeed, it seemed the lad was enjoying himself immensely. The youngster sat cross-legged, chin in hand, appearing to listen with rapt attention to whatever the Elven lady was saying. His impish face crinkled into a grin and it was clear that he was laughing heartily. Paladin began to chuckle his relief. The lad clapped his hands in apparent delight, causing Paladin to laugh harder. The lovely lady touched his son’s cinnamon curls as she spoke and gestured over his shoulder at the great meadow. He wondered what she was telling Pippin.
Tulip perched in her usual place on Pippin’s left shoulder, and the familiar scene warmed Paladin’s heart. He startled when the knitted piglet seemed to turn her gaze knowingly in his direction for an instant. He blinked his eyes several times and the toy was once more as she had been. Paladin released a shaky breath as the vision gradually faded. However, the illumination of his path remained the same and he picked up his pace with eager certainty; he was about to find his son at last.
“Why, where’d Paladin go?” Tolley Took asked. The talk had slowed and the farmhand was gazing about casually.
All conversation came to a stop. Milo looked up sharply, eyes widening when he saw that his cousin was no longer sitting on the fallen log a few hundred feet away from them. He got to his feet and spun in a circle. “I don’t see him anywhere – hoi, Pad! Where’d you go?”
Everyone rose and started to call as they looked about the immediate area, but there was no sign of him.
“Mr Took?” Tomias started a circuit around the clusters of trees where Paladin had been sitting only moments before. Milo and his brother Chico were right behind him.
Chico Chubb cupped his hands around his mouth and bellowed Paladin’s name several times. They listened, but the only sounds were the hooting of night owls and the chirping of insects. “Where ever has he gone?” he asked of no one in particular.
Milo frowned. “He was starting to despair. That’s why he got off by himself. But I didn’t think he’d be foolish enough to set off alone.” He squinted into the darkness. “I don’t even see the light from his lantern. We’d better get moving and try to locate him. We certainly don’t need two missing hobbits.”
“Perhaps he’s not thinking clearly. You’d feel the same way if it was one of your lads,” Chico told him.
Milo sighed. “Aye, you’re right about that! Come everyone,” he waved impatiently over his shoulder for the others to hurry, “let’s go find him before he gets too far.” He took up the reins of Paladin’s mount along with his own and hurried on his way.
The searchers gathered their things and headed along the same path as before, their uneasiness plain. Their ponies trailed after them as the searchers traveled in near total silence.
“There! It’s right there, Da! I’m certain,” Merry shouted, breathless after his sudden sprint across the pasture.
It was a good thing the moon was full, Saradoc thought, marvelling at the way his son kept his feet as the lad sprinted through the tall grass in the dim light. He rushed along behind him, the rest of their company in tow. It hadn’t taken long for Merry to locate the exact spot and he was already on his knees ripping the weeds away from the opening. Saradoc held up his lantern and inspected the gaping hole, then motioned for the others to move in and use their own to make the area as bright as possible. Cool air drifted out and caused their lights to flicker. “Get a fire built,” he called over his shoulder, “close by.”
Sparrow Tunnelly hurried to take charge of that activity and soon the flames licked upwards from the circle of rocks he and his helpers had piled around the twigs and wood they’d brought with them. He then prepared several of the torches from the bucket of pitch and lit them in the rapidly growing blaze and handed them to his companions.
“Merry, does it look to you as if anything has been disturbed since you were last here?” Saradoc leaned over his son’s shoulder and helped pull away the last of the debris. “There really doesn’t seem to be much over the opening. You said you covered it up well.”
Merry sat back on his heels and wiped at the sweat on his forehead, studying his surroundings. “I’m not sure. It has been months, after all. But…”
“What? What is it Merry?” Eglantine exclaimed, as she moved closer to him.
Merry flicked his eyes up guiltily. His aunt’s voice was shrill and she didn’t sound like herself. “I, uh…I thought we had a great deal more brush covering the hole.”
Eglantine peered into the dark gap and shivered. Pearl was quick to slip an arm around her shoulder. “I hope we’re wrong about this. I can’t bear the thought of my lad being inside that dark, dank place.” She leaned over and called out, “Pippin! Are you there, m’lad?” The only answer was her own voice being echoed back at her. She tried, and failed, to stifle a sob.
“We’ll know soon, Mum,” Pearl did the best she could to calm her mother and urged her away from the hole. “Uncle Saradoc and the others will find him if he’s here.”
Pimpernel turned a nervous glance to her aunt. Esmeralda gave her a quick squeeze of reassurance. “Come,” she gestured for Pervinca to help them. “Let’s get a makeshift camp set up. We can start by unloading the supplies we’ve brought along.” She spurred the lasses into action, knowing it would help take their minds off their immediate concerns.
Eglantine would only retreat a short distance and watched as the opening grew large enough for a grown hobbit to enter, shivering anew as the depth of the dark crack was gradually revealed to them.
Saradoc stuck his head inside and held up his lantern, having a tentative look around. He pulled back and gestured for Sparrow and Malco to join him. “We’re going in. The rest of you are to stay put.”
“But Da, I want to go too,” Merry began and his father quickly hushed him.
“No. Absolutely not! You will wait here with everyone else.”
“Merry.” Frodo slipped an arm around his young cousin. “There’s room only for a few.”
Merry relented, but a scowl settled over his face. “I feel useless! I want to help.”
“You’ll only get in the way, Meriadoc,” Gil sneered. Frodo glared at him. That was enough to silence the unrepentant hobbit, temporarily at least.
After many tense minutes had passed Saradoc called out for someone to bring them more light. Before anyone else could respond, Gil grabbed two of the torches and lit them in the campfire, then trotted to the opening and slipped through. They could hear him calling to the others, his voice growing faint very quickly.
“It’s a deep enough hole, by the sounds of it,” Bilbo muttered.
The waiting was excruciating for the ones left behind. Merry felt the minutes ticking by in his head, each passing moment making him tenser. He couldn’t keep from flicking his gaze over to his aunt every little while. She sat stiffly, her hands folded in her lap, staring into the darkness. Merry’s heart ached for her obvious suffering. At last, he heard his father’s voice again.
Gil Chubb was the first one out and he held a small object in one hand. He headed for the group, holding it out, as Saradoc and Sparrow Tunnelly emerged from the cave and followed.
“Does this belong to Peregrin?” Gil smirked at Merry before waving a slingshot in the air as if it were a prize he’d won.
Merry’s eyes widened in fright and Frodo’s grip around him tightened. “Let me see that!” He shook out of his cousin’s grasp and darted forward.
Pearl snatched the object from Gil, glowering at him fiercely as she did so. Eglantine looked like she was about to faint and Esmeralda moved in protectively. They held their breath while Pearl inspected the toy. She held it near the firelight and her face broke into a grin.
“What? What is it Pearl?” Eglantine was at her daughter’s side at once.
Pearl pointed to the carved letters on the wood. “Paladin Took,” she read aloud and burst out laughing. Her mother’s face eased into a little smile in spite of the circumstances.
Eglantine took the slingshot from her daughter and examined it. Her shoulders relaxed. “Oh my,” she breathed. “Pad lost this many years ago, when he was just a small lad. I remember him talking about carving his name into the handle so no one else could try to claim it.” She looked up at Saradoc, her bow raised in question.
“There’s no sign of anyone, other than animals, that is, having been inside that cave recently, Tina.” He touched her shoulder reassuringly.
“Oh, mercy. I need to sit down for a moment.” Pearl draped an arm around her mother’s shoulder and led her towards a fallen log where she eased her mother down and squatted next to her.
“Where do we look now?” Merry wanted to know.
“I’m not certain, but one thing I do know,” Saradoc said, brushing dirt from his hands. “That hole needs to be sealed up properly before young Peregrin does decide to go exploring it.”
“Yes indeed,” Esmeralda nodded. “Or any other young children, for that matter.” She touched Eglantine’s shoulder gently. “Come Tina, let’s go back now. I’ll put on some tea for everyone. Perhaps there’s some word from Pad and the others by now.”
Eglantine gave a weary sigh and allowed Pearl to assist her back to the waggons. The tension of the last day and a half was beginning to tell on her and she said no more to anyone all the way home. She didn’t weep; neither did she allow herself to think, for her mind had gone numb.
Paladin stepped up his pace when the strange music met his ears for a second time. The voice mingled with the lovely song, urging him on. As he walked, the moon climbed higher, its pale glow creating an otherworldly vista along the forest path. Paladin felt as though he were stepping on soft clouds of air as his vision clouded over. He walked on as if drawn forward, feeling as if he was not quite himself, he was part of another, but who that person was, he knew not. For a brief moment he could see nothing at all and he stopped, unnerved. Then ever so slowly another vision formed and he eyed it in wonder. A peculiar orchestra had joined the little group and the music was a balm to his weary being. He could hear other voices now, including his son’s, and he listened, spellbound by the scene before him.
He was certain hours had passed since the last vision faded; still, he had continued along the same path. Paladin sank to the ground, leaning back against an ancient oak and closing his eyes. How far had he walked? He wasn’t entirely sure, nor did he have a clue how much time had passed. He had simply walked as if in a dream, following the soothing voice that beckoned him. The moonlight had disappeared entirely over the last few minutes, and the shadows reminded him of the one that now descended on his heart. He raised his wet eyes to the sky, watching the clouds that had gathered in front of the moon. What cruel game was the forest playing on him? He had seen Peregrin very clearly at times; at other moments the youngster appeared shrouded within the hazy visions. And now he had not glimpsed him in possibly an hour’s time, while he continued to roam the woods, once more unsure of his direction.
“Where is my son?” Paladin felt like wailing at the top of his lungs, but the question was more of a whimper. At the moment he felt no older than Pippin, and perhaps just as vulnerable as his lad must feel. A frightening sense of helplessness began to stalk him and he wanted to slam his fists against something hard. Instead, he leaned back again and tried to get the upper hand over his fear. Once more, he gathered his thoughts and concentrated in the way that usually brought him peace and a sense of guidance. He was so tired. Perhaps he could close his eyes just for a moment…
Cenedril o’galad: Mirror of glittering reflection
Sidhe: Otherworld, Faerieland
Daoine Sidhe: Keepers of the Otherworld
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