12. Chapter 12 Pippin
Thank you as always to Anarithilien for her sensitive and intelligent betaing.
Thank you to reviewers, especially on this site, Curiouswombat - who also writes some very steamy stuff if you have not read it!!
Legolas Greenleaf long under tree
In joy thou hast lived.
Beware of the Sea!
For if thou hearest the cry of the gull on the shore,
Thy heart shall then rest in the forest no more.
Chapter 12: Pippin
Orthanc. The Citadel of Saruman, not only Mount Fang but the Cunning Mind. Long ago it had been considered a place of great beauty and learning. Great lords had dwelt there. The Wardens of Gondor and Wise men watched the stars. But Saruman had slowly shaped it for his shifting purposes, and made it better, as he thought, being deceived- for all those arts and subtle devices, for which he forsook his former wisdom and which fondly he imagined were his own, came but from Mordor; so that what he made was naught, but only a little copy, a child’s model or a slave’s flattery of that vast fortress, armoury, prison, furnace of great power, Barad-dur, the Dark Tower, which suffered no rival and laughed at flattery. Biding its time, secure in its pride and its immeasurable strength. *
The King of Rohan reined in his white horse and gazed at the destruction before him, astonished.
He had been here many times in the old days and wandered in the fair gardens within the ring of Orthanc, amongst great trees. The kindly and wise Saruman had counselled him in friendship and guided him in the early days of his kingship, and then onwards. So he thought. Only now did he realise how fully Saruman had dug his claws into the flesh and soul of Rohan. And now those gardens and walks had vanished beneath a lake of water that was grey under the steel sky. Bits of wood and flotsam stuck out of the water, and a thin layer of scum gathered in places. Théoden had once seen a barge wrecked on the Isen long ago when the rain had lashed and storms had swept the plains. This is what he thought of now- a great wreck had come ashore and was washed up. He looked about him, aware that his men stared too. Gandalf though, was still and silent upon Shadowfax, his face grim and sorrowful.
‘What has happened here?’ Eomer asked.
‘I think we shall find out,’ replied Gandalf and he urged Shadowfax into the flood, his white robe a stark contrast to the grey sky above and the muddy water beneath.
Pippin had been dancing about as excited as any hobbit at Yule for, well, hours. Still he couldn’t see them. The lake was still pooling about the storeroom they had found and Merry was wading through the deep water, testing the depth with a staff he had found in one of the many small rooms. Each room was a treasure trove and they had both squealed in delight when they stumbled across the barrel of pipeweed. Merry was using the staff to scoop up errant but useful items and also as a walking stick to help him balance on the now slippery and often loose stone flags that had been the road to Orthanc.
‘Where are they?’ Pip sighed for the umpteenth time. He plonked himself down on the pile of rubble they called the terrace and sank his chin in his hands.
‘They’ll be here soon Quickbeam said. And he’s hasty for an Ent,’ Merry said quickly before Pippin could protest. ‘Make yourself useful, Pip. It’ll go quicker that way… Pip?’
The other hobbit was not listening to Merry; he was straining to catch a faint whooshing of water and distant voices. A deep grumbling voice and a lighter lilting laugh.
Suddenly Pippin leapt to his feet. ‘That’s Legolas!’ he cried.
The deeper rumbling sounded again. ‘That’s Gimli!’
‘Got them… here... ’
‘Quickly where’s the …’ they fumbled about, snatching up pipes and puffing urgently to light them.
‘Lay back, look nonchalant.’
‘No, get some apples and chuck the cores at them. Quick, they’re coming’
‘You know Pip,’ said Merry as his pipe lit and he leaned back on a conveniently comfortable wooden beam.
‘I have missed the opportunity to poke fun at the big folk.’ Merry puffed a long thin stream of smoke that he knew would drive Strider and Gimli at least to complete distraction.
‘Yes. Me too. You always see me coming and the orcs were no fun.’
‘No Pip. No fun at all…much too serious.’
It was Legolas who first felt a prickling in his nostrils. He gazed ahead. He knew that smell. It was the scent of Gandalf and Aragorn and Gimli…and Hobbits! Pipeweed. There! He espied two small figures slouched and at ease amongst the debris. And of course, empty plates and bottles strewn with carelessness.
He looked back over his shoulder at Gimli who had gone rigidly alert and was breathing in great gulps of air as if he had been drowning.
‘Pipeweed!’ he bellowed ‘You rascals!’
Legolas shook his head. Laughter bubbled up from somewhere deep inside. Here at last were the hobbits. He held out his hand to Gimli who slid from the horse, hanging onto this friend’s arm until his feet touched the ground. Gimli gave a great cry that seemed to reach from his heart and swept towards the hobbits, who were dancing about in glee. Legolas leapt elegantly from Arod and strode toward the small group. He wanted to sweep them all up in his arms and swing them about, but restrained himself as he had on meeting Gimli after battle. Here, amongst the ruin of Orthanc, far from home, he met with friends he had thought lost.
Later, Théoden and his riders had moved further into Orthanc with Gandalf, to inspect the damage and to meet with Treebeard. The hobbits fed their friends and each told their story. They took their ease for the first time since that dreadful night at Parth Galen.
Pippin knew that he and Merry were covertly watched by man, elf and dwarf carefully from the corner of each one’s eye, assessing damage and injury. He grinned to himself and blew out a small cloud, enjoying the sweet smoke for it was contentment. The sound of his friends puffing gently and the quietness that settled over them was reward enough. Legolas had begun to sing quietly, almost below the level of sound and he realised with a pang how very very much he had missed this. He wondered where Frodo and Sam were and hoped they too had some comfort on the way.
The mists had indeed gradually blown away as Legolas had predicted and the stars slowly emerged. Strider was dozing, his long legs stretched out in front of him. Merry was snoring in time with Gimli, and Legolas leaned back against his pack, eyes open and gazing at the stars. Pippin watched the fire crackle and burn, listening to his friends’ breathing and the quiet noises of the Rohirrim camp not far away. He thought of how far they had come, from the quiet hills and fields of the Shire, and in himself, how much he had seen and felt. He sighed, wondering if folks at home worried for him or if they had given him up as lost. His thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a low groan.
Pippin looked up. None of the others seemed to have heard anything, Gimli fast asleep and even Strider oblivious. He knew it was not Merry. He stood up and quietly moved towards his sleeping companions. He peered cautiously at Legolas.
The elf’s eyes were glazed in sleep but suddenly, he murmured to himself and threw his arm over his eyes. Pippin frowned. He had never seen Legolas restless in sleep. The hobbit chewed his lower lip, uncertain if he should wake Legolas. He did not want to startle him; he had seen the elf startled and didn’t much fancy his chances. So he drew back a little, deciding to watch over the elf. If he looked like he was having a nightmare, he would wake Gimli. Pleased with the solution, Pippin snuggled back down into the pile of blankets he and Merry had found in the stores, and pulled one up over his shoulders, carefully watching over the elf.
He had liked Legolas from the start. Instead of being aloof and rather distant as Pippin had expected, he had joined in Pippin’s mischief readily and even popped some ideas into the hobbit’s head now and again. And he used to sing songs about other members of the fellowship that annoyed Gandalf and even Strider sometimes – Pippin was lost in admiration for anyone who would dare to upset the wizard. Pippin himself only ever annoyed Gandalf by accident.
Legolas flinched suddenly in his sleep and shifted restlessly.
Pippin stirred a little, thinking perhaps he should wake Gimli. He glanced over at the dwarf and realised that he was already awake and watching the elf.
Legolas turned suddenly and started, looking straight into Gimli’s eyes.
Gimli did not look away or look abashed at being caught so openly staring. He met the elf’s gaze head on and did not flinch or stir. Pippin stared. Legolas blinked slowly and then let his eyes glaze again, but Pippin wasn’t fooled. Nor was Gimli. That old trick he used to play pretending he slept when he was awake and watching or listening stopped working a long time ago. They knew when he really was asleep too. And Pippin knew as sure as eggs was eggs that this was one wide-awake elf.
‘You can see I watch you still.’ rumbled the dwarf, even though Legolas did not blink or stir. ‘And you have not yet answered my question I’ll have you know.’ Pippin frowned, but Gimli sighed, a little sadly, Pippin thought. He bit his tongue to stop himself from saying anything; if they knew he was awake they would clam up and he would be none the wiser.
‘I’ll not make you talk,’ Gimli said quietly, ‘but I’ll not go away either until you tell me to. And then you will have answered my question indeed.’ He lay on his back then and closed his own eyes.
Pippin watched Legolas blink rapidly and his eyes gleamed in the firelight. Then the dwarf gave a deep sigh that seemed to rumble from deep in his belly and turned over. Legolas rolled over onto his back and gazed up at the stars once more. Pippin thought he had never seen Legolas look so unhappy.
They did not speak again and Gimli settled into sleep and his breathing became deeper and slower. Pippin was very still. The fire crackled gently and his companions settled into dreams.
Then the ranger shifted slightly on his blanket and pulled it up over his shoulder. So, Strider was awake too, thought Pippin. He tried to hold very still and closed his eyes so they would believe him asleep.
Eventually the Ranger spoke very quietly. ‘He gave you the message then?’
Pippin heard Legolas sigh softly and then say, ‘You knew?’
‘I did. I am sorry it was not my place to tell you.’
There was a pause. ‘Just after we met with him again in Fangorn, before we came to Edoras.’
‘Did she send other messages?’ Pippin held his breath. They spoke so quietly only a hobbit might hear the hushed voices.
‘She sent a message of my kin… and of darkness.’ Strider spoke softly, the words merging with the breeze but Pippin was chilled all the same.
‘Where now are the Dúnedain, Elessar, Elessar?
Why do thy kinfolk wander afar?
Near is the hour when the Lost should come forth,
And the Grey Company ride from the North.
But dark is the path appointed to thee,
The Dead watch the road that leads to the Sea.’
Legolas did not speak. Pippin opened his eyes a tiny slit so he could see his companions outlined by the firelight.
Legolas had tilted his head to look at Strider more clearly. ‘Do you know what it means?’
‘Gandalf seems to have an inkling. He says it will become clear in time.’
Legolas gave an unelvish snort. ‘We say in Mirkwood, ‘Go not to wizards for counsel for they will say both yea and nay. And go not to Mithrandir at all, for he will look at you and grunt. That is what my father says.’ He looked down into the flames.
He did not see the startled amusement on Strider’s face.
‘To Gimli she gave him the title ‘Lockbearer’.’ Strider smiled. Pippin thought of Galadriel then. So she must have given them each a message.
Pippin quietly shifted so he could see them better sitting in the firelight. The darkness beyond their little circle of fire was absolute except for the hard bright stars. He lay as still as he could; neither Strider nor Legolas had noticed he was awake and listening. He breathed slowly, thinking about what he had just heard.
If the message Legolas had was anything like Strider’s, Pippin was glad he had had no message; it seemed very gloomy with all this talk of the Dead watching the road to the Sea. He shuddered. He wondered if that was what was troubling Legolas – perhaps Galadriel had foreseen his death? Pippin felt a squeeze begin in his heart. Surely that could not be it? Surely Galadriel would not send such a message unless she wanted Legolas to go somewhere else or do something else? But the idea of their company splitting up again so soon after being together once more was almost too much for him and it was he this time who squeezed his eyes shut.
When he opened them again, Strider was still smiling. He threw a stick on the fire and regarded Legolas steadily.
‘That is all?’ Legolas asked. Although he kept his face very still, Pippin knew the elf well enough now to see the concern in his eyes.
‘It was enough.’ Strider said.
A silence settled between them.
After a while, Strider spoke again. ‘What of her message to you, Legolas?’ Legolas said nothing. Pippin wondered if he had fallen asleep again but his breathing was quick and shallow. ‘She also warned you to beware, did she not? Do you march to your death?’
The elf turned his head towards Strider but Pippin could no longer see his face for the shadows of night had fallen across him. Strider’s mouth pulled to one side in a slight grimace and he frowned.
‘I cannot ask you this, Legolas. But I would have your company on this dark road, a while longer if you would grant it.’
Legolas seemed to turn his thoughts inward for a moment and then he said, ‘I would follow you to the ends of the earth, Aragorn.’ His voice was certain, all trace of doubt gone.
Strider seemed to relax a little then. His grey eyes were troubled but he met the elf’s gaze steadily. ‘Only to Minas Tirith, my friend. I would not want you to go where you might meet death. The gulls cry on the shores of Pelagir…we will not go there.’
Legolas moved and the firelight caught the gleam of his winter pale hair. His braids lay down his back against the soft green of his tunic. Leaning forwards he stared at the man intently. ‘We have looked in the face of death since we first left Rivendell, Aragorn. Nothing has changed.’
‘Nothing?’ the Ranger looked up and Pippin saw the gleam of firelight in his eyes.
Legolas moved his head slightly and Pippin saw a quick smile. ‘Only the dwarf has become less irritating.’ He said a little more loudly. A quiet grumble came from Gimli’s blanket then and Pippin knew that he was not the only eavesdropper.
Pippin closed his eyes. Their journey was not yet done though he longed for it to be so. He wanted it all to be finished with, and him and Merry safe at home in the Shire with Frodo and Sam. And he wanted Strider and Legolas and Gimli with them too where he could keep an eye on them, and Gandalf puffing away and Bilbo and...Perhaps they could all be in Rivendell… and Boromir was there...he closed his eyes…
Next chapter: Saruman. Real angst for poor Legolas and misery.
This fic is getting so little interest on HASA to be honest I am about to give up posting here. I hope it doesn't sound petulant . I have posted the last chapters on another site which I think most people browse anyway - it feels a bit over the top to do both sites so unless I get a sense that people really want this to continue here, this will be the last time I post this story on HASA although I love reading the very classy stuff that is published here.
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