1. Between Dream and Wakening
A tale known by the trees alone,
A story long past, yet words not unknown.
Only they caught a glimpse of the one
Who had wandered by night and forever was gone.
He had kissed his beloved and went off into night
His wife's eyes on his back 'til he was out of sight.
Her voice was still echoing in his ear,
Hushed and trembling with her eyes full of fear:
"Hear me, beloved, do not listen to song
Damned you will be and forever gone.
Never follow a sparkling light
Or your soul will fade and be lost to night."
"Vinca!" Pippin scolded his older sister who lay in her bed in the far corner of the room. Throwing his cushion into her direction, Pippin caused the singing to stop but in its stead earned an amused giggle.
"Don't worry, Pip," the girl laughed, her eyes glistening in the candlelight, "if you go on being scared like this, I will have my own room by the end of the month."
Pippin grumbled a muffled reply, pulled the covers over his head and tried to fight the sleepiness that was slowly coming upon him. Vinca had been very mean the past few weeks. Not that she was not nasty all the time, but, of late, she had been especially so. She meant to get her own room, because, as she put it, at the age of sixteen, every girl needed a room of her own. Or at least one she shared with sisters and not a baby-brother. Pippin did not consider himself a baby; he was, after all, eight going quickly on nine. Vinca, however, wanted to prove the opposite and so kept on singing stupid songs about monsters and all kinds of creepiness when he was supposed to go to sleep. Pippin would hear her voice as he drifted off and would still hear it in his dreams. Unconsciously, he would follow her words and end up in the worst nightmares he had ever had, waking screaming and kicking in the dead of the night. Vinca, with a suppressed victorious smile, would then run to fetch one of his parents, all the while complaining about how little sleep she got with her brother crying every night and how much better off she would be with a room of her own.
Pippin had come to dread bedtime and he hoped his parents would soon make Vinca's wish come true and fix a room for her of one of the pantries so his sleep would be peaceful again. Of course, he could have told on his sister, but her purpose was also his own. He did not like being her means to an end, but he would endure it for the sake of his carved and stuffed animals. With Vinca gone, he would finally have enough room for all of them and would never again find one broken or lost after it accidentally crossed the invisible border between his and his sister's part of the room.
Pervinca started to hum again and her smooth voice lulled him into sleep. She had a good singing voice, if only she wouldn't use it to give him nightmares. She'd just sung about the Barrow-downs and told tales of wights that wandered through the woods of Tuckborough. Pippin had heard rumours of the hills east of the Shire, but whenever he had tried to make out the whispered words the voices would hush and he would be sent away. When Vinca had first started telling stories about wights, he'd been curious, but now he wished he had never asked. Now he knew that they did not only live in the Downs but also visited the Shire at times and brought fear and terror to everyone unfortunate enough to behold them.
"They come at night," Vinca had said in a low whisper, "and it's well known that little children often fall victim to their spell."
Shadows loomed up before Pippin's darkening eyes, formed themselves into trees and vanished, as he forced his lids to open. He grumbled and, snuggling closer into the covers, forced his mind to follow his own dreams, despite Vinca's crooning echoing in his ears.
Pippin thought of Merry and one of his many visits to Buckland. He and his cousin would often go down to the river. Last summer Merry had been determined to teach him how to swim, but Pippin had slipped into the water and been badly frightened by going under. He could still remember the feeling of drifting in the water, the darkness around him, and the sudden fear that clutched his heart as his hand reached for help but could grasp nothing. He had been floating, half expecting to swallow water, but instead took a deep breath of cold and fresh air.
Then, before he could wonder about that, he stood on solid ground again. High trees with smooth, thick trunks loomed beside him. Pale stars glimmered through their thin branches but their light hardly reached him. Pippin quivered. He wore naught but his thin nightgown, which did not protect him from the chill creeping up his feet. Whiffs of fog gathered on the ground and rose higher with every careful step he took.
"Hello?" Pippin called into the white clouds dancing before his eyes, his voice barely a whisper. A shiver went down his spine and he hugged himself tightly. Fear's cold fingers reached for him, but Pippin pushed them aside as he called a second time.
There was no answer, except for the distant call of an owl. Leaves rustled above his head and beneath his feet as he slowly made his way past the ominous tree trunks. Like shadows, they loomed up into the night, their dark branches reaching for him like long, gnarled fingers, getting entangled in his hair and scratching his arms. Pippin brushed them away uneasily. His heart pounded like a blacksmith hitting the anvil. His breathing quickened - a harsh, wheezy sound in his sharpened ears. Where was he?
Silent whispers seemed to follow him as he dashed through the thicket. Thorns cut into his arms and legs as he stumbled over roots and moss-covered rocks. The mist closed about him, shrouded his vision in pale white as an eerie darkness lingered all around him. It was beating to the rhythm of his heart, spinning to the swiftness of his steps. Sweat covered his brow and tiny dewdrops glistened in his curls. Fear was on his heels and when he stumbled and fell flat on his face, Pippin finally allowed it to embrace him. He shivered like a leaf and tears welled up inside him. The trees towered above his trembling form, their branches shaking in the wind as if preparing to capture him. Rolling into a tight ball Pippin squeezed his eyes shut.
A dulcet chant made him blink. A pale green light, like a little dancing flame, appeared in front of his face. He flinched, fearfully hiding his face with his hands, but then great calm sank into his heart. The light's soothing presence allayed his fears. Soon he felt warm and secure as he would in his mother's arms. Not heeding the haze and the trees, Pippin drowsily listened to the calm voice that sang to him.
"Hear me, dear stranger, just follow my song,
To wisdom I lead you ere the coming of dawn.
Look deeply into my clear, sparkling light
Never have you seen one more brilliant and bright."
Pippin woke to the sound of a song that held his heart in a gentle embrace. His limbs were heavy and his eyes unwilling to open. Warm comfort had settled on his body. The smooth singing rang in his ears like the distant echo of birdsong, the gentle flowing of water, and the playful rustle of leaves in the autumn wind. A single root that stuck uncomfortably in his back disturbed the moment and forced Pippin to abandon whatever dream he might have had.
Dazed, the tween shook his head as if to clear it, got to his feet and stretched. Warily he surveyed his surroundings, while brushing dirt and damp leaves from his shirt and breeches. Dark trees loomed up beside him, while thick whiffs of fog danced around his freezing form like tiny whirlwinds.
Pippin blinked. Amidst the trees hovered a pale green flame like the fleeting shadow of a secret fire. The sweet and unfamiliar song seemed to vibrate in its steady glint. He hesitated but a moment before carefully advancing towards it. The light backed away and hid deeper in the forest, but Pippin followed. The song rose and fell like waves in the sea Pippin had never seen, and soon the tween was running in pursuit of the alluring shimmer. The mist followed him and surrounded him like a silken blanket.
Sweating and panting, he finally reached a glade. He had lost sight of the green light after he started running, but he had followed the song the way one parched would chase the sound of a rippling stream. Damp curls clung to his forehead as he stared in wonder at the scene before him.
The trees formed a dark contrast to the fog that lingered on the ground. A full yellow moon shone into the middle of the clearing where a flat, grey stone, just high enough to surmount the mist, reached into the night sky. On it lay chains of gold, rings and many treasures, but Pippin only had eyes for the woman who stood beside them. Wavy hair as black as the night, cascaded over her shoulders and covered her naked breasts. Her skin, pale as the haze that surrounded her, was flawless. Her face was that of a lass his age, yet Pippin had never seen a girl with features as fine as hers. Long, dark lashes hid closed eyes and a small nose graced her face just above the perfect petals of her lips. Tracing the line of her neck with his eyes Pippin swallowed hard as he beheld her well-formed bosom. Even from that distance he could see the goose bumps covering her skin. A pale green shimmer seemed to radiate from her, then the sweet singing that had faded to a hum increased in volume again.
"Hear me, chosen one, hearken my song,
You shall have fulfilment and joy ere the coming of dawn.
Look deeply into my clear, sparkling light
And let your will be mine tonight."
With that she opened her green eyes and met his gaze. Pippin gasped at the intensity of her stare. A light flickered within and he seemed to drown in it. No, he was drinking it in like one dying from thirst. He quivered, as if his body suddenly remembered the night's cold. His fingers clenched uselessly. His dry lips parted, releasing his breath in white clouds that mingled with the fog as she slowly and gracefully approached him, a golden circlet in her hands. Pippin was rooted to the spot.
He felt the presence of the trees behind him. They were no longer ominous, aloof giants with long, gnarled, finger-like branches, but seemed restless, almost fearful. For a split second Pippin wondered if he should be anxious as well, but he cast aside all his doubts when the beautiful lass finally stood before him and crowned him with the circlet. She smiled and rested her cold hand on his wildly pounding heart. Her touch sent thrills of desire through his body and though he knew he wanted her, he still didn't dare to move. Perhaps he feared breaking the spell, though it was already too late.
His lips trembled when she captured them in a sweet, demanding kiss. Her hand reached for his nape and still she held his gaze. Green - dark, light, dull, lurid. His lids dropped and he whimpered. Something was amiss. He could clearly feel it, yet he could not put his finger on what it was. He wanted to break off the kiss, wanted to assure himself that there was no danger at hand, but she held him tight.
Though he could not feel her lips move, Pippin heard the song again. Loud and clear it rang in his ears and enchanted him. He was hers, hers alone. All of a sudden, it felt like bonds had been loosened and heavy chains fell from his body. Torpidity released him. Boisterous and with all his desire, he answered her kiss and allowed his fingers to get entangled in her silken hair. His other hand rested in the small of her back, pressed her close to him, but soon found its way to her breast.
The sea of mist that had gathered around their feet rose ever higher. It whirled around the seduced and his enticer like a veil fluttering in the wind. Pippin kept his eyes closed, while her moist lips danced against his, for a part of him knew that she would still look at him and he did not quite know if he liked the peculiar shimmer of her eyes.
"Follow me," she whispered into his parted lips before claiming them again. He was not sure if he would be able to do so. Besides, why move when they could stay right there? That was, her hands might very well wander to different parts and, thinking about it, his own hands did a bit of exploring too.
Gently he traced one finger along her slightly pointed ear and followed the line of her jaw. Curious about her reaction to his touch, Pippin opened his eyes again and stiffened. Appalled and with his eyes wide with panic, he drew back, but she held him close with unexpected strength no matter how hard he fought her. He couldn't even turn his head; his lips still captured between her teeth, as what looked like a wicked smile appeared on her face. He no longer kissed a beautiful girl with long, black hair and soft, creamy skin. Before him, in a fog as white as a fleecy cloud, hovered a rotten skull. The foul smell of death rose to his nostrils while his eyes were fixed on the pale green light that flickered in her dead eyeholes like a dancing little flame. A jaw, eroded by countless years, grinned at him maliciously. What lay beneath was covered by mist and Pippin didn't even want know what he might find there. Struggling and gasping he finally managed to break free and his panic stricken scream, the long wailing shriek of one dying, echoed through the night unheard.
Pippin woke panting and trembling like a leaf. His clothes stuck to his sweat covered body. Damp curls stuck to his forehead as he choked helplessly, yet desperately fought his nausea. Tears were in his eyes when the fit finally passed. Still breathing heavily, he peered through the darkness of the room. His friends seemed fast asleep and though Pippin longed for company, he did not want to disturb their rest.
His own heartbeat rang in his ears like the distant memory of his puerile nightmares as he got out of bed and staggered to the western window. With trembling fingers he drew back the yellow curtains and was shocked to look at the scenery of his dream. The Old Forest was hidden in a pool of mist, yet the trees seemed darker even than the night. Pippin squeezed his eyes shut. After a moment of silent panic, he forced himself to look at the flower garden near at hand. Why did he have dreams like this? Why now?
He sighed wearily. Except for the time when Vinca had disturbed his sleep, Pippin had never suffered from nightmares, though his childhood dreams had been similar to this one. He remembered that he had often seen a green light and heard a song like the one that had been sung to him. Almost every night he had found himself in a sinister forest, because Vinca had gone on about wights from the Barrow-downs roaming the woods of Tookland. The mere thought of going into the forest had terrified him for fear of encountering one.
Pippin wondered at the road that lay ahead of them. They would leave Tom Bombadil's house and their host's merry company to ride past the Barrows and back to the East Road. He had never been so close to the Downs before. Perhaps this was the reason for his nightmares' return: his childhood fears reawakened at the thought of passing the dwellings of the ones that had caused them? Pippin shuddered. He had to admit that he was a little frightened of the way that lay before them, yet, if they followed Tom's advice - and he would make sure they did - nothing bad would happen.
Pippin stumbled back to his bed and snuggled under the covers, a wry smile touching his lips. Thankfully, Vinca would never find out how much effect her tales had had on him but he had already thought of a way to revenge himeself on his sister for his sleepless night. Sweet forgetfulness claimed him swiftly and his eyes closed to a dreamless sleep. Yet, in the dark corners of his mind, the memory of a song remained and its soothing melody echoed through his dreams, yet the words remained unheard.
"Hear me, condemned one, follow my song,
To your fate I will lead you till the coming of dawn.
Listen closely to these words yet unknown
Their meaning to you will soon be shown."
Her voice was demanding, he could not resist,
He followed her and ceased to exist.
What happened that night only the trees can tell,
For only they know the power of the enchantress' spell.
"Hear me, damned one, follow my chant,
Flee not from vitiation for you know that you can't.
Look deeply into my foul, rotten light
And be lost forever in the dark of the night."
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.