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Falcon, The: The Adventures of Peregrin Took: 15. The Hobbit and the Wizard
Pippin stepped into a hall whose ceiling was dimly visible, inscribed with picture-writing and bearing the machinery for the opening of the door. Brogar quickly investigated the mechanism and broke it, leaving the door open. “I think a way out will be less dangerous than letting other people in,” he said.
“The danger is already inside,” said Maglor. Pippin looked at him questioningly. “I sense the wizard,” he confirmed.
Leah carefully walked ahead. She held out her torch. A few feet from the entrance the floor suddenly fell into a deep chamber. “Be careful,” she said to her companions.
Pippin came up next to her. “What is it?” He could barely see the bottom.
“A drainage pit,” Leah guessed.
“And a convenient trap,” Brogar added. He looked around. “No way across.”
Pippin pointed at the ceiling, where the ropes for the door mechanism were suspended by a sort of pulley. He called Brogar’s attention to it.
Brogar had brought a small pack. Glancing up he looked at Pippin, nodded, and produced a length of rope of his own.
“How will we attach it?” Leah wanted to know.
“So,” said Maglor, taking an arrow from his quiver. Brogar unspliced the end of the rope and tied a cord to the end of the arrow. Maglor drew, took aim, and let fly.
The arrow sped up through the darkness and neatly threaded the bronze pulley with the cord. Brogar took the free end and, with the practice of a crewman of a sailing ship, coiled the rope several times around the pulley body with strong twists of his wrists.
He tugged hard and nodded to the others.
“I’ll go first,” said Pippin.
He took a few steps back and leapt at a run, landing on the other side with a small tumble.
Leah shouted, “Pippin!”
“I’m all right,” he said, picking himself up. “Not quite as graceful as an Elf, I’m afraid.” He gestured. “Come on.”
Leah followed, and then Brogar. The pulley gave a little at the unfamiliar weight being put to it, loosening from its fastening in the mud blocks of the wall. Some plaster crumbled down into the pit.
“Something is moving down there,” Brogar muttered.
Maglor went last. Even as he jumped, the pulley loosened, and Pippin feared it would fall. But Maglor swung gracefully through the air and landed firmly on the far side eve before the mechanism loosened completely from the ceiling and fell into the black pit.
They heard a rumbling and a sliding, moving sound in the shadows. Pippin took Leah’s torch and tried to peer over, but Maglor stopped him.
“It is already awake,” he said.
“What is?” Pippin wanted to know.
The grinding, moving sound came again, grew loud, and then dwindled, as if whatever was causing it had moved away. “We must go on,” said Maglor.
“Agreed,” said Pippin, and led the way.
They found their way through a short hall to a wider descending passage. Maglor stopped them. “Wait,” he said. “I am certain there is a trap here.”
He said to Leah, “Girl. Throw your veil through the air onto the floor.”
Leah bristled at the Elf’s condescension, but unwound her head-scarf and veil and flung it down the corridor.
Darts flew from the walls and embedded themselves in the fabric ere it hit the floor.
The four of them said nothing for a long moment. “Well then!” said Pippin, the first one to speak.
Carefully they made their way down the sloping passage with its tapering ceiling and massive stone blocks, Leah and Maglor tripping the triggers of the hidden defenses. One was almost too quick for them. Leah hurled fabric forward, and barely did Maglor say, “Down!” when bronze spikes sprang from holes in the wall, sending each of them jumping in one of four directions.
Pippin leaned on one of the spikes that had just missed running him through. “I’m beginning to truly dislike this place,” he said.
They extricated themselves from the only to find the floor studded with more small holes.
“You were saying?” Brogar said to Pippin.
“We will have to be quick,” Maglor said, and went first, gliding lightly over the paving-stones. Leah followed, and also managed to cross without activating the spikes. They waited on a landing at the bottom of the hall.
Brogar motioned to Pippin. “You first,” he said. “You’re more important.”
Pippin hesitated, and then went.
His first step was too heavy, and randomly the spikes began to rise up from the floor. “No time!” Pippin cried. “Come on, Brogar!” And he and the Easterling raced through the trap, as the spikes rose with increasing speed and frequency. “Ow!” Pippin cried, as his right foot landed on the tip of a rising spike.
“Pippin!” Leah cried.
Gritting his teeth, Pippin struggled on, but Brogar coming behind him grabbed him and carried him the rest of the way to the landing.
Maglor examined the wound. “It is only a cut, not too deep,” he said. “Can you walk on it?”
“I’ll have to, won’t I?” Pippin replied testily. “More importantly, I can climb on it, and that’s why I’m here.” Brogar bandaged Pippin’s foot and Pippin got up. “I’m fine,” he said, but he couldn’t help wincing as he put weight on his injury. “What’s next?”
They emerged from the landing into an antechamber lined with life-sized statues of lions with men’s heads. “Sphinxes,” Leah said.
“We are near the chamber of the Star,” Maglor said.
“What traps await here?” Brogar asked, glancing around.
Pippin heard the sound of cracking stone.
“Watch out!” he warned.
The sphinxes came to life. Stone eyes flew open, glaring with unnatural red light, as the statues rose up, tails flicking, and leapt off their pedestals.
“Swords!” Maglor shouted.
“Against stone?” Leah muttered.
“This will be interesting,” Brogar commented, both blades drawn.
The moving statues attacked. They moved jerkily, but swiftly, the mouths on their human faces filled with sharp stone teeth. Wind came from their jaws as they roared, staggeringly strong. Pippin scampered among them, hacking at them with his sword, but the blade made only small gouges in the stone.
He slipped on sand, losing his footing. A sphinx leapt upon him, just missing crushing him with its forepaws when Pippin curled into a ball. The sphinx gave a wind-filled growl, giving Pippin a good view of its rows of stone teeth, but then one of Brogar’s daggers struck one of the statue’s glowing red eyes, which broke and seeped what looked like blood. The sphinx yowled.
Seeing that, Pippin shouted, “The eyes! Take out the eyes!” and struck out with the pommel of his sword, crushing the red lights. The thing roared and then fell silent, hardening.
The others did the same, and they won their way to the exit, still being pursued. More statues were coming to life: creatures with human bodies and animals’ heads, the idols of the gods of the Valley, lions and crocodiles and cats and cattle and birds.
“Hurry!” Pippin urged Leah, who with Maglor were trying to open the doorway.
“Do not interrupt me!” Leah snapped. “I am doing my best!”
“I know that; I’m suggesting you do your best faster!” Pippin retorted.
“I have it!” Leah finally said, and she touched a sequence of symbols upon the doorpost, activating hidden levers and wheels. It began to rise.
Maglor beckoned curtly to Pippin. “Pippin! Come!”
“Let’s go,” Pippin said to Brogar, but the Easterling, at the rear facing the coming monsters of stone, shook his head. “You go,” he said. “I will take care of these devils, and see that they don’t follow you.”
Leah’s eyes widened in alarm. “No,” she said. But Maglor nodded and pushed her through and now reached out for Pippin.
Pippin said to Brogar, “You can’t face them alone.”
“I think I can,” said Brogar, and flung his cloak back to reveal several small pouches with wicks at his belt. “Remember the ambush at sea?”
Pippin understood. “Blasting fire?”
Brogar nodded. “Don’t worry about me,” he said. “Go on!”
“Enough argument!” snapped Maglor, and took Pippin by the shoulder. “Come, Pippin!”
“Don’t do anything stupid!” Pippin said to Brogar, as they passed through the door.
They found themselves facing another doorway, filled with shining light, across a sputtering pool of black oil. A narrow footbridge of stone ran across it, only inches from the surface. The heat from the oil made Pippin’s face sweat, and at first he couldn’t face it for the pain it caused his eyes.
“Is it pitch?” he asked.
“Oil,” Leah said.
“It does not matter,” said Maglor, pointing. “There is the bridge, and there is the light of the Silmaril!” Pippin noticed the Elf’s finger quivered.
“This cannot be so simple!” Leah argued.
Pippin stared into the black liquid, drawn by a shift in the slick shiny surface. He heard a sound: the same grinding, crawling sound, like something massive and harsh scraping on stone. The black pool moved. He started to say: “Something’s in there…”
With a burst of heat and black ooze, a scaly head, more than five feet long, sprang from the pool, followed by a great stretch of neck that thickened into a limbless, twining body. Black eyes that devoured all light focused on them, and a tongue like a two-headed worm slid out from between the hard armored lips. Then two jaws opened, revealing a black mouth filled with blue teeth like needles, and two immense fangs dripping with gray poison. Coil after coil followed the head and the neck, rearing up to the ceiling of the chamber, as Pippin, Leah and even Maglor stared at it in horror.
“Apep…” Leah breathed. “The Serpent of Darkness.”
“A creature of Morgoth,” Maglor cursed.
“A snake,” Pippin complained. “Why did it have to be a snake?”
None of them moved, rooted to where they stood by the giant snake’s cold glare. Then abruptly Maglor lowered his sword and began to approach it.
“What are you doing?” Leah cried.
“Seizing a chance for you and Pippin,” he replied.
“You should go with Pippin!” Leah protested. “I shall fight this creature!”
“You are mortal and have not my power!” Maglor rebuked. He glared at Pippin. “You know I am right,” he said. “Go! I shall follow you!”
Then came the sound of an explosion, and dust from the way they had come. Pippin heard it and said: “Brogar.” Leah’s face paled.
Pippin grabbed Leah’s hand. “Come on,” he said, and together they began to cross the bridge.
Maglor lifted up his voice and began to sing.
Pippin and Leah began gingerly, keeping their eyes on Apep, whose gaze was fixed on them. Leah’s hand was cold in Pippin’s, but Pippin was perspiring profusely, and not just from the heat of the oil. He truly disliked all scaled creatures, snakes especially, and this one was the essential stuff of all his nightmares.
Apep suddenly struck out, snapping at them with his jaws. Leah screamed, but Pippin was the one who lost his balance and nearly fell. But like a light, so bright it could almost be seen, Maglor’s voice passed between the giant snake’s fangs and Pippin.
Leah pulled Pippin from the brink. They looked at Maglor. The Elf was singing, putting forth all his power and might, and Apep turned his head to Maglor, almost swaying, even as the black coils of the great serpent reared out of the black ooze and began to encircle the singer.
“Run!” Pippin cried.
Maglor saw them vanish into the light of the Silmaril. He stopped singing. Apep had coiled all around him. The serpent’s face was a few feet from his own. He could smell the sour odor of the snake’s poisoned jaws.
Maglor drew his sword, shining Valinorean steel.
“I was born beneath the Light of the Two Trees,” he said proudly. “I fear no darkness!”
Apep seemed to pause, and then struck.
Maglor struck back.
The light was incredible. Pippin had never seen anything like it. It was as if he had walked upon the decks of the Evening Star, as if the air were woven from the locks of Galadriel: golden light, silver light, brighter and older and more vivid than either Sun or Moon. It took a moment for his vision to grow accustomed to the splendor, for him to make out the size and scope of the Chamber of the Star, occupying the heart of the Stairway. In the center of the chamber rose the mast of a Númenórean ship, fifty feet high, the mast of the ship Phazan of Westernesse had sailed to this place, now clad in silver. Its sides were smooth but not impossible for him to climb. It was covered in writing, Tengwar script, smoothed by time but still visible. Other symbols unknown to him covered the sides of the chamber, sloping inwards, slabs of stone polished like glass, reflecting and refracting the light of the Silmaril over and over again, and back into the Jewel, which fed on its own light and grew brighter and brighter yet. The air seemed to singe in the light.
“Holy,” Pippin said.
“It is beautiful,” Leah gasped. “Pippin, you—”
A bronze spear with a bifurcated head struck her and hurled her back against the wall, impaling her through her shoulder and right arm.
“Leah!” Pippin cried.
The spear quivered, and then took flight again, drawn back whence it came. Blood flowed freely from Leah’s wounds. Her eyes were wide, then fluttered and began to close.
Through the cloud of light appeared Alatar. The spear was his staff. He glared at Leah, and then gave a dismissive glance at Pippin and turned away.
Rage filled Pippin. Heedlessly he took up his sword and raised it against Alatar, but the wizard saw him. Alatar smiled. He gestured with his staff, and a punch of hard wind slammed Pippin back with a crunch against the wall next to Leah, knocking him breathless and dizzy. Trollsbane fell from his grip.
Satisfied, Alatar walked a short distance, until he stood before the Dawnstar on its pillar. In his blurred sight Pippin made out the orb of crystal that encased the shining jewel, made by Phazan as a means of protecting and amplifying its power, set atop a crystal chalice on a small platform atop the ancient metal mast. He looked at Alatar. The wizard had raised his arms up and begun to chant a spell. Power started to weave itself heavily through the air. Pippin could feel the hair on his forearms tingling and standing on end, along with goosebumps along the rest of his body. There were sparkles in his eyes. He looked up to the opening atop the Stairway, and though perhaps he imagined it, he thought he saw the shadow of the Moon now more than halfway across the disk of the Sun.
He felt another presence, and turned his head to see Zosir hovering over Leah.
“No!” he cried, but the withered body of the Pharu raised a bony finger to desiccated lips. Instead he heard Zosir’s thoughts:
I can help her. My ka from him to her.
Seti has stolen my ka. My soul. He has been feeding it to his creations, and using it as the fuel for his machine. Some dark magic. I was foolish to give him power. Zosir’s eyes were sad. But I can feel my life, and if I choose to give it to another, he cannot stop me now. Pippin understood: to transfer his life-force to Leah.
“But that will kill you,” Pippin realized.
Zosir nodded. His eyes flicked toward Alatar.
Summoning his courage the hobbit got to his feet, took up his sword, and went to face the wizard. As he did so, Zosir laid his skeletal hands upon Leah’s wounds. Her blood began to seep into his flesh as if he were a sponge.
The wizard’s eyes were closed, his face lined with exertion, his brow scarred with concentration. Sweat beaded his face and dampened his beard. The power he was summoning filled the room, bouncing off the polished rock, reverberating along the lines of light coming from the Silmaril, reflected and refracted and focused back into the Jewel itself, and like a living thing, which in many ways it was, the Silmaril fed on the light and grew brighter still. Outside the world was dimming as the Moon passed over the Sun; the Silmaril was soon to shine unrivaled upon the earth.
Leah’s wounds stopped bleeding. She opened her eyes, and found herself gazing deep into the horrific face and warm, tender brown eyes of the enchanted king. Then she gasped, as heat like fire came from his dry palms and entered the core of her being.
Alatar stopped his spell abruptly. “What!” he snapped—as Trollsbane caught him across the thighs.
Alatar screamed and leapt back. He stared in horror and amazement at the black stains spreading on his blue robes, and then at the sweat-stained, green-eyed hobbit holding the sword that wounded him.
“You impudent fool!” raged the wizard.
“So I’ve been called,” agreed Pippin, “but by a better Wizard than you!”
And before Alatar could raise his staff or mutter a spell, Pippin swept his sword upon him, forcing him back, staggering him, and whether in shock, surprise, or actual weakness—as Zosir fed his soul to Leah, spiting the spell around the Dawnstar—it was all Alatar could do to fend off the swordstrokes falling upon him. For the truth of it was that with his anger and his passion, his worry for Leah, his faith in the rightness of his cause, his years of frustration longing for release, all he had learned of the arts of war, the hardships that hardened him on his endless journey, and his great and finally guileless heart; for this moment, in this place, Peregrin Took was the match for any Elf, Man, or creature on this side of the Sundering Sea.
Alatar turned and fled a short way before stopping, his face a mask of anger and real fear. “What are you?” he cried. “What manner of creature are you that can lay a finger on a Wizard?”
He lashed out with a wind-blast. Pippin anticipated it and threw himself down, letting the burst pass over him, before getting back to his feet. Another came, and he avoided it again.
He fixed his eyes on Alatar. “If you want to know,” he said in a high, bright voice, “I’ll tell you. I am Peregrin Took, of the Fellowship of the Ring, and whatever you’re planning, I’m going to stop you.”
“What do you know of my plans, that you dare to try to stop me?” Alatar cried, and struck out with lightning.
Pippin ran scrambling, hopping this way and that away from the deadly blue strikes that burst upon the floor as they struck it, until he came behind the shelter of the Pillar. He leapt back as lightning struck the silver surface, and the Silmaril flashed brightly, feeding upon the power that surged to it. The Stairway itself shook. Blocks of mud masonry fell at a violent shudder, and when the dust cleared Pippin found himself hidden from the wizard by debris and the Pillar itself. Through the hole atop the Stairway, Pippin could see the Sun, or what was left of it—the edge of a ring glaring down upon the world.
Pippin dared to steal a glance in Leah’s direction. Zosir was crumpling like a leaf, but he still held onto Leah, who was growing visibly stronger with each passing moment. She caught his gaze, and nodded urgently.
“Alatar,” Pippin called out, seizing the moment; “Alatar; you can’t think you can succeed!”
Lightning struck the tower again as the wizard’s answer.
“I mean,” said Pippin, improvising as he went along, “Pharazon and the great fleet of Númenór couldn’t conquer even one little town of Valinor, and they had, well, flying ships, and missiles that flew by themselves, and machines…”
He heard Alatar laugh. “What is your point, Peregrin Took?”
“Well,” shrugged Pippin, “what can you do with … with no guards, and no men, and all the Valley by now turned against you?”
Alatar fell silent so long that Pippin had the time to catch his breath. He looked over at Leah and Zosir. Zosir was now all but limp. His gnarled head was resting on Leah’s lap. But his hands were still on Leah’s shoulder.
“You think I am trying to conquer the Blessed Land.”
Pippin turned back. Alatar sounded tired, and almost amused. A terrible doubt entered Pippin’s thought. “Aren’t you?” he called out.
The Blue Wizard did not answer; instead, Pippin heard Alatar resume the spell.
But he had not gone far before he paused, and muttered, and then cried out, “Zosir! You have betrayed me!”
In Leah’s arms, the Pharu died.
All around them the light began to fade. The Silmaril dimmed and glowed only now of its own accord. Whatever sorcery Alatar had used to feed the soul of Zosir into the mechanism of the Stairway, now had no source to feed on; Zosir had expended it upon Leah, trusting to the enchantment laid upon his flesh to act as the means by which to do what he as a normal man could never have done.
“You’ve lost, Alatar,” Pippin shouted. “We’ve won.”
Alatar laughed, high-pitched and witless. Pippin thought: He’s truly crazed now. But when Alatar spoke, his voice was as low and grating as stone.
“’We’ve won’,” Alatar said spitefully. “I have heard that before. I heard that twelve years ago, in my dreams. I was here, in the desert, and I had raised a storm against the marching Haradrim gone to aid Sauron. I had waited in fear and anxiety for word. And then, it hit, like a wind upon the sand: the fall of Sauron. I felt it. I felt his passing and I howled in victory. ‘We have won’. And so I awaited the call home. Home, to Valinor… to the woods of my lord Orome, where I hunted with him for the golden stags of Aman. But no call came! No word, no thought, no message! I waited alone upon the sands and raised up mine eyes to the West and the West heard me not! I was not allowed to return!”
“You broke the rules,” Pippin said, perplexed and frightened. “You can’t conquer a whole nation and … do the things you’ve done! Not as a wizard!”
“Rules!” Alatar spat. “Rules made by the Lords of the West upon their thrones in the Circle of Doom. Rules made in the terms of the Eldar and the Edain, of the West and the ways of the West. They do not make sense in the East, where I went first with Curumo. They do not make sense in the South, where I went with my friend Pallando. Here they only understand power, and magic; the might of craft, sorcery or technology. I used every means at my disposal to fight Sauron. I used all.”
“But … a wizard should know better!"
“I did my duty!” Alatar roared. “I was faithful to the ends of the mission! Oppose Sauron; sow discord among the Men he held in thrall; raise up armies against him. I kept Far Harad from his final war! I kept the secret of the lost Silmaril from him! My goals were those I was given by the Valar! What matter the means?”
Then Alatar bellowed in anguish. “The fool is dead!” he said, meaning Zosir. “But I will not be stopped now.” He looked up. “Behold, Anor fades behind Ithil!”
The Moon sealed the Sun. The darkness of totality fell upon the Stairway and the city.
The Dawnstar blazed.
Pippin crawled from his hiding place and showed himself to the wizard. “You’re right,” he told the wizard. “You were faithful to the ends. But you chose the wrong way. I understand that you want to go home. Truly I do. But this isn’t the way! Alatar—you broke the terms of your mission, even if you were successful. That’s what’s keeping you here. Say you’re sorry, and they’ll take you back!”
Alatar gazed at him for a moment, and it seemed to Pippin that the wizard’s blue eyes were mirrors of his own exile.
Then the wizard said, mighty and despairing:
“I was faithful. I have nothing to repent. And I do not.”
Alatar raised his staff, and it glowed with power: Alatar’s own power, his own life and soul. “I will open the Road denied me,” he said, his voice rising, his eyes shattering into madness. “I will bring the gods to earth, if I have to shatter the sky and all beneath it!” He clutched his staff as a spear. “I will go home!”
He cast his staff against the pillar, where its two blades bit deep into the soft silver and the ancient timber, and he cried out words of power, which spun out from him in a bright spiral and swirled into a column that rushed into the staff and up through the crystal to the Dawnstar.
The Dawnstar glowed with new radiance that swiftly grew so great it could not be contained. The reflecting panes and echoing chambers of the Stairway did their work, amplifying the light in a cycle of ever-increasing power. The crystal globe encasing the Jewel shatttered; and a beam of light burst up through the hole in the Stairway and pierced the sky.
“Yes!” Alatar said, laughing maniacally. “Behold! The Road home!”
The sky peeled apart like a ruined flower, and a storm greater than any mortal storm enveloped the Stairway and all the land around it, the desert and the valley and the city itself, circling around a void in the air. The shaking grew almost untenable; the top levels of the Stairway began to crack, fissure, and then crumble, sliding down its sides and crumbling inward over the Star chamber. And the Moon froze in front of the Sun, trapping the Valley in a narrow band of utter darkness.
Pippin dodged falling masonry and brick, knowing now he had to steal the Jewel. Alatar spied him, and said calmly: “Now it is time for you, Peregrin Took, to die.” In the light, a shadow moved.
“You first,” Pippin said, and started to climb the Pillar.
The silver surface of the old mast was smooth, but there were just enough crevices and ridges for a hobbit’s fingers and toes to find purchase. Pippin made his way up the Pillar, climbing, crawling, shimmying, as if it were the mast of the Mormegil and he had to work without the stays. He was halfway up when suddenly he had a vision: of what lay precisely behind him. He leapt back, letting go—and found himself clutching onto the head and ears of the statue of Seth.
The idol’s left hand reached up and brushed Pippin, trying to grab him. Pippin let go instead, tumbling down to the ground, landing on his back. Pippin grunted in pain, but struggled to his feet, pulled out his sword, and turned on his assailant.
Steel struck stone, slashing against the black rock of the idol, but failing to stop the walking statue. The statue of Seth swung its mace. It moved simply and brutally, allowing Pippin to evade the swings and blows, but those blows crushed the floor and made craters in the ground. Pippin hacked again at the statue’s ankles, and succeeded in creating a fissure, but only small one. He had to find another way, or be killed, or worse, fail.
The Stairway was crumbling. The void the Dawnstar had opened, kept open by the power of Alatar, was destroying everything beneath it, and the Stairway was directly beneath it. A great crack appeared in the south face, and it crumbled, revealing the tormented landscape outside. Pippin saw men suddenly rush up the crumbled brick and stone: Medzhaim and Bani and Sakharans. What the Sakharans saw was what looked like a small youth, fighting Seth himself. Once again, shouts and cries of “Horus” came from their throats, baffling and distracting Pippin.
“Pippin!” It was Leah. She was still weak, but she was alive, and she pointed at the idol. “The eyes!”
Pippin looked up. The statue had red eyes like those of the stone sphinxes. Destroy the eyes.
An idea popped into his head, and he sheathed his sword and ran.
The idol strode heavily upon the cracked floor littered with fallen stone and brick. It threw down its mace behind Pippin, so near Pippin could feel the breath of its movement on the fur on his ankles. He had to lead it properly. He had to make sure it was close enough to serve. He gauged the distance to the Dawnstar and its pillar as he ran, clambering over debris and skipping over rocks, pursued by the dark idol. Then he stumbled, or seemed to, bending down low over the ground.
The statue of Seth reared back to land a killing blow.
Pippin whirled around. With a hobbit’s practiced aim he flung two jagged pebbles up at Seth and struck its eyes.
Both enchanted orbs shattered, shards melting into a liquid like blood, breaking the spell that animated the statue’s stone. Bereft of its magical life, the statue froze, still in its awkward position. Off-balance, it teetered and fell, limbs and head crushing and shattering right where Pippin had hoped it would: the Pillar.
A cheer rose from the onlookers, startling Pippin and causing him to glance at them. He heard the word for “falcon”, over and over again, but didn’t understand why. Then the ground shook, and Pippin put it from his mind and went to complete his task.
He climbed up the fallen idol of Seth to the midpoint of the Pillar, and proceeded from there, his fingers digging into the indentations of the carvings, his bare arms hugging against the silver surface, the soles of his feet holding fast against the metal. It was only ten feet now; seven; five; three; one—
—and he climbed upon the small platform and gazed upon the naked Star.
Now all around him seemed to still. Pippin knew that the sky was rent above him, that the ground shook and buildings were falling, that below him the Blue Wizard was raging at him, trapped by the power of his own spell that he was powering with his own life-force; but for the moment none of it mattered. One of the Silmarilli was before him. He was looking at it with his own eyes. He could feel its light strike his skin and pass tingling through his flesh. It was both silver and gold together; it was warm, and came from deep within; it was the light from before all others, the light of Telperion and Laurelin from before the awakening of Men, and hobbits.
Oh, Bilbo, I wish I could tell you what this looks like, he thought. Me, Pippin, silly little Pippin—I see a Silmaril before me, and Bilbo, it’s even better than you said it was!
He reached out. The light seemed firm to the touch. The Jewel lay in the pieces of its crystal casing. It was large, about half the size of his palm. As his hand neared it, the sweat upon his skin turned to vapor, shimmering in the light. For a moment he wondered; the light was enough to split the sky, yet it only tingled upon his hand? But that was how it was, and he wouldn’t stop now.
One last doubt entered his mind: The touch of the Silmaril destroys all unworthy flesh. He thought of Maglor’s hand. How worthy was he?
He put aside all doubts and took it.
Pippin’s body began to glow. First his hand, where he held the Jewel. Then it spread like the roots of a tree, up his arm, across his shoulders, down his trunk to his legs and even the tips of his toes. It filled his face and lit his hair and shone even from between his lips. Pippin did not cry out, did not hunch over in pain, did not do anything but gaze at the Star in his hand.
Then he looked up, and it seemed to the Sakharans that one eye blazed with the light of the Sun, and the other shone with the light of the Moon.
“Let go of it! Let go of it! Do not hinder me!”
It was Alatar, shrieking madly, spit flying from his lips. His face was gaunt and his whole form withered by the power he was putting forth into the mechanism, the mechanism he could no longer control, whose focus now lay in Pippin’s hand. He staggered to a spot beneath the platform, crying:
“It is mine! I will take it to the Valar! They will not deny a Silmaril! Give it to me!”
Pippin appeared on the edge of the platform, holding the Silmaril in his palm.
He gazed down at Alatar.
“Here,” he said, and dropped it.
In a fall of sparkling light fell the Dawnstar of Sakhara from its pillar. Alatar uttered a strangled noise and rushed forward to catch it, which he did, the blazing jewel touching the mortal flesh in which his spirit was housed; which it immediately, upon its touch, began to consume.
Alatar howled until his voice was gone, as the terrible light filled his body, shooting through his tendons and flesh and bones, bursting through his eyes and ears and mouth, shining, shining, until the wizard was like a jewel himself. Then, with a final, soundless cry, he vanished in a flash of dust and a mist of vapor that rose up into the rent sky and was taken away.
Pippin hurried down the Pillar as fast as he could. He felt alive, incredibly so, and his mind was whirling with an almost infinite variety of images, names, places, histories. He looked up and saw the rift beginning to close, as the Moon regained motion and began to pass from the Sun.
He got down onto the ground, calling “Leah! Leah!” as he ran to where the Dawnstar lay. He bent down and once again picked it up, marveling at it. “Leah,” he called again, “you’ve got to come and look at this!” But it wasn’t Leah who answered.
“Pippin.” Maglor’s voice was tight and tense. “Give me the jewel.”
Pippin turned. The Elf stood before him, sword drawn, his clothes rent, hands bare, covered in black slime and gore. His hood was thrown back and his dark hair disheveled and dirty, wild over his eyes, glittering and wild with desperation.
Pippin took a step back. “What do you mean?”
Maglor advanced on him, holding out his scarred hand. “The jewel. The Silmaril. It is mine. It belongs to me.”
“Maglor, you’re not yourself…”
“The jewel is mine, give it to me,” Maglor insisted tautly. “Give it to me or as Eru is my witness I shall slay you and all who keep it from me.”
Pippin shook his head. “You don’t mean that. I know you don’t. You’ve changed.”
The sword quivered as Maglor trembled. “The oath has not changed,” he said bitterly. “The oath cannot change!”
Pippin replied, “People do.”
He hesitated, and looked down. The Silmaril shone with its pure light, unstained despite all the harm and wickedness it had to have witnessed in its history. From the ruin of this day, all the long road back to the nethermost dungeon of Angband and its setting in the Iron Crown. Evil simply was not enough to dim its light for very long. It lay in Pippin’s naked palm, on his skin, and lit him up from the inside.
He nodded. “You’re right,” he said to Maglor, and approached him. “Take it, then.”
Maglor nodded tensely. “Put it in a cloth and hand it to me,” he said.
“No,” said Pippin, holding out his palm. “Take it, yourself, with your own fingers.”
Distress twisted Maglor’s expression. “Do not mock my plight,” he said.
“But I’m not,” Pippin said, filled with pity. “Take it, Maglor. Take what your father made.”
Maglor dropped his sword. He stepped back, frightened by the small, bright figure offering the radiant jewel. “No,” he said. “I cannot. No…” He tried to pull away, but Pippin took his hand, his injured hand, in a grip stronger than he should have been. Firmly the hobbit pulled open the hand of the Elf, and pressed his hand and the Silmaril against the other’s flesh. Maglor gasped and shuddered.
The light shone in his hand, and nothing more.
“See?” Pippin said simply. “As I told you. People change.”
Maglor son of Feanor held the last of his father’s Silmarils in his hand, and overcome he bent his head and began to weep. He knelt, and Pippin comforted him.
The light of the Sun returned to the sky. The Moon passed from totality and an orange dawn from the zenith appeared over the world. In the sky, the tear was still visible, but its winds had died greatly, and the shaking had stopped. In the midst of its luminescent mists were glimpses of a faraway land.
“The Uttermost West,” said Maglor.
Pippin nodded. “My cousin’s there, or close to it.”
“He must be great indeed,” said Maglor. “As are you, halfling.”
“Not like him,” said Pippin. Then he smiled wistfully. “But I’ve done my best.”
He looked again at the Silmaril the Elf held. “It really is beautiful,” he said. “What are you going to do with it, now you’ve got it?”
Maglor gazed at it momentarily. He rose to his feet, took a few steps, and looked up into the dimming opening to the Uttermost West. Then, with a mighty throw, Maglor hurled the Silmaril up into the hole in the sky. It gave a mighty flash, and vanished.
Slowly, like a folding leaf at dusk, the rift came shut. In its place was a milky sky lit by the half-disk of the Sun.
Maglor looked down at Pippin’s gaping face. “Did you have another fate in mind?” he asked, as behind him, Leah appeared, supported by a sooty, dusty Brogar.
Pippin only shook his head, still staring artlessly up at the healing sky. “That, was great,” he concluded.
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