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Falcon, The: The Adventures of Peregrin Took: 1. Thain's Heir
Pippin woke suddenly.
For a moment he lay in his bed, blinking, as the unlit world resolved into the familiar disorder of his bedroom in Great Smials. Dark. He glanced at the round windows and knew it was far from morning.
He was groggy and confused. He began to reach for his wife. Then he remembered she no longer slept there.
Pippin propped himself up on his elbow and looked into the darkness for a long while; then he slipped out of bed and stood. The cool air of early spring stung his bare skin. He quickly donned a robe and picked up his pipe from the bedtable.
Down the hall he paused for a moment at the door to the nursery. He couldn’t help smiling at the nurse, dozing open-mouthed on her stool. Pippin decided not to disturb her.
Still he stole a peek into the nursery, lit by a steady little gem, a gift from the Elves. In his crib, little Faramir slept soundly. Pippin smiled.
He made his way down the halls and passages of the Smials. Sometimes he still got lost in his own home. Pippin was born in the farmhouse at Whitwell and had only visited the Smials on family occasions. Then, when he was twenty-five, his father became Thain, and they moved in.
He did know how to find the pantry, or the nearest one to his room at least. He made himself a couple of butter sandwiches. He decided on tea instead of ale. Diamond would smell it if he drank too much again. Not that she would care.
Pippin went to the nearest sitting room, one of his favorite spots, where Diamond seldom ventured and which therefore was always a slight mess. Pippin liked it that way. It had a great old chair that sagged in all the right places, a thickly piled carpet, a few books from the Old Took’s decrepit library, and solitude.
He stoked the banked embers in the firebox into life, and sat there for a long time, toasting his butter sandwiches and sipping his tea. Once both were crisp, the butter running gold and clear along the edges of the crusts, he retired to the chair with plate and mug and put up his feet on a stool.
Halfway into his snack he heard footsteps in the hall. He looked expectantly into the doorway as the door opened slightly and a fellow sleepless wanderer peered inside for an unplanned but completely unquestioned meeting.
“Is the guestroom not comfortable?” Pippin asked his cousin Merry.
Merry shook his head. He ambled into the room, also in his robe, wearing a nightshirt. “It’s fine,” he said. “I just couldn’t sleep anymore.”
“Me neither. Want a cup?”
“That would be lovely, thank you.”
Pippin fetched a cup for Merry and the kettle of tea from the pantry. He placed the kettle by the fire to keep warm. Merry had sunk down onto the carpet, his feet to the fire.
“I’ve missed you,” Merry said, taking his tea.
“You should visit more often,” Pippin responded.
“I try. Often you’re away.”
Pippin snorted. “Father keeps me busy.”
“Of course. I don’t know how you do it, cousin. Between the wheat, hay, orchards, and livestock ... and the incessant politics ...” Pippin shook his head. “Half the time I’m glad I don’t muster the sheep and shear the Bounders.”
“You would muster sheep,” said Merry with a wink. “Don’t worry, my dear,” he added. “It gets easier.”
“I doubt it will for me. You, my dear, have always had a head for running things. What do I know but jests, songs, and warfare? I’m obsolete before I’m old.” Pippin checked his tone. “My, I sound horridly bitter.”
“Not too much,” Merry teased. “We all have our challenges in this life. Your father, my father ...”
“My wife,” murmured Pippin.
Merry frowned. “Pip. Don’t be ungallant. You’re a knight, after all.”
“It’s not funny.” Pippin sighed, exhaling the last four years. “I wanted to love her, Merry,” he murmured into his cup.
“It was arranged,” Merry answered
“So was yours,” Pippin reminded him. “But you love her. It’s plain to see. And Stella loves you, completely.”
A sad smile played on Merry’s lips. “Yes,” he said. “I do love her. And I don’t know why, but the poor girl’s convinced herself I deserve her.” He reached for the sandwich Pippin held and tore off a chunk to munch.
Pippin watched him. “How is she? I haven’t had a good conversation with her yet, since ...” Since her last miscarriage.
Merry shrugged. “She’s beautiful. She’s wonderful. It’s not her fault, you know.” He gazed darkly into the fire. “Bolgers have always been fruitful.”
Pippin looked mournfully at his cousin, munching a bite of food with a few crumbs lingering on his set and dimpled chin. “Now who’s sounding horridly bitter,” he teased gently.
He succeeded in restoring Merry’s smile. “We did not visit so that you could discuss my state of mind, you overgrown thrush,” Merry said. “Diamond invited us and I thought the change of scenery, and her Took cousins, would do Stella some good. And it has.” Then, sincerely, “She’s not a harridan, is she, Pip? Stella likes her. I like her. Don’t you?”
“I wouldn’t know,” Pippin said with a laugh. “I don’t know her that well.”
He felt Merry’s concern like rays from the sun. He listened as Merry spoke.
“You have a child, Pip,” he said. “That is something indeed. Isn’t that something worth building a marriage on?”
Pippin knew that. Would Merry hate him if he told him that he doubted it was enough?
He looked up as Merry came to him and ran fingers through his cropped and wispy hair. “Looks so strange,” his cousin muttered. “You look like an molted bird.”
“I decided to cut it short,” Pippin replied. “For a change.” He managed a grin. “It’s very refreshing,” he said, “and, you know, everyone else always wears them bushy, or long. Too long. Elves, you know, you can’t tell lord from lady sometimes.”
Merry ran his fingers over Pippin’s skull, at the high dome of his forehead, through the stiff, spiky tufts of ruddy gold. “But it makes you look old, Pip,” he said.
“It’s fitting then,” Pippin replied. “I feel old.”
“You’re forty-one.” Merry pulled his hand away abruptly. “Young enough. I’m the one entering into broad middle age.”
Pippin glanced at his cousin’s hobbit-round belly. “Well, you are quite fat,” Pippin remarked. “You might give Sam a challenge this Yule.”
Merry stared at him before realizing the teasing. “Attacking my vanity, indeed. I can only imagine how disrespectful you shall be once you become Thain Peregrin the First.”
“Oh, don’t,” beseeched Pippin sharply. “Don’t call me that. I hate that. Titles and ceremonies. You don’t know how much I’m starting to despise all of it.” He hugged his knees, evading Merry’s eyes. “Sometimes I want to go back,” he wished, “back, just a little ways, you know, into a past that slipped by me too quickly. To be just Pippin again. Silly little Pippin. Your Pip. And you, just Merry, my Merry.”
“Fool of a Took. I’ll always be your Merry.”
Pippin looked at his cousin, and his heart bent.
“Of course, Estella might have an objection or two,” Merry added.
When they were young, Peregrin Took may have launched himself upon his cousin Meriadoc for the jibe and the insinuation. But neither he nor his cousin were young any longer.
Pippin considered this, and then decided to launch himself upon Merry anyway, for old times’ sake.
How Merry loved Estella. Pippin had realized it later than he should.
Merry had always been great friends with Fredegar Bolger, who along with Folco Boffin had composed the tight-knit circle of friends whose heart beat in Frodo Baggins. Pippin, much younger, couldn’t wait to become part of their group. It helped that Frodo adored him; and as for Merry, Pippin had considered him a brother from his earliest vaguest memories. He loved him.
As the years drifted by, the four sons of the Shire gentry settled down. Well, Folco did. Frodo inherited Bag End and the Ring. Merry remained close to them all, but Pippin became his most certain company. He still was tight friends with Fatty, however. For whenever Brandy Hall became too much; when he wished to escape his father’s drinking or his mother’s calculations; when Frodo and Bag End were too far away, in space and vision; then Merry went to the Bolgers’ house in Budgeford, beneath their grove of oak trees, with pipeweed in one pocket and Pippin in the other, to see Estella.
Estella had always been pretty, with a crown of dark, shining curls and rosy cheeks on a fair, joyful face, and now as a grown hobbit and husband Pippin understood the moments he had espied as a thoughtless tweenager between Merry and Estella among the falling oak leaves in years of autumn evenings in Buckland. They had loved each other, he understood now; loved each other, perhaps even pledged their hearts to each other, through many days of their young lives. When Merry had left with Frodo on what became the Quest of Mount Doom, Estella had waited for him, as faithfully as Rosie Cotton had waited for Sam Gamgee. After the battle of Bywater, Merry had taken the newly-freed Fredegar home, and Pippin accompanied him to the Bolger house. Estella had met them at the door. A little bit thinner, a little paler, but with brown eyes sparkling still, she cast herself upon Merry like a lost and weary traveler who had finally recalled the face of home.
Old Will Whitfoot presided over their wedding that fall, in the same grove of oaks where their friendship had turned to love, and there was hardly a hobbit in Budgeford or Bucklebury who wasn’t invited. Merry’s mother Esmeralda represented the Hall. Pippin knew Saradoc was unable to attend, and why, and anger and resentment flared in him against his uncle, even though he knew that his uncle’s vices were by now compulsions he couldn’t master. Pippin could forgive his uncle his weakness, but he found it hard to forgive any cause of Merry’s grief.
Merry had stood tall and grand, magnificent in the tooled and gilded leather armor, gleaming mail, and field-green cloak of Rohan. Estella shone in her dress of ivory satin, a Bolger heirloom, with dried asters woven in her hair. They pledged their love to each other through the days of the sun and the nights of the moon and the nights of stars alone, through springtimes, summers, and winters; through autumns and harvests for as long as they breathed. When Merry kissed his wife, no one failed to be moved, and the immature, adolescent jealousy still in Pippin’s heart melted away at the sight of his cousin’s joy. Then Merry had taken Estella into his arms, and laughing and singing the pair went to the great white halfbred that had come with a panoply of gifts from the King of Rohan and the Princess of Ithilien. Merry lifted Estella onto the small horse, and himself behind her, and they galloped off down the lane and through the woods and fields of Buckland.
“So when are we marrying you off, Mr. Pippin?” Sam had asked him at the reception.
Pippin had laughed at him. Marry? Was there any hurry? Pippin hoped not. He had grown handsome at last, and he enjoyed sowing his oats. Marry, indeed! It wasn’t as if he had a one true love, like Merry, or Sam.
Sam. The recently elected Mayor was still the object of some whispering around the landed families, knowing his people and his background. But Sam paid them no heed, with the air of someone who had seen worse and understood greater and forgave all. An Elvish air. He could be a lot like Frodo nowadays.
Frodo. Pippin could not think of his cousin without sadness. An image of a ship on a sea and a Star above it stole onto him for a moment, and then passed away.
“Peregrin? Peregrin, dear.” It was his mother, with his aunt Esmeralda, and with them, a young lady he did not know.
“Peregrin,” said Esmeralda firmly, grasping his hand and pulling him to her, despite his four-and-a-half foot height towering over her. “I want you to meet a cousin of yours. This is Diamond, cousin Sigismond’s daughter from Long Cleeve.”
Diamond of Long Cleeve. She was wearing a light blue cotton dress, and a pale blue ribbon in her hair. She was slim as an Elf, and her skin was as pale as frost. Her hair was so fair it was almost colorless, and almost straight, falling to the small of her back. Her expression was carefully downcast as she approached him. Then she looked up at him, and Pippin suddenly realized what Merry had meant when he described the lady Eowyn of Rohan before her marriage--pale and cold and beautiful. Diamond’s eyes glittered with hard light. Around her neck, upon a coarse leather cord, hung a single one of her name-jewels.
She curtsied. “Milord,” she said, with a voice like a snowfly.
To me? Pippin didn’t know what to think. His father was “Sir,” his mother “Lady”; even Aunt Esmeralda got by on “Mistress”. Was she trying to compliment him? She couldn’t be. She held her backbone so straight Pippin had an absurd image of her shattering.
He was moved. “Milady,” he responded, bowing gravely and deeply, as a knight of Gondor should.
She said nothing. Briefly she glared at him, and Pippin saw a deep, unbreakable pride in her, and realize she felt humiliated among the resplendent, happy company. His pity grew. He asked her politely to dance. She accepted, and picked her way clumsily through the steps that he had assumed everyone knew. He handled her gently, fearing she might break, that her precious pride would be lost to her forever; she never once looked up at him.
Now Pippin knew why Miss Diamond Took had been so cold, so bitter, so hopeless. Raised to remember she was a Took, a descendant of the Bullroarer, she had to grow up in a small village cut off from the rest of the Shire, in genteel poverty. Her pride and breeding were all she had.
Oh, she was beautiful in her own way; and on their wedding night, she had allowed him to attempt to kindle some fire in her; but there was little to be done. She pulled away from his attempts at passion after Faramir was born. Sometimes, when he would wake in the night in a cold sweat, fleeing from a dream of war, his wife would simply turn over and leave him to his own devices. It was as if she were frightened of him.
“Peregrin,” she told him once (she never, never called him Pippin), “please don’t think I require you to honor me in the privacy of our bedchamber at the expense of your own pleasure. We have done our duty to our family and our country with Faramir.”
“But I wish to honor you,” Pippin pleaded.
“No, you don’t.”
“Peregrin, let’s not pretend our union is more than what it is.”
“And what, pray tell, is that?” Pippin demanded, his temper rising. Then just as quickly his anger faded, leaving him empty. “Have I not been good to you, my dear?” he asked his wife sorrowfully.
“You have pitied me,” Diamond replied.
That night, Pippin left Great Smials, riding recklessly, black as a wraith upon his silver pony, through the dark and sleeping Shire, down the Southfarthing to an inn by the borders where Merry and Folco had reported the company was hospitable. Hospitable indeed. He spent the night with a very hospitable lass who worked there. She would be the first of many over the years.
Pippin wondered yet again at the irony of this world, that Merry and Estella who loved each other would be the childless ones.
Sometimes, when he couldn’t sleep, when the Black Gate weighed heavily on his dreams, he’d make his way to the gardens of the Smials, and gaze into the west, seeking for Earendil. The light of a Silmaril shone in his eyes. Then he’d think of Frodo, with a steadfast and abiding envy.
A month after Merry and Estella returned to Buckland, Pippin made a decision. He went to Hobbiton to see if Sam Gamgee could talk him out of it.
He stabled his pony at the village mews and proceeded up the Hill on foot. It was a busy morning, for spring was come in its full glory to the Shire. Pippin admired the budding trees and the freshly-sown fields leading up to the Row. Hobbits saw him and tipped their hats or nodded; some of the ladies curtsied. Pippin smiled back. Had all the faults and foibles of youth been forgiven as they beheld him? He loathed to disappoint them.
He turned the path and paused for a moment, letting the sight break his heart as it nowadays always did. How many times as a lad had he strolled up this road, or more likely ran pell-mell, up to the gate and the grand hole at the summit of the Hill, to see Bilbo or Frodo? Pippin suddenly felt a wave of, of all things, homesickness. He shook his head sharply, as if it were a pest he could dissuade. He didn’t like that feeling; he never had. He resolved to be sunny and amiable with the Gamgees.
“Uncle Pippin!” was the greeting given him by Elanor, minding her younger siblings in the flower garden. “Mummy! Dad! Uncle Pippin’s here!”
“Mr. Pippin!” said Mistress Rose, poking her head out of the kitchen window. “You should have let us know you were coming for a visit! I would have had time to prepare something for you!” The bright-cheeked young matron appeared in full in the doorway, an infant in one arm and a pitcher of milk in the other. “How long are you staying? Where’s your pony? Is my Samwise expecting you? He should have told me if he was.”
Pippin finally got a word in. “Rosie,” he said, “I’m not here for a visit. I need to talk to Sam. Please, where is he?”
Rose’s smile faded a little, although it refused to die completely. “He should be in the kitchen garden. I’m sure he saw you ...” She looked over her shoulder, and sure enough, there came her husband, being led by a very determined Elanor.
Sam Gamgee’s hands were brown from working with the soil, and he quickly wiped them on the cloth produced by his wife. But his calm, steadfast gaze never left his friend’s, and Pippin felt that Sam already perceived much of what was in his mind and heart.
“Rosie, dearest,” said the Mayor, “could you bring out a bit of tea for us? Mr. Pippin has something on his mind.”
They sat among the roots of the great tree on the hill, gazing out over Hobbiton and Bywater and the green, growing Shire. They said nothing for a while, just gazing out over their little corner of the world.
“Do you like it?”
Pippin was startled by Sam’s question. “Like what?”
Sam took out his pipe and with its stem gestured at all that surrounded them.
“Oh, that,” said Pippin. “Of course I do. It’s all I ever wanted.”
Sam puffed on his pipe and looked at him.
Pippin sagged. “No, it isn’t,” he admitted reluctantly. “You’re right. It hasn’t been enough for years now. I spent so much time on our travels wishing I were home, but when we did get back, it was all I could do not to want to leave again. I once told Merry that hobbits truly weren’t meant to live on the heights. Do you know what he said to me? ‘Not yet.’ Now look at me. I want to try those heights on for size, Sam. I want to see the deep places, the high places.”
“You want to travel.”
“I want to see ... everything.” Pippin looked away, at the stones among the grasses at the roots of the great tree. “In the city I missed the trees and flowers and fields of the Shire, but once I went outside ... I went with Faramir and Eowyn to Ithilien, do you remember?”
“I remember. In May, it was, almost twelve years ago now. Mr. Merry was furious he couldn’t come with you. You came back smelling of wildflowers.”
“I rolled in them! I asked Faramir everything about them, and about Ithilien, its history, its people. About the cities of old, Minas Ithil, and Anor, and Osgiliath, and the roads that led to them. Roads that still stretch farther than I ever could have dreamed the world could go.” Pippin felt a warmth course through his face and chest as he spoke. He loved these things, these images, these voyages he had imagined. “I wanted to follow those roads, Sam. I still do, now more than ever. To see things no hobbit has ever seen. Do things no hobbit has ever done.”
“You’ve done things like that,” Sam reminded him gently.
“I’m not looking to march to another war, if that’s what you mean," Pippin retorted tartly, "or be a diversion for a certain pair of friends of mine gallivanting about Mordor.”
A strong and weathered hand grasped his shoulder. “We would never have gotten to the mountain,” Sam said.
Pippin smiled. “Oh, finally! Gratitude,” he quipped. “Well, you’re quite welcome.”
Sam’s son appeared with a basket. “Mum said you’d be wanting some cakes and buns with your tea,” he said to his father. Pippin was staring at him, and he stared back, making Pippin wince.
“Hello,” Pippin said.
“Hello,” the lad replied. He was a stout, healthy child with wavy, sandy hair like his father’s. But his eyes …. “I’m Frodo.”
Pippin managed an uncle-ly smile. “I know. I saw you when you were a baby.”
Frodo smiled back. “I’m called after Dad’s friend,” he said with an understanding glance at his father. Then, suddenly interested in something else, he scampered off.
Pippin turned to Sam, who met his gaze and tilted his head.
“Not quite sure how that happened,” he said, “but I’m glad to see them all the same.”
Rose had prepared some seedcake and sweet buns stuffed with cheese. Pippin sank his teeth into one, and remembered the taste of his childhood.
“I wonder,” he said, “if there are, far in the east or south, hobbits who don’t drink tea.”
“There might not be any hobbits at all.”
Pippin wandered far in his thoughts. “I wonder,” he said again, daydreaming. Then, realizing something, he asked, “You’ve not spoken with Merry about me, have you?”
“Now Mr. Pippin,” said Sam, “we’re just a bit concerned, is all. You’ve become awful grave in your majority years. We miss our old sunny Pip, we do.”
“Well, I miss him too!” Pippin objected. “That’s why I ...”
He hesitated for a moment, suspecting that his intentions, his plans, once spoken in the light of day over tea and cake, would seem like a particularly Tookish madness; then he spoke them anyway, knowing that any madness in them would only be his own. “I want to go away, Sam,” he stated. “I want to leave the Shire and travel. I want to see that world of which Minas Tirith and Edoras are only a taste. To discover the names of all the stars and all the living things, and the whole history of Middle-earth and Over-heaven and of the Sundering Seas.”
Sam listened seriously. “That’s a tall order,” he said.
“Too tall for a hobbit?” Pippin joked. “Perhaps so. Still, I’m taller than most. And maybe along the way I can find that Peregrin Took everyone seems to miss so much.”
Sam said nothing.
“I’m not asking for your permission, Samwise Gamgee,” Pippin said.
“No, you’re not, Peregrin Took,” Sam replied in the same tone. “And I couldn’t stop you if I tried.”
Pippin suddenly realized that Sam was remembering the other Frodo. But the Mayor only took a sip of tea, steadfastly gazing west.
His will indeed was set. Pippin made his arrangements as quickly and discreetly as he could. Within a week he had his affairs squared away, numerous courses charted, and packed the notebook in which he had been diligently recording every scrap of information he could find from the Smials’ library—records of the kingdoms-in-exile and of lost Númenór. It was not only Merry who had learned to be a scholar.
He was packing when he felt a presence in the doorway.
It was his wife.
Diamond gazed at him, still with that same expression that seemed to see him and find him invisible, or unworthy of notice, in the same breath. Pippin decided in pique that he had endured that look far too long. He hated being ignored.
Now she spoke to him. “Your father is beside himself.”
Pippin continued his chore. “He’ll get over it.”
“The whole town is gossiping.”
“Really. About what, I wonder.”
“They say you’re running from scandal because one of your ladies has come into a delicate condition.”
“Wonderful,” Pippin exclaimed. “That means you can go to a solicitor and claim an annulment on the grounds of adultery. I won’t contest you. In fact, let me direct you to Folco Boffin, he’s an excellent drafter, does all our titles. He wrote our matrimonial paper, surely he can tear it up.”
“I don’t think I shall do that,” Diamond told him.
Pippin’s heart paused, but sank quickly. “Of course not,” he said. “If Father passes and I’m still not here, you’ll be Took and mother of the Thain’s Heir. How perfect for you.”
“I’ve thought of that. But that’s not what I meant.”
Pippin, past patience, turned to face her and asked her plainly, “What do you mean, Diamond? For once tell me exactly what you mean. I can’t guess anymore. I don’t know you well enough to guess.”
Diamond seemed to hesitate. For a moment Pippin allowed himself to hope.
But she only said softly, “Where shall I say my husband has gone?”
“Tell them whatever you wish,” Pippin told his wife. “As long as you remember me to my son.”
He was startled to feel her hand upon his arm. He let her steer him around to face her.
“If you want him to know you,” she said, “come back to us after you’re done.”
He looked down at her hand, so pale and delicate, resting on the White Tree upon his surcoat. He gazed into her face. But he could read nothing in her eyes, nothing like what would have kept him there. He turned away, removing her hand from his breast, and she let him go.
“Be kind to my mother,” he said. “Don’t let my sisters abuse you.”
“I don’t intend to.”
Pippin nodded. “Di,” he started to say. “I’m sorry.”
His wife nodded. “There was nothing for us to do.”
It stung him. “I would have done...” he began, but then looked upon her as upon a stranger, and no explanation seemed ever to be enough.
Pippin took his bags and left Diamond.
So Peregrin son of Paladin II, Knight of Gondor and Guard of the Citadel, forty-one years young, left the Great Smials of Tuckborough, riding South. He had a great many plans as to where he was going, but in his heart had not an idea if he would ever return.
He rode swiftly without pause, leaving the villages and farms of the Tookland behind, the Green Hills guarding his back like fading mountains in a lost fairy land. Through warm-scented fields of fresh-sprouted sunflowers and newly-planted pipeweed plants in acres upon acres, he rode. He was making for the edge of the Shire, and Sarn Ford; but at the Ford, he was brought up short by a figure barring his way, robed in green.
“Merry!” Pippin said, dismounting and coming up to his cousin. “What are you doing here? What’s wrong?”
Merry glared at him. “I can’t let you leave like this, Pip,” he said.
Pippin groaned. “Why not? I explained everything to you already. I thought you understood! You, of all people....”
He stopped himself, as slowly a pair of hobbits behind Merry led a magnificent three-year-old filly onto the road. Her coat and mane from muzzle to ear-tip and from withers to the last strand of her tossing tail, was a silvery, shimmering black. She was saddled and bridled with gear of black leather affixed with gleaming silver metalwork. A double stirrup explained how a hobbit could mount.
“You can’t dare all those endless roads Sam mentioned on just a silver pony,” said Merry with a grin.
“Merry,” said Pippin, approaching the horse. “This is one of yours, isn’t it?”
“I named her Tempest,” said Merry, stroking the animal’s neck and side. “Her dam was Earwain, foal of Gythax, who was mastered by Theoden Ednew himself.” He looked at Pippin, and Pippin could see the shine in his cousin’s eyes. “I raised her from a foal as a steed for you,” he said.
Pippin was speechless. Merry handed him Tempest’s reins. “She is yours, cousin. We’re the only two hobbits tall enough to ride a steed like her, and I have duties here.” He stepped away, and tears now freely leapt from his cheeks. “She’s a good horse, and I hope she’ll prove capable on the journey ahead of you. She runs hard for long distances for the joy of it. She’ll get you to Gondor at least, and in less than a fortnight.”
Pippin, overcome, seized his dearest friend in his arms, and held him tightly for as long as he could.
“Take care, old boy,” he said fondly, releasing Merry.
“I always do,” Merry replied.
Merry’s servants transferred Pippin’s small pack from the pony to Tempest. Pippin climbed up the double stirrup with little difficulty. The world seemed larger from upon her back.
Merry looked smaller. Pippin reached down and took his cousin’s hand in his. Memories leapt unbidden of another parting, ten years and more in the past, in what seemed to him was another lifetime, another Age of this world.
“Won’t you come with me?” Pippin asked, not knowing himself if he jested or not.
Merry grinned. “This is your adventure, Pippin. You don’t need me anymore.” He paused. “You do have an idea where you’re going, I hope?”
Pippin did. He closed his eyes briefly, as if to say the word were to give in to all his dreams in one moment.
“South,” he said to his cousin. “I’m going south, Merry.”
Merry’s eyes widened. “Harad?” he said.
Pippin shook his head. “Far Harad. Deserts, and jungles, and oliphaunts, and heavens know what else. Far Harad ... and who knows where.”
Fear, admixed with a happy envy, came to Merry’s face. Pippin waited for his cousin to say something more, but no admonishment, or plea, came.
Only one request did Merry make. “Just come back again, all right?”
Pippin, uncertain, nodded. He didn’t know if he would, but for Merry, he’d try.
He leaned to Tempest’s ear and whispered, “Let’s fly,” and gave a small kick.
Tempest walked forward, began to canter, and then broke into an all-out gallop, Pippin holding tightly to her reins, onto the bridge over the ford, and out of the Shire at last. Behind him, he heard a horn sound long and broad, a blessing for a journey, and tears came to his eyes, knowing it was Merry.
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