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“If You Could See What I Hear…”
Dim vales- and shadowy floods-
And cloudy-looking woods,
Whose forms we can’t discover
For the tears that drip all over!
Huge moons there wax and wane-
Every moment of the night-
Forever changing places-
And they put out the star-light
With the breath from their pale faces.
…Over hamlets, over halls,
Wherever they may be-
O’er the strange woods- o’er the sea-
Over spirits on the wing-
Over every drowsy thing-
And buries them up quite
In a labyrinth of light-
And then, how deep!- O, deep!
Is the passion of their sleep.
…Of which those butterflies
Of Earth, who seek the skies,
And so come down again,
Have brought a specimen
Upon their quivering wings.
Edgar Allen Poe
Paladin had been uneasy the entire day; but now, as darkness fell once more, causing long shadows across the green hills of his ancestral home, he was increasingly apprehensive. All day long he had tried to push the dark thoughts to the back of his mind in order to function in his role as Thain. These were troubled times in the Tookland, as they were in the whole of the Shire, and he had passed already a multitude of restless nights. But none thus far had been as terrible as those first few weeks after his son had gone missing. Immediately, the dread and the fear of another time when Pippin had disappeared had come readily to mind, along with the same feelings of desperation.
Paladin had berated himself soundly at first; he’d been aware of an oddness about Pippin’s behaviour. But the business of his position kept him so often preoccupied that he had put the thoughts aside, planning to have a talk with his son before long. And that time had never come. Pippin was simply not there one day, just as had happened the other time. But bits of information had come to him from Buckland. Frodo and Merry had also disappeared, and although Merry had left a letter for his father that contained a scant amount of information, nothing eased the aching hearts left behind to wonder.
The anger had set in, and then the hurt and confusion. Where they had gone, and what they were up to, he had no idea. Eglantine had wept her heart bare, and when he thought she had no tears left, she’d wept some more. And Paladin’s resentment towards his son’s actions had deepened. But there was naught to do but wait and hope for the best. Each day was a trial, and the nights sometimes felt endless. But his obstinate strength of mind saw him through a day at a time. And then the memories had started to return.
He hadn’t considered them in years, or for long at a time when he did remember. He’d rather hoped, somewhere deep in the back of his mind that the day would never come when he needed to call upon the lessons of that long ago guiding force. Over the passing years Pippin had seemed to forget entirely about what had happened in the forest. He still carried his faerie stone, however, and every once in awhile Paladin would find him gazing out over the meadow with a faraway, dreamy look on his face. It was the same expression he’d seen while he’d watched his son as Pippin listened to the music of the Otherworld, and conversed with the extraordinary beings. At those times, Paladin would grow afraid again.
Now, as he and his family were called upon to fight the ruffians that tried to take over their lives, he began to understand what the oak spirit was trying to teach him. Paladin was certain the time had come at last for the crucial task of which both the spirit and the Elf had spoken.
Peregrin was in danger. He knew this without a doubt. And he knew that this time he could not go to him and help. Instead, he would need to hold to his conviction that Pippin would be strong, and that he already possessed the inner power and ability to persevere, no matter what might come his way. But the lad hadn’t even come of age yet. Paladin sighed heavily and walked out into the late evening chill, forgoing his cloak and gloves. There was trouble, and it had become worse. He knew it, could feel it. There would be no sleep again this night.
Pippin tossed restlessly on the soft bed for a few minutes after startling awake, before giving in at last and rising. He padded to the window and gazed out at the star-filled night, wondering if anyone in his family were looking at it too, right at this very moment. Imagining that someone was felt oddly reassuring. The comforts in Rivendell in the house of Elrond were exceptional, yet he was unable to relax and enjoy them. They had arrived here only one short week ago, and Frodo already showed signs of improvement from the deadly wound of the Morgul-blade. They had all breathed sighs of relief and settled in to await word of how they would proceed.
Merry spent much of his time poring over maps and books in the impressive library, as if he knew he would have need of the information. Samwise spent his time attending Frodo’s bedside, and dear old Cousin Bilbo could most often be found napping. But Pippin was restless and often wandered through the gardens and the halls of the Homely House barely noticing its grandeur. At times, something touched his mind, lightly, as if beckoning, and then it would slip away, still too elusive for him to grasp.
He thought of this as he fingered the small, smooth stone he wore. It had always brought him a sense of ease when he held it, admiring its sparkle as it glimmered in the sunlight. He smiled, remembering the day his father had given it to him, a thin strip of leather threaded through the hole so he could wear it around his neck. It was just after his adventure in the woodlands that surrounded his family’s farm, and he thought his da might have found it by the water while he searched for him.
The perfect opening in its centre seemed to provide a window to another world when he looked through it. Pippin recalled how, when he’d first held it to his eye, he was certain he’d seen the face of a lovely wee lass looking back at him. At other times he saw only the trees and grass, although appearing more intensely alive than usual. Of course, as he grew older he understood that it was simply an illusion, but oh! how it fascinated him, and he continued to keep it close.
A dream came to mind unbidden, one that had recurred for as long as he could remember. In it, a beautiful figure in white appeared near the water and spoke to him, and when he awoke he always felt comforted. But some of the dreams he’d begun having since they’d left home seemed a queer vision of sorts, and he wasn’t sure what they meant. Strong feelings of danger overwhelmed him and he fought against the unseen perils while he slept. It was very disconcerting and he could never remember what he had actually dreamed, but it always left him with a sense of dread.
He’d experienced such things as visions before. There was the time he’d somehow known that his younger cousin, Goldenrod Took, at the tender age of five, was in danger of drowning in the pond on his family’s farm. He’d rushed to her without a thought, surprising everyone in the middle of a birthday celebration when he’d suddenly bolted away. And the funny way he always seemed able to find the hidden pebble whenever he and the other children played a game of ‘Hide the Stone.’ Pippin sighed. Those things paled in light of what he ‘saw’ now, and the fear it invoked. He left the window, feeling the summons of the moonlit night. Perhaps a walk might clear his head.
He trailed through the garden lost in his thoughts, until he stopped, shocked from his reverie. On the path ahead strolled an Elf, her back to him, gazing up at the sky as if in serene reflection. A cascade of long, red-gold hair trailed down her back, reaching almost to her waist. Pippin’s eyes grew large; he was dumbstruck, his mouth gaping in wonder. She wasn’t the first Elf he’d seen, of course, but there was something different about her, something that awed him in her presence. Pippin realised with a start that she was much smaller in stature than any of the Elves he’d seen thus far. A child? No…somehow that didn’t feel quite right. What then? The voice that had been murmuring in his head grew stronger. He started to back away soundlessly when she turned and caught Pippin’s gaze with her own, holding it for what seemed an eternity. Pippin stared as green eyes, the exact shade of his own, held him captive in their piercing stare. At last, she extended a hand to him, and in a soft voice, spoke his name.
“Eolande?” The lovely vision before him nodded and walked towards him.
“Come, sit with me beneath the Dair, and we shall speak of many things.”
The memories of eighteen years before unlocked all at once, overwhelming him, and his knees buckled…
Pippin bolted upright from his haven beneath the oak, his breath coming in quick, frantic gasps, heart pounding in his chest. His eyes darted about the garden, but he was alone. Shaking, he took several deep breaths to calm himself. It had happened. It was real. He had been there, had seen them, and talked to them. His hand flew to his throat, feeling for the stone. “Rhoswen,” he whispered, “Alfie.”
Paladin followed Pippin outside of their home at the Great Smials and headed across the meadow. His mind drifted to all the other times he had followed him out of the farmhouse for an evening walk and a private conversation. Paladin breathed another grateful sigh of relief, thinking he still could hardly bear to take his eyes off his son. Pippin had come back to them once again, safe and whole, and yet changed by all that he had seen and done. That didn’t matter. His son had survived the dreadful War. What they had been through had changed his entire family. Now at last, the ruffians who had tried to take over the Shire were gone and life appeared to be settling down at last. Ah, he had so many questions, and so many things he wished to talk about with his child.
Pippin turned, feeling his father’s eyes upon him, and grinned. “It’s so wonderful to be home again, Da.”
Paladin slipped an arm around him and squeezed him tight. “It’s a wonder your mother will allow you out of her sight long enough to take a walk with me alone.” He ruffled Pippin’s hair, marveling once more at the need to reach up to do so. He shook his head. “Ent draughts, you called it. That’s what made you and your cousin grow so tall? I admit I still find it amazing, and difficult to understand. And yet, here you are, living proof that such things are possible.”
“Da…” Pippin began, and then stopped. His father looked at him quizzically. “Speaking of amazing things, there’s something I’ve been wanting to talk to you about for a long time.” Pippin gestured at the ground near a grove of young oaks and sat down tailor fashion leaning back against one of the trees. He fidgeted with a loose thread on his shirtsleeve and Paladin smiled at the familiar gesture.
“What is it, Pippin? Is something troubling you?” He had a feeling it was time for the discussion he’d thought they would’ve had many years ago.
“Well…no. I mean, not precisely that is. Do you remember the day I became lost in the woods when I was only ten years old? And you, and Uncle Saradoc, and everyone had to come looking for me?”
“Ah, yes. Actually, I remember it quite well. I’d never been so worried about you before in my entire life. Not that there weren’t plenty of other times after that when I was equally, or even more frightened!” Paladin chuckled, and then grew serious. “What is it?”
Pippin glanced at his father before gazing out across the meadow that was so similar to the one he’d wandered from that day. “I have a feeling you already know what it is I want to discuss.”
“Tell me, son.”
Pippin hesitated, tugging at some of the clumps of grass by his feet and frowning. “I…it…they were real. It did happen. I was there. I paid a visit to their world, didn’t I?” Pippin turned back to his father and waited.
“Yes.” The two of them sat in silence, watching one another.
Finally, Pippin tilted his head, puzzled. “Yes? Is that all? Isn’t there anything else you’d like to say?”
“What would you like to hear, son?”
Pippin stared at his father, somewhat taken aback. “I, I don’t know. It’s all so odd…so bewildering.” His fingers touched the stone about his neck.
“Aye, that it is.” Paladin sighed deeply and leaned one shoulder against the young oak. “It was the queerest experience of my entire life, truth be told, and I remember what happened vividly, still. Do you want to know why it happened? I’m not certain I can answer that. I’ve wondered the same thing myself all these years.” Paladin leaned forward and clasped his son’s hands in his own, squeezing them, then used one finger to lift his chin and stare into the troubled eyes. “Peregrin, all I know for certain is that I have my son back safely, and that there was something necessary about that visitation in order for it to be so. Now, perhaps you can explain that part to me.”
Pippin dropped his eyes and studied his toes. “I saw her, Da. The one Alfie told me the story about. Our…our ancestor. Eolande. While we were in Rivendell, right after Frodo was injured.” Pippin raised his head. “I remembered everything when I saw her. And, she told me things that helped me…” Pippin looked away again, “ah, through some very difficult times on our journey. That day and night I spent in the woods, it wasn’t a dream. Although I’ve seen her in my dreams as well, and for a very long time.”
“I know,” Paladin said softly, scooting closer to his son and pulling him into a hug. “I do too. And, I continue to be visited.” Father and son were silent for some time before Pippin spoke again.
“Now I wonder if I would have survived at all without…what I learned. Have you ever told anyone what happened?” Pippin sought his father’s eyes and studied their green depths for several long moments, and then smiled. “No, I didn’t think so.”
“I’m not certain ‘twas anything anyone would have believed. Perhaps I was afraid they’d think I’d gone mad.”
Pippin laughed and Paladin joined in. “I think I can understand what you’re trying to say, Da. Some things are better left unsaid.”
Paladin gazed out across the meadow. “While other things must be said, but only when the time is right for them. Wouldn’t you agree?” Paladin looked back at his son. The day Pippin was born flashed through his mind and he recalled the myriad of powerful emotions that had passed through him as he’d held the tiny lad who’d been entrusted to his care. Since that day he’d been tried many times along the way, but none so sorely as what they’d been through recently. Paladin shivered, recalling how many close calls they’d had, and how wondrous it was that they had all survived. Pippin looked up at him questioningly.
“Was there something else you wanted to say, Da?”
“Just that I love you, m’lad.” Paladin squeezed him tight.
“I love you too, Da,” Pippin whispered, returning the hug.
“I never could advance my curiosity to conviction; but came away at last only willing to believe.”
A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, 1775
Samuel Johnson, quoted in “The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns & Faeries,” by Robert Kirk, 1691
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