14. The Grey Havens
Merry and Pippin were down at Buckleberry Ferry, discussing repairs that needed to be finished before winter's storms arrived, when the shining figure upon the great white horse galloped up to them and stopped.
'Gandalf!' Pippin gasped, shading his eyes with his hand.
The wizard jumped down from Shadowfax and fronted the pair. 'Meriadoc,' he nodded greeting. Turning to Pippin, he scowled and said, 'Peregrin Took. Don't you have a home to go to?'
Pippin laughed. 'Oh, aye,' he said easily. 'But my mum and my aunt argued over who was to have me, and Mother won!' He looked consideringly at the wizard. 'And besides,' he added, 'there'll be a time to go back home when I turn of age and,' he deepened his voice, 'assume my heavy responsibilities.' He looked around. 'On the other hand, there's already a Thain in Tookland. I might just stay here and study to become Master instead!'
Merry laughed and the wizard smiled. 'Still the same fool of a Took, I see! It is good to find you both here together. Saves me the trip to Tuckborough.'
'What is it, Gandalf?' Merry broke in.
The wizard turned his dark eyes on Merry. 'Frodo is sailing from the Havens. You will have to hurry if you want to catch him.' He smiled at Pippin's open-mouthed confusion, mounted his horse, and was gone in a whirl of dust.
Merry pushed Pippin out of his bemusement. 'Come on!' he said urgently. 'You go saddle the ponies, I will tell my parents.' He took off running for the Hall, and Pippin turned to race to the stables.
Merry found Saradoc and Esmeralda together in his father's study. Good, that was a convenience he hadn't hoped for. 'Peregrin and I must be off!' he gasped.
His father rose from his chair, 'What is it, Son? What is the emergency?'
His mother put an arm around his shoulder. 'Steady now. Take a deep breath,' she encouraged.
'Frodo's leaving with the elves.' At their wondering exclamations he nodded. His breath was coming easier now. 'Gandalf came to say he is sailing from the Havens, I do not know just when, but soon.'
'Gandalf...' his father said.
'He said that we must hurry or we would miss him!'
'Then what are you waiting for? Go!'
His mother hugged him quickly. 'And give him our love,' she said simply. He returned her hug, nodded to his father, and hurried from the room.
When he reached the yard, Pippin had his own pony already saddled and was just putting a blanket on Jewel. Merry nodded and took over the saddling. A servant ran over to affix water bottles to the saddle pads while the bridles were being put on. The cousins checked their girths one last time and sprang into the saddles. A cry came as they turned their ponies to the road. 'Wait!'
Merry turned to see his mother approaching with a bag in her hand, and he walked Jewel over to her. She held up the bag. 'Bread and cheese, and new apples,' she said. 'I know you plan to ride straight through.'
'Thank you!' he said simply, but she smiled as she stepped back.
The ribbon of road unwound beneath the ponies' swift feet. The need for speed pressed them so that they talked little, but rode deep in their own thoughts. The ponies were eager to run, but their riders, knowing the distance to be covered, held them to a controlled, though fast pace. The first chance the cousins had for talking was when they pulled their ponies to a walk to rest them.
'Did Gandalf say we would be in time to stop him?' Pippin asked.
Merry looked up in surprise. 'Stop him?'
'Yes, talk him into staying.'
Compassion filled Merry's eyes as he regarded his younger cousin. 'No, Pip, we're going to see him off.'
'But... he cannot sail in an elven ship!'
Merry smiled sadly. 'Whyever not?'
Pippin spluttered, 'In the stories about hobbits who've sailed away, they never come back!'
'He cannot stay, Pippin. He has to go. It is his only chance.'
'I don't understand,' Pippin cried miserably. 'You want him to go?'
Merry shook his head and kicked Jewel back into a fast jog.
They rode through the day and into the night, continuing as the dawn rose behind their backs, stopping only to let their ponies drink briefly at each stream they crossed. They rode across the breadth of the Shire and out of it completely, going about the south skirts of the White Downs, then coming to the Far Downs, and to the Towers, where they pulled up to give the ponies a last breather.
Pippin spoke again for the first time. 'What's that?' he asked, pointing to a distant glimmer.
'The sea...' Merry breathed. He spoke softly to Jewel, and the tired pony picked up his head and began to trot again.
So they rode down at last to Mithlond, to the Grey Havens in the long firth of Lune. There was no one at the gates as they rode through, but as they came to the Havens they saw the white ship lying, and Elves going aboard, and all being made ready to depart.
'Come on, Pippin!' Merry shouted, and they urged their ponies to a last effort, arriving in great haste. To their relief they saw three small figures on the quay, standing by the tall figure of the shining wizard.
'You tried to give us the slip once before and failed, Frodo,' Pippin said, dismounting. 'This time you have nearly succeeded,' he added, laughing through his tears, 'but you have failed again. It was not Sam, though, that gave you away this time, but Gandalf himself!'
The wizard smiled. 'Yes,' he said, 'That is right, young Peregrin Took. For it will be better to ride back three together than one alone.' He hugged Pippin, then Merry, then Sam, saying, 'Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil,' then turned away and boarded the ship.
'Well, lads,' said Bilbo. 'I will miss your mischief, young Pippin. But you will be a good Thain for Tookland. Stir them up quite a bit, I shouldn't wonder. And Merry...' the old hobbit turned to him, his face creasing in a broad smile, 'you will have to keep up the writing end of the family now. And try to be a little less serious, or Pippin will neglect his duties as Thain in his efforts to stir you up!' Merry couldn't help a chuckle at the old hobbit's nonsense as Bilbo pulled both him and Pippin into a hug.
Bilbo turned to Sam. 'I cannot thank you enough, Samwise, for all that you have done,' he said simply. 'Frodo is here today because of you.' He hugged Sam, looked up at the sky, shook himself and said, 'Well, I am not much for goodbyes. I would rather just sneak off through the back gate.' His eyes twinkled. 'So, close your eyes and off I'll go!' He turned to board the ship. 'Coming, Frodo?'
'In a minute,' Frodo called back.
Pippin looked into his cousin's lined and weary face and the realization hit him, what Merry had tried to tell him, the truth that he and Sam had refused that summer to admit to themselves. Frodo was dying. This journey to the Elvenhome might, perhaps, be his only chance at life.
Frodo smiled as if he guessed his cousin's thoughts. 'Another adventure, Pippin!' he said lightly.
'Aye. Life is the adventure,' Pippin agreed. Frodo pulled him into a long hug, then turned to Merry, gazing searchingly into his eyes.
'Be well, Frodo,' Merry said meaningfully, putting his heart into the words.
Frodo nodded. 'And you, Merry.' His gaze locked with Merry's. 'Remember, walk in the light.'
'I will.' Merry reached out to embrace his cousin.
'That's right. Make it a good, long, hard hug, one to last...' Frodo murmured against his ear.
Finally he turned to Sam. Pippin did not hear the words they exchanged, but they hugged for a long time and the tears of all the hobbits ran freely.
They watched silently as the ship pulled away in the afternoon sun, following the white sails as they grew smaller, steadily dwindled and were finally swallowed up in the distance. Seeing a final gleam from the glass of Galadriel, they knew Frodo held his hand aloft in farewell. They watched the Sun seek her bed in the sea, continuing to wait as the evening deepened to darkness, seeing now only a shadow on the waters that was soon lost in the West. Long after the last gleam of sunset left the clouds, long after the scattered stars began their nightly dance, they stood and listened to the murmur of the waves.
At last they turned and without speaking, mounted their ponies and rode home to the Shire, Sam leading the pony with the empty saddle.
(to be continued)
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.