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“If You Could See What I Hear…”
“Walking Between Worlds”
…But theirs is the dower of bird and flower
And theirs is the earth and sky…
…Since ever and ever the world began
They danced like a ribbon of flame,
They have sung their song through the centuries long
And yet it is never the same.
And though you be foolish or though you be wise,
With hair of silver or gold,
You can never be as young as the faeries are,
And never as old.
From “The Faeries”
A Question…long has it been since I was asked a Question.
A hush fell over the woodland and the silence embraced the slumbering hobbit like a warm coverlet. Even the forest creatures stilled in awe of the spirit of the ancient oak, and they listened with rapt anticipation.
I know what it is you seek.
Paladin moaned and shifted in his sleep. In his dream, an extraordinary world sprang into focus, brilliant with sharp detail and powerful emotion.
Hark! Look there.
Paladin obeyed and beheld a river, deep and long, clear as crystal, its steady flow uttering a song of peace and wonder. As he watched, someone emerged from behind the shelter of the willows nearby. Why, ‘tis just a lass!He took a deep breath and released it slowly, studying her features with interest. She is lovely.A hobbit? She was small of stature with a cascade of long red-gold hair, and he could see the tips of her delicately pointed ears, yet…something was unusual about her demeanor. A sense of tranquility sought contact with him from afar; it caressed his cheek ever so gently, with fingers as light as air, and he knew.
“Oh…my…” Paladin stared at the otherworldly vision, eyes wide.
Another joined her, his hands extended to her in familiar greeting, and they embraced. Paladin could hear their murmured words of endearment although some were strange to him. He felt like an intruder upon their sanctuary and the thought seemed to elicit laughter from somewhere above. He twisted around and stared up into the high emerald canopy.
Fear not. You are no trespasser. Their time is long past. What you are witnessing occurred many years ago.
“What…? Paladin whispered. “I don’t understand.”
Did this voice come from his surroundings or from within his own mind? There was no answer and slowly, he turned his attention back to the mysterious tryst in the glade. Of course he’d heard the whispered tales, told late at night when children were supposed to be abed. He’d sometimes crept up to the parlour door to listen to his granda telling stories of times gone by, speaking of things that Paladin assumed were never heard in the daylight. At times, such stories were met with smiles and condescending looks that even he, as a youngster, had recognised as such.
I reveal to you your beginning…and, your future. I will help you to understand.
“What are you talking about? Just what is it you’re trying to teach me?”
You know already of what I speak. You have heard the tale whispered amongst your elders your entire life, ever since you were a tiny lad just like your son. Open your heart, your mind, and your understanding will grow.
“The faerie blood…’tis not a fable, is it?”
Nay, it is not a fable, Paladin Took! And long have you known this in your heart.
Paladin considered. “Who are you? And, where are you?” He turned in a small circle as he spoke. “Your words seem to come to me in my mind, and yet I think there is someone here with me.” He sensed amusement again.
I am here.
Paladin frowned. “Aye. That much is obvious, even to me. I asked in what way are you here with me? And why? I’ve no time for your riddles. I need to find my son.”
You are very impatient.
“Of course I am! My son has been missing for many hours and I’ve no time for games such as this.”
You have nothing but time. It is how you use it that is important.
Paladin sighed. This reminded him of one of those long conversations with Pippin that got so complicated as to leave him grasping for answers to his son’s questions. Summoning every scrap of his patience he peered up into the oak. “What would you advise I do, then? At this point I am quite open to suggestions.” Cheerful laughter drifted to him again and Paladin bristled.
That is good. The knowledge I offer you is important and may prove very useful to you later on. You will understand why as more time passes. For now, ask your questions and satisfy your curiosity.
Paladin blew out a breath and tried hard to contain his annoyance at the cryptic replies. His attention refocused on the pair by the river. “Who is the hobbit I see before me? What is the name of my ancestor who took a faerie to wife? And…what is the lass’s name, the lovely being I see before me?”
She is Eolande. It is her blood that mixes within your lineage, and her charisma that has shown its mark in the eccentricities of your kin. In some her blood runs almost pure. In you, it is strong, and in your son, the evidence of her influence is even greater.
Paladin’s mouth twitched in amusement. Peregrin did indeed display the fabled mark of his family’s inheritance. Intensely curious, compelled to do things his own way, bright and daring, the lad marched to a different drummer, as the old saying went.
Eyes of sea green, spirit of fire…
“Aye, and an obstinate streak as wide as the Brandywine,” Paladin agreed with a chuckle. “That’s true enough. Who is the lad that wed Eolande? What is the name of my ancestor? For that’s one thing I’ve never heard spoken of in the old tales.”
I cannot tell you the answer. Not yet.
Because it is not for you to know at this time.
“I don’t see why not.” Paladin couldn’t seem to keep his annoyance out of his voice.
In time, Paladin Took. All in good time.
“Very well, then kindly assist me in finding my son.”
Do not fret. I have been, and will continue to show you the way. As I have told you, all in good time. Come, there is much to learn on your journey.
The image of the young lovers melted into another and Paladin beheld the Elven storyteller once more. His shoulders relaxed. There sat Pippin in the center of the group, still training his attention intently on the elf. He listened to the soft words, already knowing the story in part, and watching his son with great pleasure. Surely now he would find his way to the place where the strange creatures sat with rapt attention and eager smiles of anticipation. Yes, there was Pippin, just ahead, not far at all. Paladin reached out, ready to scoop him into his waiting arms…but his child melted away just as he was about to touch him.
“Who are you?” Paladin demanded when he realised that his arms held nothing.
“I am the oak, the oak is me. We are one…”
A mumble and then a cry escaped Paladin’s lips as he bolted upright. The darkness surrounding him was now complete and for the first time he felt a moment of fear. Even the moon had abandoned him. “Where am I?”
Slowly, he stood and turned in a circle, squinting into the distance, straining his eyes to see something, anything, to reassure him. Had he gone blind? How much worse could things get? Paladin swung around, startled by a chorus of good-humoured tittering. Puzzled, he finally tilted his head to gaze up into the huge old tree. Still he could see nothing, but once again the sound of quiet laughter came to him. He frowned, and felt his temper rising.
“Where is my son?” No answer came. “This is no longer a game I am willing to play!” Finally he cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted “WHERE IS PEREGRIN?” He was glad for his anger; it sustained him, increased his resolve, and calmed his despair. Paladin listened intently and heard nothing except the occasional call of a night owl, and the croaking of frogs. Gradually, the clouds parted and the moonlight became visible once more. He set his jaw and started off in a new direction.
“We’ve found no sign of your son at all, Missus Took,” Shirriff Smallburrow said, shaking his head in regret. “We picked up more volunteers to help as we went through Whitwell. Those folks are still out looking. As for us,” he glanced at his party of weary helpers, “we even went far past the village. I just don’t see how a lad of his age could have got that far on foot anyway.”
“No, you’re probably right,” Eglantine mumbled, her heart twisting with a grief that caused her physical pain. “I just don’t know what to think. Do you suppose…well, it’s been on my mind…what if some stranger has been lurking about and snatched him up?” Her voice broke on the last word and Pearl draped an arm around her shoulders.
“Surely not,” Esmeralda murmured. “There’s been no sign of foul play, has there?”
“No, ma’am, not to my knowledge there hasn’t,” Robin Smallburrow said.
“What about the Great Smials?” Saradoc paced the kitchen. “Tina, why don’t we send someone to at least check there? I know it’s highly unlikely, again, for a lad on foot, but--”
“But with Pippin, anything is possible,” Pimpernel chimed in. “I think it’s at least worth a try, Mum.” Eglantine nodded.
“We’ll leave at first light then,” the Shirriff agreed. “We need a few hours to rest.”
“Pearl, Nell, will you kindly show Shirriff Smallburrow and his party to where they may bed down?” Eglantine gestured vaguely. “There’s plenty of space in the front room to lay out pallets, I think. And perhaps some accommodations will need to be arranged in the hay barn.”
“Of course.” Pearl beckoned them to follow her.
“And it wouldn’t be a bad idea for you to get some sleep too, Tina.” Esmeralda squeezed her shoulder. “Why don’t I come with you?” Eglantine smiled wanly and allowed her sister-in-law to lead her away.
“Poor Tina, she’s exhausted,” Saradoc said. “As are we all. Let’s take the opportunity to get a few hours sleep ourselves so we’ll be prepared to start out again as soon as the sun is up.”
“You’ll get no argument from me,” Bilbo yawned. “I’m as worn out as an old hobbit can be. Coming, Frodo?”
“You go ahead, Uncle Bilbo,” Frodo said. “I want to speak with Saradoc first and then I’ll be along.” The weary hobbit nodded and left the room without protest.
Saradoc leaned against the sideboard, his arms folded, waiting for his younger cousin to speak.
“I don’t think he went to Great Smials. It makes more sense that he went into the woods,” Frodo said.
“Perhaps. What makes you so certain about that?”
“Because Pippin doesn’t like Mistress Lalia.” He kept his voice low. “Actually, I think he is even a little afraid of her, as are some of the other children. So I can’t for a moment imagine him venturing to Great Smials all by himself, or even think of a reason why he’d want to. It’s far more likely he kept on walking and simply ended up lost. If he was playing near the end of the north pasture then the most likely place he’d wander is the forest. You know how Pippin loves the woods. I think we should join Paladin’s searchers rather than go in any other direction.”
“Well…” Saradoc rubbed his chin as he considered the plan. “I suppose at this point it’s as good a plan as any. Besides, you’ve made a good point. Pippin does love the woodland and he likes to climb trees. Could be that something distracted him and he got drawn in before he knew it. And with that lad, he may have got a great distance away before he even stopped to think he might be lost.”
“Exactly.” Frodo sighed. “And that leads me to another thought. Being as daring as he is, what if Pippin went tree climbing and managed to clamber up one of them far too high? He might not be able to get down on his own.”
“That’s an excellent point. And one that I must admit had never crossed my mind.” Saradoc nodded slowly as he considered Frodo’s suggestion. “I think then, at first light, we should track Paladin and his party through the woods while the others follow the road to Great Smials. Just in case we’re wrong, and Pippin in his peculiar way of reasoning, did think of a reason to go there after all.”
Frodo tilted his head in agreement. “Poor Eglantine. I can only imagine what she is going through. But, I have the feeling that Pippin will be found very soon, and that he’s not come to any harm.”
Frodo nodded, but did not elaborate further.
Pippin’s eyes brightened as Alfie began her tale. Tulip perched on his shoulder,and Pippin knew she was as eager as he was to hear the story. He giggled whenTulip nuzzled the tip of his ear and whispered to him. “I know, m’lass, but we have to be patient. I’m certain that Alfie will get to that part soon.”
Alfie paused, a twinkle in her deep blue eyes. “What is Tulip’s question?”
“Well,” Pippin shrugged, “she wants to know if the story will explain why we can’t eat anything here? I mean, except that we couldn’t go home if we did. Why can’t we?” He patted his rumbling tummy. “I’m getting ever so hungry, Alfie.”
“Yes, I realise that, but you must remember what I said at all times. You will return home soon, and then I believe your family will have a feast waiting for you and your companion.”
Pippin’s gaze held Alfie’s with the trust that only one so young and innocent displayed. Tulip seemed to reflect the same conviction with her make-believe eyes of green and long, flowing lashes. “All right.” Pippin grinned, and with a sheepish half-shrug of his shoulder implored,” Then tell us more!”
Ealdhun laughed at the hobbit’s expression with great delight. His high-pitched voice caused Pippin to chuckle again. “You see? Alfie knows just what to say to help you feel better.” The earth faerie tilted his head at his friend, his long ears flopping about as he shook with laughter. “He is very impatient, this young one. He wishes to know all the answers to all of his questions, and quickly.”
“He does indeed,” Alfie said.
Rhoswen put both hands to her mouth as she giggled. “Yes, do tell us more!”
A chorus of mirth and hearty agreement erupted from the otherworldly musicians, and Pippin chimed in with them to plead for the story. Once more, the air filled with the soft, enchanting melody of the faerie ensemble. Alfie looked long and deeply into Pippin’s eyes, and then began to sing.
Paladin felt his way through the forest using intuition as his guide. There hadbeen no additional advice from the strange voice for some time. Finally, he halted, surveying the area with a critical eye; the trail now forked in opposite directions. Paladin bowed his head in contemplation. “If you care, then help me find my son.” The soft voice entered his mind once more and Paladin breathed a sigh of gratitude that quickly changed to frustration at the cryptic response.
You have already found him. You will reach him in due time. Keep walking; you have much to learn along the way.
“Fine for you to speak in such mysterious language,” Paladin muttered. “It’s high time I found him. He’s been out here far too long and I need to get him home to his mother. She’s nearly beside herself with worry.” The woodlands shimmered yet again and the whispering voice instructed him.
Follow this path.
Paladin was guided towards a little thicket where three trees formed a rough circle, and stopped, studying them intently. He recalled another story told by his granda. The legend of the trees…yes, the doorway into...
“Oak, ash, and thorn,” Paladin recited under his breath.
“Aye, ‘tis the way in…to the Otherworld, their world. This is where Peregrin is?”
With the Daoine Sidhe, yes.
“The keepers of the elements, the invisible race. Only a legend. A tale told by my granda.”
It is more than legend. It is truth. Your son is safe. He has not partaken of the fruits of that land, although he came close to doing so. For a young faerie tempted him, but he was rescued before he consumed anything.
“What?” Paladin’s eyes grew wide with alarm. “According to my grandfather, one must never consume anything of their land!”
He is safe. The Counsellor has seen to that and she will continue to protect him until you are reunited.
In good time. For now, continue your journey.
Paladin stepped up to the oak, instinctively placing both hands upon its trunk, feeling the rough bark against his fingers, taking in the pungent scent of its leaves and the earth it took root in. Closing his eyes, he concentrated, and then opened them upon a world where everything appeared sharply in focus and vividly alive. The trees were the same as in his world, and yet somehow different. How could this be so? He heard the calm flow of water and turned to see the river from his earlier vision. A gentle song seemed to rise from its depths.
The River Cenedril o’galad, the mirror of glittering reflection. Where the story begins.
“Yes,” Paladin answered in a voice barely above a whisper.
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