King's Commission, The
18. Memories of Dinners and Captains
Memories of Dinners and Captains
After dinner Ruvemir, Miriel, and Ririon were invited to join their hosts in their private parlor, which they agreed to do after fetching their work from their rooms. Again they were shown into a richly furnished room with a cheerful fire on the hearth and candlestands before mirrors on the wall, with several sofas and settles and comfortable chairs now arranged so the all could see one another as they talked. About a table at one end of the room chairs were set for the children, and on the table sat a board game, glasses, and a pitcher of punch. Again there was pipeweed offered and a choice of wine, ale, or brandy, and Ruvemir contented himself with a glass of wine, which turned out to be an excellent vintage. Pippin sat in the full light of one of the candlestands, and as they spoke his eyes would kindle with humor and caring, although when the talk faded momentarily he would sometimes look a bit distant and thoughtful. The talk turned to the days when Pippin, his sisters, and their cousins were still children, of spring, summers, and harvest times spent on the farm at Whitfield which his father had worked himself before he became the Thain, of the winter when he was eleven Pippin had taken to running away, again and again and again, ending up alternately at Brandy Hall and Bag End.
"I never understood why you kept doing this," Pervinca said.
Pippin considered. "I think I was running away from getting older. I hated the idea I was growing up, and would have to become solemn and responsible. I felt I wanted to stay a little lad and have fun forever. I had just turned eleven, and for some reason that scared me as turning ten had not. And Bilbo had left, too, and I was worried Frodo was all alone with no one to care about."
"So why did you keep ending up at Brandy Hall, too?"
"Well, Merry was all worried about Frodo, too, and I wanted both of them to feel better and be happy. I felt I had to make them both laugh, or they'd forget how. And--and I hated being here in the winter then, after being at the farm the rest of the year. I hated not having windows in most of the rooms, of feeling always I was living with the memory of the Old Took more than in a place that was ours. I hated being shut in and having to be all formal and always on my best behavior." Then, after a time of silence, he added, "And I hated how Da was treated by the Thain."
Paladin Took colored. "Pippin!" he said in protest. "It wasn't so bad!
Pippin shrugged. "Sorry, Da. But it was as if he expected you wanted to be Thain instead of him, when at the time that was the last thing you wanted. You tried so hard to please him, and it seemed it was never quite good enough."
There was pain in each gaze as they looked at one another. Then the father gave his son a crooked smile. "And when you got back it must have felt as if we'd gone back in time to those days." He took a sip of his ale. "Frodo warned me not to make you live through what you saw with that Lord Denethor again."
"Da, believe me--nothing you ever did could have been that bad. You might have been critical, but you were never so unjust--never. And I never doubted for a moment you loved me more than life itself." And the two smiled at one another, and Ruvemir saw the same look of loving indulgence on both faces.
Mistress Eglantine wanted to know, "How did you come here from Gondor?"
Miriel began to describe the coach, the long journey, the stays with the Riders of Rohan, the little stone horse Ruvemir had carved, the encounter with Éomer King's éored, the Rider who'd given Ririon a ride behind him, the sight of an Ent in the distance as they approached Orthanc....
"Oh, I wonder if that was old Treebeard himself?" Pippin interrupted. "Did he remind you of an oak tree?"
"We saw him from a distance, and he was headed north toward Fangorn, so I couldn't say, really."
"When you go back, would you stop at Orthanc and give him our greetings--those of Merry and me, I mean? He is such a dear old soul."
Brother and sister looked at one another, and Ruvemir shrugged. "I can't think of a reason we could not stop. Would the Ents accept a visit from us, and carry your message to him if he is not there?"
"If you don't carry an axe and greet them courteously, the Ents should allow you to approach them, and they will carry any message freely. Oh, and if you'd like to perhaps grow a bit, you might accept a drink of an Ent Draught." Pippin grinned widely. "Of course, if you do you might need an entirely new wardrobe."
Folco looked at his cousin with interest. "Is that what happened to you, Pip?"
Pippin attempted a look of false modesty. "Yes, dear cousin, that is the secret of our success--mine and Merry's, that is. We decided that if Bilbo could seek to do better than the Old Took in years, we could try our hand at besting the Bullroarer in size. And if we got a little help from Treebeard along the way, well, why not?"
Pimpernel asked, "What did Frodo think of your sudden growth spurt?"
Pippin's face grew more solemn. "He didn't see it until after he was rescued, and didn't really comment on it. Suspect he was still too distracted by trying to comprehend that he'd somehow managed to survive. But Sam--Sam couldn't get over it. He must have had both of us back to back with Frodo and himself at least a half dozen times each, assuring himself we were indeed significantly taller than they were now and saying things such as 'and at your age, too!' and 'uncanny, it is.' Even had us stand back to back at least once with Gimli, until Gandalf came along to remind us Frodo and Sam had only awakened that day and needed rest, and Gimli practically forced me into bed as well. Was going on about how much terror for our safety we Hobbits had inspired in his heart, and particularly me, and how I'd only been fully up on my feet of a couple days myself. Seemed to think that since he was the one who found me on the battlefield he needed to stand in Da's place for me." He smiled briefly into his father's eyes.
Ruvemir had completed a couple of studies of Pippin, and turning to a new page he turned to the Thain and his wife. "You mentioned a dinner you had with Frodo before he left the Shire the last time. Can you tell me more of it?"
Mistress Eglantine stopped in her own needlework--she was edging a blanket--and looked inquiringly into her husband's eyes. After a few moments of wordless communication she turned to the sculptor and asked, "What particularly do you wish to know?"
Ruvemir shrugged. "I'm still trying to learn more about Frodo, for the only pictures I've seen of him so far have all been unsatisfactory. The sculptors in the capital were not particularly good at capturing personality, and I'm told the only picture of him considered the least bit lifelike that was done at the time was given to Lord Samwise. I hope to see it when I go to Bag End in a few days; but until then I am still trying to get a better image of him in my mind. What was the purpose of the dinner? What did he look like at the time? I know you said he declared he was too burnt out to feel he had anything to offer a wife--but do you agree? How had he changed from before?"
Looks were being exchanged all about him by this time, and Ruvemir saw that the three daughters were as curious to hear their parents' answers as he was. Pippin was given a significant nod by both his parents, and he began the explanations. "You have heard that all four of us tend to suffer from recurring nightmares." After Ruvemir indicated agreement, Pippin continued, "In one of mine, I--I dream I am having to look for Merry or the Lord Faramir, occasionally both, and once in a while Frodo and Sam. I may be searching through the Citadel, or throughout Minas Tirith, or through the Old Forest or Fangorn. I know they are suffering, can hear their cries of fear and pain. I think that the orcs have them, are torturing them; or that they have become hopelessly lost and I must find them before they can begin to fade as Merry started to do after he stabbed the Nazgul, when he was suffering from the Black Breath, before Strider was able to call him back.
"Da and I--we went through a difficult time when we first returned. None of us at the time could easily talk about--about the worst times. It's still difficult, as I think you can tell. I think Merry let his dad know before we left something about what was going on, a hint Frodo was needing to leave the Shire and that it was very dangerous. Well, Merry at least was an adult when we left, not just an irresponsible tween as I was. His dad seems to have understood Merry felt compelled to go, and when he got back Saradoc greeted him with open arms and a good deal of freedom to do what he felt he needed to do to--to find himself again."
Paladin continued the narrative. "I wasn't exactly so understanding. Oh, I'd received a letter from Pippin telling me he'd left because he had to, that Frodo was in grave danger and could not go on alone as he'd intended, that he and Merry and Samwise Gamgee were going to do their best to support him however they could and then try to bring him home alive and whole. But I thought it was Pippin thinking up romantic sounding excuses for going off on a meaningless adventure with Mad Baggins's now apparently equally mad nephew." To Ruvemir's confused expression he answered, "Almost the whole Shire thought Bilbo was more than a little mad, and most folk called him that--'Mad Old Baggins.' Not exactly fair nor polite, of course. Now we knew, Saradoc and I, that there was nothing the least bit mad about Bilbo Baggins, but we let ourselves echo popular sentiment. And when we learned Frodo's sale of Bag End was a ruse intended to allow him to escape the Shire, we--no, not we, but I, assumed that, in spite of our earlier feelings Frodo was the most responsible Hobbit we knew, that in the end he'd caught the wanderlust from Bilbo and that he was just off having a lark and dragging our boys after him.
"Then they came back, and I'll never forget my first look at Frodo, at the unbelievable change in him. He was more responsible looking than ever, but he was also--also so burnt out. The light-hearted soul he'd been was gone altogether. Oh, he'd still laugh and smile, but his laughter was no longer free, no longer just from living happily. And his smile was now tinged with a sadness we couldn't fathom. I could not dream, could not imagine that what he'd been through had been just a lark, just a mad adventure. Something had hurt him, hurt him badly.
"Pippin and Merry were full of stories of where they'd been and what they'd done, but I couldn't believe them. Creatures that look like tree stumps that are shepherds of the forests? A willow tree that opens up gaps among its roots and in its trunk and tries to swallow intruders--including my son!--alive? Barrow wights and Black Riders! Elves and Dwarves and Men and Wizards! Goblins and orcs, Balrogs and golden woods! Black Riders. I tried and failed to understand." He looked for a moment at his hands. "I could see that there was more to the story than they were telling, but I never dreamed they were only telling the good parts, that they could barely speak about the bad parts even to one another.
"I convinced myself it had been just a lark, and that Pippin was being irresponsible again. He wasn't of age yet, after all. And I started treating him like a child. When he had nightmares it frightened me-- truly frightened me."
His wife added, "And me, too. Neither of us understood what had happened to the four of them. Sam appeared the least changed, but we found that wasn't true, either. He was much deeper, more aware than we'd dreamed. We both tried to convince ourselves the changes weren't real."
The Thain continued. "Pippin and Merry needed time to recover, and Frodo, who was at the time still its owner, gave them Crickhollow, although while he was assistant Mayor he had the deed written to revert back to the Master of the Hall. All Frodo wanted, I think, was to go back home to Bag End and hopefully find himself again, but instead...." He shook his head. All waited patiently. Even the children at the table were waiting for what the Thain would say next. Only the occasional crackle of the fire could be heard, for even Ruvemir's drawing stick was still. Finally he shook his head to free himself of his thoughts. "I wanted my son back, and didn't understand this tall stranger who looked and sounded like my son. Finally he tried to tell us why he had changed, and the more he said the more frightened we became. And that he had a hard time speaking some of it was more frightening."
Mistress Eglantine took the narrative again. "Frodo came over once to discuss the new King and what he was like and what he expected of us, his people within the Shire; and to discuss the dispatches Pippin had delivered. We couldn't understand why anyone would trust Pippin with anything of importance--he was still a child, after all. We didn't look at the fact that he delivered those dispatches promptly as soon as he saw us again, and that his attitude while he delivered them was absolutely proper for one serving as King's Messenger. We asked Frodo about what he'd been through, and he'd speak a bit of it, but seemed more intent on trying to explain the changes in Pippin. We could see that to discuss what he'd been through was almost impossible for him, but when he told us he and Sam had left Pippin and Merry behind, hoping they'd be safer, we refused to accept that that only left them open to other types of dangers. Frodo tried to tell us that this wasn't so, but we just kept clinging to the idea they'd been safe once they were left behind, and we couldn't understand how they'd been separated from the rest of this Fellowship of theirs."
Again it went quiet, and Isumbard rose to add a log to the fire. Finally the Thain started to speak again. "Saradoc and Esme decided, after trying to get the story from Merry and failing--or at least failing to understand the responses, that they'd try Frodo instead. It was just barely short of three years at that point since the four of them disappeared, not quite two years since they returned. We'd talked Pippin into a week's stay with us, and he had another of his nightmares and woke us up, screaming the names of Merry and Faramir. Of course, we had no idea who Faramir was."
Pippin gave an elaborate shrug and a sad look. "Was having one of those nights where I was dreaming not just of one of them, but both of them. They were lucky, I suppose, it wasn't one where I was seeking all four of them--Merry, Faramir, Frodo, and Sam. Merry tells me I've managed that at least twice."
"It was supposed to be a chance for all of us to start over again, but neither Paladin nor I was truly trying, I think," Pippin's mother said. "And it seemed that everything Pippin did annoyed his father. The way he'd come with a blanketroll and his cloak neatly attached to his pack; the way he cared for his pony first instead of letting the grooms take care of it; the way he seemed to be checking for enemies before he entered the smial, the way he looked defensive as he spoke to us, the way he'd avoid certain subjects, that Standing Silence of his. The nightmare was the last straw."
"I ran into his room and started in on him before he was quite awake, and he was automatically reaching for his sword, which was frightening. Then he stopped himself, and we could see him trying to shake himself awake, and he looked at me, his face totally pale, like Frodo's had become, and suddenly he was up and throwing on his clothing, grabbing his sword, and heading out the door.
"The next day we got the post from Frodo, asking us to come to dinner with him and Saradoc and Esmeralda three days later. Sam let us in, and Frodo was standing, waiting for us in the parlor. Sam warned us he'd had a bad night, and Sam's expression was enough to let us know we'd better toe the line or he'd throw us right out again on our ears, the way I understand he, Merry, Merimac, and Freddy did with Lobelia the day after Bilbo's last party. Frodo was very pale, and his eyes were quite hollow. We were shocked, for it was obvious he was in a fragile state, and he'd always done his best in the past to hide how poorly he'd been doing. Sam came back in and caught him trying to be gracious, and would have none of it--forced him to sit down and put a rug over his lap, and went and brought a tray of wine and goblets, and a cup of tea for Frodo and a teapot under a cozy. We could see the worry and the grief and the determination in Sam's eyes, and we didn't understand it.
"Oh, there was so much we weren't understanding!"
"He looked pretty good the night I was there, Da," Pippin added. "I had little idea he was as bad as he was, myself."
"He told us that all four of you have terrible nightmares, and his were the worst. If his eyes were anything to judge by, his were absolutely awful."
Pippin's eyes were filled with sadness. "They were," he said, with a softness and a definitive note that underlined the simple statement.
"We asked him how he was feeling and he brushed it off as unimportant. He'd sip at his tea and try to make polite talk until Saradoc and Esme arrived, and--and we weren't making things easy for him. We wanted desperately to understand, but had no idea how to ask the questions that needed to be asked, and he didn't want to have to say everything twice so was trying to fend us off until we were all there. Sam interrupted finally and almost insisted we accept some wine and cakes, then some scones and butter, then that we tell about the journey from Tuckborough and the state of the roads. And we could see that Frodo was both grateful and amused by what we thought was unwarranted pertness from a servant--then his sister came in to ask him to see to something in the kitchens. Before we had time to say anything, Frodo gave us the first shock of the evening.
"He looked after Sam with obvious fondness, then turned to me and said, 'I've made him my heir, you know. If I'm enough better, I'll be filing the papers at Michel Delving tomorrow.' Then, after allowing that to settle in, he added, 'I wouldn't be alive today if it hadn't been for him and his determination we would both survive. I was quite accepting of the idea that I was going to die to accomplish my task. I was shocked to waken to find we were both still breathing.'
"My surprise must have made me look quite ludicrous. He just sat and sipped at his tea and looked back, with just a hint of a smile. Finally Eglantine said, 'But he's just a gardener.'
"There was a time when such a statement would have warranted the Look, but instead, his smile just faded and he looked at her with sadness, fingering that gem he wore all the time on a chain around his neck. Finally he put down his cup, very carefully and precisely, and said, 'He's been my friend since he was a small child, has sought always my happiness, my comfort. He has shown me always the deepest respect, and I've learned to respect him in return--his intelligence, his perception, his caring, his loyalty. He's been there for me, and given for me--almost died for my sake. And he's given himself for others as well. If you think the Time of Troubles the Shire endured was bad, it was nothing compared to what the entire Shire would have experienced if he hadn't been there beside me.' Then he said, 'The King has made him a Lord of the Realm, by the way--in case you weren't aware of it. I am not certain what he's done with his circlet of honor, but mine he's stowed away in the study. I wouldn't be surprised to learn one day his is being used as part of a trellis for the honeysuckle or ivy or some such. He's not much for ceremony, and although at the time he was flattered, he felt it should all have been for me, even though he did the greater part of the work of keeping us alive to see it through.'"
Eglantine continued, "We certainly didn't know what to make of such statements, and for a time we sat in what he must have seen as blessed silence. Finally he said, 'I asked you to join us for a special reason, but I don't think I could go through it twice, so let us please hold on till Aunt Esmeralda and Uncle Saradoc arrive.' Sam returned at that point, and looked to see he'd been drinking his tea, and I think checking his color. At that point he asked Sam to see about bringing over the pony cart he'd ordered from the Green Dragon the following morning, and we could clearly see Sam was worried Frodo wasn't going to be well enough to go anywhere the next day, and he said so out loud. Frodo shrugged and agreed he might not be up to it, and said he might need to have the Mayor come there in that case, as he needed to have some things settled quickly. Sam's face was full of both grief and stubborn determination, and stated if it was that bad he'd ride over and fetch Will Whitfoot himself.
"Then there was a knock, and Sam went to accept a message from the Quick Post and announced it was from Rosie's dad, and excused himself. As he headed back to the kitchens Frodo suddenly was rubbing his shoulder, commenting, 'It seems to be starting early this year,' and he suddenly was clutching his gem again, his face pale and concerned. After a few minutes he gave a deep sigh and looked as if some attack or something had just let up. And that was when the Brandybucks arrived, just as Sam came back again."
They went on to describe the conversation and dinner, how shocked they were to see Sam and Rosie and Marigold were included in the party at table, the revelations of how badly hurt Merry and Pippin had been, the detailing of the wounds they'd endured. "I think at times," Eglantine said consideringly, "he was deliberately trying to shock us, although I realize it was intended to get us to realize how serious the entire situation was."
"I'll never forget him asking me if I understood what courage was," her husband said. "I've never seen anyone look so deadly serious."
"Then after he went through all the scars he had and how he'd come by each one, he just collapsed, and Saradoc, who was sitting by him, almost carried him to his bed. And I asked why he'd written all this down, as it was so terrible, and Sam sat there, so very dignified, and told us it was to help deal with the terrors, and also so it would always be remembered. We just had no real idea till then how bad it had been elsewhere. We are isolated, here in the Shire. Then he saw us out, and we had a long talk at the door about getting Pippin to tell us about it. Sam had realized Frodo was leaving and wouldn't be coming back."
Pippin added, "He'd realized Frodo was leaving, but thought he was going to Rivendell. He didn't realize Frodo was going to the Undying Lands until after they set off. Only when he saw Elrond and the Lady riding west with Bilbo did he realize it." And when his parents looked at him with surprise, he added, "Sam told us all, in the library at Brandy Hall. I heard some things then he didn't even tell the King."
The Thain finally asked to see the drawings Ruvemir had done, and Ruvemir handed over the booklet. The examination went on in silence. Finally Miriel completed a pattern and carefully put the point of her needle into her bag of emery, lifted the pair of scissors she wore at her belt, and snipped the threads, then slipped the material free of the form and held it up to examine it. The Thain's Lady looked up in interest. "What is it you are working on, Mistress Miriel?"
"My commission from the Queen. She bears their first child, and when the child is born she wishes to gift the King with a surcoat showing the White Tree as it is truly growing. I've just finished the second sleeve--the yoke is complete. Now will come the embroidering of the Tree itself on the front panel, and finally a border of niphredil along the bottom edging. It will be very beautiful when finished."
Folco looked on it with wonder. "It is very beautiful now," he said. On the short sleeve was a depiction of the sun in glory, and a border of white flowers.
"This is the right sleeve. The left one shows the moon. This represents Anárion while the other represents Isildur, the sons of Elendil."
Eglantine gently touched the embroidery. "The Lord Aragorn will wear this?" She smiled, then looked at it more closely. "I thought it was black, but it is really a very dark green."
"He looks good in green. The gown he's commissioned for her will be a deep wine color that will complement this well. The Lady Éowyn was quite amused to find herself acting as go-between for both of them, as neither is aware of the other's gift. We chose the fabrics to go together and to best flatter each."
"Then you have seen him?"
"Yes, several times while we were in Minas Anor." She smiled. "The first time was in the Houses of Healing, where my brother was recovering from the lung fever. He was wearing green then, in honor of the return of the Lady Arwen from Ithilien. His face can look grim at times, but at the same time he is a most comely man." She continued the examination of her work, found and snipped another loose thread, finally nodded and allowed the other ladies to examine it while she brought out a special bag of linen to stow it in. She then brought out her own sketch booklet to examine the pattern she was to reproduce on the front panel, then found herself showing it to the others. "The work goes more swiftly now. I can sew in the carriage, but it tires my eyes, and it was often too cold or dark to work."
"Do you have a picture of the King?" asked Pearl of Ruvemir.
"Several," Pippin commented, "a few of which he did before he met him. It's quite remarkable. That was why Aragorn approached him on doing the monument. He saw the statue of himself as Captain Thorongil and, I understand from his letter, was shocked."
"Oh, has the King done play acting?" asked Pimpernel.
Pippin started to laugh at the thought. "Oh, I can just imagine him as Joco Longburrow," referring to Pimpernel's favorite character in Joco and the Cornfield, a perennial favorite story often acted out by young Hobbits. "The wandering wizard would try to trick him with his magic seeds, and he'd skewer him on Anduril." He straightened and grew more serious. "When he was younger, Aragorn decided he needed to learn more about the people of Gondor, where he hoped one day to rule, and of Rohan, the land of Gondor's closest allies, so he went first to Rohan and asked Thengel their King for permission to serve among his Riders for a time, and rode with them for several years. Then he went to Gondor with a letter of introduction from Thengel to the Lord Steward Ecthelion on how wonderful a fighter and tactician he was, and he was allowed to serve in the armies of Gondor. Some Rohirric Rider who knew a bit of Sindarin called him Thorongil, for he would not tell them his real name, and the name stuck. Thorongil means the Eagle of the Star, for he wore a Dúnedain Ranger's cloak with a silver star brooch, and his face can look like that of an eagle at times."
"The tales of the mysterious Captain Thorongil and the great victories he won for the sake of Gondor," Ruvemir continued the tale, "have become the stuff of legends. No one knew from whence he came, or what motivated him to fight for Gondor as he did. He was thought by some to be from among the Dúnedain of the North, which has been shown now to have been true; by others to be of illegitimate descent from the House of Stewards--perhaps even the son of the Lord Steward Ecthelion himself, for his resemblance to both that Lord and his son Denethor was often remarked. A very few wondered if he was the heir of Isildur and Valandil, including in that number, apparently, the Lord Ecthelion himself, who certainly knew this was no son of his own, legitimate or illegitimate. The King himself has told me that he was questioned by Ecthelion as to whether he was he was the rightful King, for he wished to see the throne filled ere the final fight between the free peoples and Mordor came--he thought it would hearten people to fight under their legitimate King. But he would not accept the throne until he knew all would accept him, and the Lord Denethor was unwilling to see him as more than a captain within the hosts of Gondor.
"Then, after winning a great victory against the forces of Umbar, which has been the enemy of Gondor for generations beyond memory, one day Captain Thorongil disappeared as mysteriously as he had come, sending a letter to the Steward that he was called to care for his own people's interests, and that if Gondor would accept his service he would return in due time to fight for our nation again--which he did.
"My last commission was to create a monument to the campaign against Umbar, and it was the hope of the patron for that memorial I would be able to recreate the image of Captain Thorongil, whom she remembered from the days of her own youth. So I questioned her and others who remembered him, much as I have questioned those who remembered the four who came to Gondor from the Shire and as I have questioned so many about the Lord Frodo, and at last I felt I had the image of him in my mind. Imagine my shock the first time I saw the face of the mysterious Strider clearly and recognized in it the visage I'd just recently finished rendering in stone. He would not tell me his true identity, nor would he tell me how he was related to the Lord Captain Thorongil, until I awoke in the Houses of Healing and saw him sitting beside my bed, and realized he was both the King and Thorongil. He is of almost pure descent from Númenor; he has told me he is now ninety-two years of age, although he looks to be in the prime of his manhood. The Kings of pure Númenorean blood often lived to be two hundred years of age or more, so it is my hope my children's children will know him." And he took back the sketch booklet and found within it an image he'd done of the King during the ride from Brandy Hall, and showed it to her; then an image he'd done of the King with his Lady Queen as he'd seen them in his room in Minas Anor.
The three sisters of Peregrin Took examined these pictures closely. Pearl looked most closely at him. "He reminds me of a Man I remember seeing on the West Road one time when we were children and visiting at Brandy Hall. Sometimes Men would travel that way within the Shire, although not often. Do you remember, Pimpernel, Pippin? You were seven, Pip, and a number of us were heading for the market at the Brandywine Bridge to spend our pocket money. And suddenly a troupe of Men on true horses came over the Bridge, and paused to allow us to cross the Road. And their leader looked on us and bowed to us in respect before leading them on."
Pippin was thoughtful for several moments, and a smile spread across his face. "I remember that day, but I'd never considered it before." He looked into his oldest sister's face with growing delight. "You know, that may indeed be the first time I saw him. I'll have to write to him and ask if he ever rode across the Bridge on a day when the Bridge Market was open. And Merry will be so jealous--no, wait, he was among us that day, wasn't he? Just think--our first sight of our King was when we were still so young! Merry would have been fifteen at the time, as I was seven."
Eglantine took the booklet and examined the pictures, then leafed through it, stopping at the ones of her son and Merry in their uniforms, then the one of Sam seated in the library, and moving on until she came to the last three. "This looks very much like Frodo when he was younger, when he was a young tween in Brandy Hall. Remember, Paladin?"
He looked at it and nodded. "His chin lengthened as he finished growing." He looked at the artist with respect. "Some of the stories you've heard of his younger days obviously have brought his appearance then into your mind. But this one of him standing before the fireplace--this is so very like what he looked like that last time we saw him." His eyes were sad. "Everyone loved him so, for he was such a gentle, intelligent soul. And when he laughed or smiled it would light up the world about him. Oh, he could get into trouble, but did so far more rarely than some I can think of," casting a significant look at his son, who tried to look innocent. "And it was so marvelous to see him after he went to Bilbo, obviously so very happy again, losing that cautious, almost desperate look he'd been acquiring over the last few years. He loved Esme and Saradoc deeply, but at the same time their attempts to protect him were stifling him. He practically lived for the summers when he could serve the Hall by teaching the children to swim and watching over them on the riverbanks. He always wanted to feel he was useful and of service."
Pippin's face was solemn, his bearing again unconsciously at attention. "Yes, he always wished to be of service. He got his wish at last, and was willing to die to fulfill it. I so pray he is finding healing for his spirit in Elvenhome." And his eyes closed as he lowered his head.
Pervinca surreptitiously wiped her eyes, then forced herself to look brightly about the company. "Would anyone like some cheese and fruit before we go to bed?"
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.