Politics of Arda
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When the King Comes Back (the Great Smials): 3. Chapter 3
Pippin went on to tell how the ring had come to Frodo, and what Gandalf had discovered. “The Ring was *evil* Father, and it was going to draw more evil here to the Shire. Frodo *had* to leave, to take it away. He wasn’t planning for anyone to go with him into danger--I don’t think he would have taken even Sam, but Sam and Gandalf insisted.”
“There was one thing that neither Frodo nor Gandalf knew, though. Merry’d already twigged that Frodo was planning to leave. He, Fatty and Sam had been spying on Frodo for months. Then Sam got caught and wouldn’t spy any more; so Merry started spying twice as hard. That’s what clued *me* in; I knew something was up with Merry. So I started to spy on *him*. Several months before we left, I managed to overhear Merry and Fatty trying to pump Sam; I heard enough to give me the picture. It was simple, really. Frodo was leaving, and Merry wasn’t going to let him leave without him. And I *certainly* wasn’t going to let Merry go anywhere without *me*”
Paladin gave a sigh. This much was true, whatever *else* had happened afterward, it really was *that* simple. Merry had always been Frodo’s shadow, and Pippin had always been Merry’s. It was as though the three were connected by some invisible cord.
“I kept my mouth shut and my eyes and ears open. About two days before the move to Crickhollow, I told Merry I knew what was up. I was coming, too. He didn’t much like it, I knew he wouldn’t, because he would have worried about me getting into danger, but that’s why I waited so long. I knew if I didn’t give him any time to come up with something, he’d have to agree to let me go with them. By that time, anything he could have thought of to keep me from going would just keep him from going, too. Of course it worked. He used the same tactic on Frodo--just telling him at the last minute, so he couldn’t keep us from it. Anyway…”
Pippin’s eyes looked off into the distance, and he went on the describe the trip to Buckland, the meeting with elves, the disastrous shortcut, and their pursuit by the Black Riders. “Of course they were the reason we had to risk going through the Old Forest instead of going by the road…”
Paladin listened with increasing concern to the description of the dangers of the Old Forest and the barrow-wights, with their rescues by Tom Bombadil. What bothered him was the matter of fact tone Peregrin was using, as though these were old and minor matters. As though hobbit-eating trees were nothing.
“Then we got to Bree. What happened there was kind of my fault, actually; I let my tongue flap a bit too freely…” he described how Frodo had tried to distract attention, and ended up with the Ring on his finger, however briefly. “Then we met Strider. He was a Big Person, and not much liked by the Bree-landers, but it turned out he was a friend of Gandalf’s. He saved our lives that night…”
Pippin told of Strider’s ruse, that kept the hobbits safe from the Black Rider’s murderous attack, and how he then led them into the wild, on the way to Rivendell.
“Then we came to Weathertop.” Pippin stopped for a moment and took a deep breath. “Strider left us for a while to scout around, and while he was gone, the Black Riders attacked. There were five of them, including their leader; of course Frodo was the one they were after. He was stabbed, in the left shoulder, and not too far from his heart. Strider came back, and we managed to drive them off, but Strider said they left because they thought their work was done. That knife was poison, and if Frodo didn’t die outright, he would turn into a wraith like them.”
In a low, strained voice Pippin described the nightmare of traveling with the injured Frodo: fearing every moment for his cousin’s life, trying to evade the Ringwraiths, the meeting with Glorfindel, and the final desperate flight to Rivendell.
“We had some really bad days. It was awhile before we knew if Frodo would live or die. Lord Elrond had to cut into him to get out a piece of the poison knife; I was never clear on how it worked, but if he had not gotten it out it would have done worse than kill Frodo.” Pippin shuddered, remembering those bleak days huddled miserably with Merry outside Frodo’s door.
“Anyway, he did get better. And Gandalf was there. He’d been prevented from joining us because he had been a prisoner of Saruman. But he’d gotten away and come to Rivendell. Bilbo was there, too. That was the only good thing about those first few days, seeing Bilbo.”
Paladin shook his head. As far as he could tell so far, all this trouble could be laid at the door of Bilbo and that old wizard Gandalf. He’d been blaming Frodo for his son’s leaving, but now he could see that Frodo himself had been forced to leave; this was so much worse than anything he had imagined.
“Once Frodo was awake and getting well, Merry, Sam and I thought we’d probably be coming home soon. We figured Frodo could leave the Ring there with the Elves to deal with. Then Lord Elrond called a Council. I don’t know what all was discussed there; Bilbo and Frodo were invited, but refused to talk about it, Sam snuck in, but he didn’t really remember most of it. But the decision was made that the Ring had to be destroyed, and the only way to do that was to take it to Mordor and drop it into Mount Doom where it was made. And it seemed that the only person who could do that was Frodo. It was also decided that some people would be picked to go with him.”
Pippin looked up at Paladin. “I won’t try to hide it from you, Father. Merry and I could have come home then and there. Lord Elrond did *not* want us to go; Frodo did not want us to be in danger; we told them we *were* going, or we would follow.” There was not even a hint of humor in Pippin’s next words. “I told them if they wanted me to go home they would have to tie me up and send me home in a sack, and I meant it. Finally, I think Gandalf persuaded Lord Elrond that we should be allowed to go.”
Paladin’s face tightened. That was *exactly* the kind of stubborn thing Peregrin would say. And of course he had gotten his way. He always did.
“There were nine of us: Frodo, Sam, Merry and me, Gandalf, and Strider, only his real name we found out, was Aragorn. Then there was another Man, Boromir of Gondor, an Elf from Mirkwood named Legolas, and a Dwarf, Gimli. His father was Gloin, one of Bilbo’s Dwarves.”
“Just before Yule, we left Rivendell.”
Pippin put his head back down on his knees. A distant look came into his eyes, as though he were watching what had happened. He described the journey through Eriador, talking fondly of all his strange companions. It was obvious that he had formed an attachment to them, especially the Men, Aragorn and Boromir. He even had a twitch of a smile as he described the lessons in swordsmanship that Boromir had given to the Hobbits, though Frodo had not really tried more than once, and Sam gave up pretty soon, too. Then there was the abortive journey up the mountain Caradhras and the attack by wolves. “It was decided that we would have to go through Moria to get to the other side of the mountains. Moria was this underground kingdom that used to belong to the Dwarves.”
Paladin nodded. He was liking this less and less. He’d heard stories of this Moria, and they were not good ones.
Pippin took a deep breath, and once more plunged into his tale, how the Watcher in the Water had nearly had Frodo, the oppressive journey in the dark, his own foolish dropping of the stone down the well.
“Gimli kept thinking we’d find his kin. And so we did, but they were all dead. Then we were attacked by Orcs, and a troll. It was horrible, but I tried to keep my wits and do as Boromir had taught me. Merry seemed to be doing all right. Sam caught a blow to the head, and then the troll speared Frodo.”
“Father, do you remember that silver shirt of Bilbo’s, that once hung in the mathom house?”
Paladin was startled to hear Peregrin address him. He’d been shocked to hear of another serious injury to Frodo. How the lad had suffered. He thought for a second, “Yes. Bilbo took it with him when he left.”
“Well, he’d given it to Frodo in Rivendell, though none of us knew. It saved Frodo’s life. Dear old Bilbo. Gandalf said that shirt was worth more than the price of the whole Shire.”
He put his head back down, and the distant look returned, as he described the wild flight through Khazad Dûm, pursued by Orcs and something worse, something so awful he could not describe it; the Balrog.
Then Gandalf’s stand upon the bridge, and the sudden plunge into the abyss.
He stopped talking for a moment. He was pale, his eyes large and filled with unspilled tears, his breathing shallow.
Eglantine made as if to move to her son, but Paladin waved her back.
Pippin shook his head and swallowed. “Sorry. I don’t really remember how we got down the mountain. I think at one point Boromir was carrying me. We were all pretty shocked, as you can imagine.”
“Aragorn led us into Lothlórien. It’s sort of like Rivendell, in that it’s a place of the Elves, but it’s very different. It’s a wood; the trees are huge and old, but it’s not dark , it’s filled with light. Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel rule there. Lord Celeborn is very wise; but Lady Galadriel-- well, in all my travels I never saw anything or anyone more beautiful. She was so beautiful it almost hurt, but she was also full of light and power. I can’t describe her any better than that. We stayed awhile in Lorien. The Elves were kind to us, and gave us gifts before we left. They also gave us boats so we could travel down the River Anduin.”
“We went down the river for several days until we came to a place called Parth Galen. We--we had to stop there for a while, to decide what to do next. Boromir was all for going on to Minas Tirith first. Aragorn just wanted to cross the river and head for the Black Land. Of course, the--the one it was really up to was Frodo.”
Paladin could tell from the hesitancy in his voice that his son was coming to another bit of unpleasantness; he tried to steel himself for whatever was coming next.
Pippin closed his eyes for a second. “Frodo asked for a little time alone to think it over. He wandered away from the camp. After a few moments, Boromir followed him. Then after a bit he came back. He told us that Frodo had gotten angry and put the Ring on and disappeared. ”
“I guess Merry and I just panicked. We took off running, calling Frodo; Aragorn told Boromir to follow us and protect us, and then he and Sam took off to look for Frodo in the other direction. I guess Legolas and Gimli, too, I don‘t remember.”
Pippin’s face grew haunted, his voice dropped, his words slowed.
“In just a few minutes, Merry and I ran into Orcs. Dozens and dozens of them. We drew our swords, and tried to defend ourselves, but it was pretty hopeless, really. Just then, there was Boromir. He--he came between us and the enemies, blowing his great horn. Then he drew his sword and lit into them. He was fighting them off, all alone, and they kept coming and coming and coming, but he was keeping them off us, he was trying to save us.”
“There was -- an arrow,” Pippin touched himself lightly on the left shoulder. “It struck him. I could hear it strike. He staggered. But he kept on fighting.”
“Then,” and his hand went to his abdomen, “there was another arrow; he went down to his knees. He turned and looked at us. His lips moved. I think--he said--‘I’m sorry, little ones’ but no sound came out. He got back up to his feet and started fighting again, but there was-- another arrow.” Pippin’s hand moved near his heart. “ He went down again. We were so angry, Merry and I charged, but the Orcs just grabbed us. They carried us off. I could still see Boromir, they just left him, they just left him…” Pippin’s voice trailed off into a whisper. His eyes were wide and unfocused, tears ran down his face unchecked. He was so white, it was as though there were no blood in him.
Paladin stared at his son, almost as pale as he. The silence was broken by the sobs of his daughters, weeping in their husband’s arms. Eglantine had her arm around Pearl, and tears were running silently down her face.
Tanto patted Pervinca on the shoulder, and then eased himself out of his chair. He walked over to the sideboard and took out a cup and a bottle of fortified wine; he poured some into the cup and took it over to Pippin.
Pippin didn’t even notice. Tanto had to shake him a bit to get him to take it. His lips moved in a ‘thank you’ but no sound came out. He drank the wine down in one swallow, and handed the cup back to Tanto, who poured a bit more. He drank more slowly this time. Gradually the color came back into his face. His eyes came back into focus, and he finally noticed his weeping mother and sisters.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was going to be so hard. Do you want to leave, Mother?”
Eglantine shook her head, and took a handkerchief to her face. “No, son. It’s not pleasant, but we need to know these things.”
“I’ll try not to upset you too much. But there’s still a lot more to tell.”
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