His fellow hobbits and Gandalf seemed to share his contemplative mood as they lounged about on cushions or low sofas under open pavilions, some smoking, some gazing at the stars. Sam reclined on a deep cushion next to Frodo, close enough to throw heat Frodo could feel, and his feet lazily paddled back and forth as he stared off. He tilted his head as if listening to the soft night sounds of Ithilien and said, "There they are, like always."
"The stars, Mr. Frodo," he replied. "For all the goings on we've been attendin' to, they're there, just the same, as if naught happened as could disturb them."
Frodo sighed, infused with gentle happiness, and he was moved to recite a brief elvish prayer for the stars, but Pippin stirred and spoke before he did.
"Oh, things happened, Sam, no matter what the stars thought about them," Pippin said. "More things happened than I can remember all at once. I'll have to tell Bilbo, so he can write it all down in that book of his." Reclined on a low couch, he propped himself up on his elbows. "Take some notes, Frodo. I want to start now."
"Because that's what you do," said Pippin.
"Is it?" said Frodo, and he frowned in the soft darkness.
"You let Bilbo sweep you away to his room to help him write his red book in Rivendell," said Merry.
"Yes, you two were closeted for days," added Pippin.
"Well, taking notes is hardly necessary tonight." Frodo dug his shoulders deeper into the soft cushion. "I'm confident that you, Pippin, can carry on for quite some time without anyone writing it down."
The others laughed at Pippin, and he laughed, too, until their mirth bled gently away. Then, as if a key had been turned in a locked chest, each told of the paths he had taken: recollections of the fantastic deeds and places and people they had encountered since that day at Rauros when the Fellowship had broken. Gimli and Legolas joined them while Merry spoke of the fury of the ents as they dismantled Isengard. Once the elf and dwarf settled to their own comfort, Merry continued his tale.
"Of course, it's a lake now since they flooded it, all very peaceful and calm, and you'd hardly guess their power when they are not roused. When they were angry, it was like when a tree pushes its roots through a farmer's rock wall, if he neglects it," said Merry, "but Quickbeam would do that before I could draw a breath to shout about it."
"Ents. Just like trees, you say," said Sam, "and it was while you were with them that you grew like that?" He insisted that Merry stand at his back so he could measure the difference, and then to Frodo's, and then he urged Pippin from his couch as well to compare his height all around, once more marveling at the change in both the younger hobbits. "Mr. Frodo was taller than you both, and now look at you. Can't understand it at your age, but there it is: you're three inches taller than you ought to be, or I'm a dwarf."
"That you certainly are not," said Gimli. Gandalf seemed to agree, nodding, and he released a stream of smoke that curled into a dragon shape and circled above Sam's head before it flew out the open pavilion.
"I can hardly credit it, and I'm looking at you right now," said Sam. "Folks back home won't know what to think."
"Pip's right. Bilbo will have to write it in his book, and then he'll have to let people read it," said Merry. "Maybe then they'll believe what happened to us."
"The Master and the Thain," said Frodo, and he shook his head as the hobbits sat again. "I could never see you two stepping into your rank until you'd settled down and grown some sense and children, and plenty of both, mind, but there you were, grand and tall, serving kings as if you'd never had a thought about mischief."
"That's hardly fair," said Merry. "Neither one of us had opportunity to be so serious before."
"Thus you speak more wisely than you know," said Gandalf, and then he laughed, which prompted Frodo to smile in response even though he was puzzled as to the cause of Gandalf's mirth.
Pippin seemed to take the comment as unwarranted teasing and sat up straight to provide a stronger defense. "We both have years to go before we have to act responsible and gracious and grown up, and yet here we are right now, under the stars after a victory feast. I think Merry and I have both done rather well on all counts."
"Responsible? Perhaps a bit," said Gandalf. "And you are certainly brave. But gracious? You haven't mastered that quite yet, Master Peregrin." His cheeks hollowed and red embers lit his face as he drew on his pipe, the light kindling amusement in his eyes.
"I should think the proof is obvious," said Pippin as he put his fist to his chest over the emblem of the White Tree there. "Am I not a Knight of Gondor, esquire to both the Stewart and the King? I've had no complaints from them." He settled back onto his pillow, smug.
"Is this the day Pippin has finally gotten the best of Gandalf?" said Frodo, teasing. "I can hardly imagine it."
"I'll reckon no." Sam shook his head. "Since I can't imagine it a'tall."
"Oh, Sam!" said Pippin, exasperated, while Frodo laughed aloud.
"That day has yet to come, my friends," said Gandalf. "If ever. I was speaking of graciousness, which Pippin's speech could have used more of during his first days in Minas Tirith as he waited on the Lord Denethor."
Pippin, Frodo noticed, frowned, and then squirmed back into his cushion. Frodo said, "You were proper with the Lord, weren't you, Pippin? You didn't insult him, or - or tell bawdy jokes -- did you?"
"No! I would never --!"
Gandalf raised his hand, palm out, still smiling but insistent. "This young Took is made of better mettle than that. He was merely untutored -- or perhaps forgetful -- that the people of Gondor use the deferential mode of address not only in the elvish tongues, but also in the Common Speech."
Sam frowned, puzzled, but Frodo gasped, and then laughed. "Even the Lord Denethor?"
"Indeed. Even the Lord Denethor." Gandalf blew a smoke ring that spiraled away and up until it became a flowering tree that flamed and faded. "The household mistook Master Took for royalty, but I think it amused Denethor to be addressed as young Peregrin's equal."
"Oh, Pippin," said Frodo severely.
"But," Pippin exclaimed, "it's been ages since school! I couldn't think of all those formal words just inside the gates of the city; I was tired. And I did remember, after a bit -- I did!" He turned to Merry. "You heard me during the feast -- I was entirely proper!"
Merry was guffawing into a mug of ale. "So how long did that take? I'm of a mind to tell your old tutor, Baldy Bracegirdle. I'd wager he's still got that willow switch for your knuckles."
"And it's a wonder I can hardly remember my lessons? That hobbit is a terror to lads and lasses all over Tookland with his switch. I'd like to see him try now, the old bully," said Pippin. "I'd stare him down."
"You have to stare down at everyone in the Shire now," Sam pointed out.
"Mortals cannot go drinking ent-draughts and expect no more to come of them than a pot of beer," said Legolas.
"Ent-draughts?" said Sam. "There you go about ents again; but what they are beats me. Why, it will take weeks before we get all these things sized up!"
"Weeks indeed," said Pippin. "And then Frodo will have to be locked up in a tower in Minas Tirith and write it all down. Otherwise he will forget half of it, and poor old Bilbo will be dreadfully disappointed."
Frodo cleared his throat and sipped the last drops of wine in his glass regretful it had emptied so soon and touched by a mild unease. Sam looked at him, his face troubled, and then Frodo recalled another high, locked tower: Cirith Ungol. He remembered little of it himself, though he had scars from the whip, but he knew the memory was heavy for Sam. He pressed Sam's shoulder, and Sam covered his hand with his own.
"Well," said Frodo, "perhaps we'll forgo a locked tower, but I will have to take some notes, for you are quite right: Bilbo will be disappointed if I don't report to him fully."
Frodo's days in Ithilien were filled with food, sleep, and easy walks with friends in the gentle woods. The time was not without all concern, for remnants the Southron and Haradirim armies roamed the area, most looking for passage south to their home, or the quickest path anywhere out of Gondor. The Captains of the West pursued them, singly or in small groups, and they guarded against bands of rogue orcs and other evil creatures that had escaped while they destroyed the last fortresses of Mordor.
When he could, for his healing hurts demanded much rest, Frodo paid heed to Aragorn and Gandalf as they and the other Captains dealt with the last vestiges of the war, though the details were overwhelming. His road, though it had been hard and tested him to breaking, had been plain. So it was that while on occasion he thought of jotting notes to remember names, deeds, or places, he couldn't while his injured hand mended. Once it did, Frodo never had writing implements with him when the notion to write struck, nor did he think to seek them when he had opportunity. Soon, the Captains of the West removed to Minas Tirith with all the companies of returning soldiers, and Aragorn, the King Elessar, entered his city. Following the ceremony and celebrations, Frodo and his fellow Companions of the Ring were shown to a fair house within the upper level of the city where they could dwell together. As he explored his room, Frodo found a desk made of rich, dark wood. He sank into the chair, caressing the smooth finish of the desktop. The ruined finger no longer pained him, and he realized he had written nothing.
He opened the top drawer of the desk. It was empty, and so he closed it. He opened and closed the next drawer, and then the next and the next with growing speed. Urgent need for paper, ink, and a quill gripped him. "Sam?" he said, and then turned and called louder. "Sam?"
Merry stepped into the open doorway of Frodo's room and answered him. "Sam's round here somewhere. Do you need anything?"
"I, well," and Frodo was abashed at his sudden irrational desire, "no, I don't need anything."
"Don't hesitate to ask, Frodo," said Merry. "It seems half of Minas Tirith is waiting to deliver our smallest wish. Pippin is testing their resolve right now in the kitchen by explaining preferred hobbit mealtimes." He shook his head, smiling. "I could fetch you some tea and bread, if you're hungry."
"No, I need nothing," said Frodo. He turned to the desk. "What is the time?"
"The first hour past midday, more or less." Merry approached the desk. He stepped to the left of it where a tall window cast fulsome light into the room. "You've a lovely view, cousin. You can see the Anduin. I think I'm envious."
"Are there no views from your window?"
Merry smiled impishly, and Frodo was minded of the Brandybuck boy Merry used to be. "Only the great heads of the mountains with their caps of silver snow."
"I like mountain views."
"Sorry," Merry said loftily. "The rooms are set, and I'm not surrendering mine. Besides," and he looked at the desk, "it seems you've got all you need here."
Frodo frowned. "It's all very grand, yes, but how do you mean?"
"You can't beat the light here for writing, and this desk is remarkable." He stroked the top. "Why, my dad would pull the hair off his toes for envy if he could see it."
"You think I'm going to spend my time here in Minas Tirith slaving at this desk, writing?" Frodo asked dryly. "You and Pippin both seem to have this mistaken idea."
"Hallo, are you talking about me?" Pippin stepped in from the hallway.
"In fact, I am," said Frodo. "I'm just now realizing that the future Thain and Master are sloughing off their duties onto their poor old cousin, Frodo."
"Oh, I'm injured." Merry feigned dismay by clutching his breast dramatically. "Insulted by family at that. Besides, you're hardly poor."
"Just old, eh?" The teasing banter with his young cousins warmed him through, and Frodo smiled. "The two of you seem eager to see me record our adventures, yet aren't you the imminent leaders of the Shire?"
"I'm sure the current Thain and Master would have much to say about that," Merry rejoined dryly.
"Besides, a leader must learn to delegate," said Pippin brightly.
"Ah, but a good leader will never assign a task he wouldn't take on himself," replied Frodo.
"Yes, well," said Pippin, "remember that no one can read Merry's writing."
"And don't forget that Pippin can't spell," Merry countered, and fended off Pippin's playful slap. "Besides, you're ever so much better at writing. According to Father, Bilbo bragged about your talent on many occasions."
Frodo clenched his right hand into a lopsided fist, and the compliment tasted bitter as his good cheer drained away. Slowly, he said, "I'm not sure I can write."
Merry's face settled into pitying lines. Pippin frowned, puzzled. "What do you mean?"
"I haven't held a pen since...before." Frodo splayed his maimed hand on the desktop.
Pippin delicately traced the back of Frodo's hand with a fingertip in the mellow, golden sunlight of the window through which faint street noises of pedestrians and the odd hand-cart bumping over cobbles wafted into the room. But these sounds faded from awareness as the three of them watched Pippin's tapered finger move across Frodo's scarred hand for long moments of silence.
Abruptly Pippin withdrew his hand as if burned and said, "You can. Of course you can. Silly old hobbit." He gestured to the drawers. "Pick one up and see."
"I have none."
"We'll find one, then," said Pippin, and he went to the door that opened onto the hall. "Sam! Hoy, Sam!"
"Mr. Pippin?" Sam called from the suite of rooms next to Frodo's, and then he opened the door that connected them and stuck his head in. "You called?"
"We need a pen, Sam, and some paper and ink." Pippin strode toward him purposefully.
Sam entered the room fully and looked thoughtful a moment. "I reckon we could ask the housekeeper, if there's none to be found here."
While Merry gently fidgeted, darting sorrowful looks at Frodo, Pippin bustled energetically, rousing the entire household staff until he procured paper, ink, and a long, black quill. Sam looked from Merry to Frodo, puzzled, until Pippin returned, breathless.
"Here!" Pippin laid the writing implements in front of Frodo as if they were quested treasures. "Now, start writing. It is all for Bilbo, you know." His eyes glistened, and his voice was tight and high-pitched; Sam looked at him sharply, and then again at Merry and Frodo, this time with a knowing light in his eye. Frodo saw his expression soften to the same compassionate encouragement that had sustained him through the ash-pits of Mordor up the side of Mount Doom, and then he picked up the quill, dipped it full of ink, and scratched a name on the parchment: Samwise the Stouthearted.
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.