The Chimes in the Wind: 1. The Chimes in the Wind

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1. The Chimes in the Wind

Wind Chimes

The Chimes in the Wind

The west wind had shifted northward
and it was turning colder,
but the rain was gone.

The Lord of the Rings, 'The Scouring of the Shire'


Astron had almost passed when the chimes woke Pippin early one morning. The day was still grey and hushed and the firs before his window were cloaked in fog. The hollow sting was there as it had been every morning since Merry had gone back to Crickhollow. It pierced Pippin in one frayed breath, out and gone as he looked at the firs and behind to the Northern slopes facing the Great Door. More than a year had passed since they had returned from their journey, more than a year since the Ring had been destroyed.

He'd never thought that he could miss the jingling of the chimes. The way they tinkled in the evening when the din of Great Smials died down, and a breeze was rustling through the firs. How the sound sometimes would wake you in the morning when there was a wind coming from the west, up from Tuckborough, and the day was going to be wet and rainy. The way the world turned oddly and unbelievably quiet when the chimes were taken down come winter. How you got used to the silence so fast you didn't even know something was amiss. Not until spring, when one morning the chimes were up again, and jangled and clinked excitedly as if they were telling each other (and every hobbit around) all about how they had spent the cold days stowed away in some shelf or drawer.

No, he'd never thought that he could miss the sound of the chimes. Miss it more than the taste of freshly baked grittle cakes, more than Mag's soft humming when she dripped honey into the iron pot over the fire. More even than summer mornings at the Brandywine, buzzing with a flurry of heat underneath the cool quiet that always hovered over the river.

But when he had awoken to another day among the Orcs, the sun a misty patch behind dark clouds, with wrists and legs bound cruelly tight so he could not even scratch his nose, it had been the clear sound of the Green Hills' chimes that he had missed the most.

Pippin sank back into the pillow and listened to their soft tinkling. How odd it felt, this vague, familiar bother that the chimes had brought him back too early from some unremembered, wondrous dream. Much too early, judging by the grey outside, but how glad he was to be so bothered, to be woken, no matter how early, at home. Here, in the round old room where he had slept for all his tweener years, with the bluish shards of glass a thing he'd barely noticed all those many mornings.

Pippin had never really noticed the chimes at the Great Door, either. Not before their journey. But now he knew how the sun caught in the glass, how the hall burst into a swirling dazzle of golds, reds and yellows, then faded to shimmering bits of colour moving over the wainscoting. It was a memory Pippin had all but forgotten, and it had been Merry brought it back for him when they had lain in the darkest of nights.

Strapped to the neck of an Orc, the stench of the filthy rags and of his own sweat so strong he had almost lost his senses, Pippin had tried to think of the Shire so hard -- safe and fresh and green. The jingle of the chimes was what first sprang into his mind, unbidden but so clear that he could hear the happy tinkling amidst the stomping tread of the Orcs' boots. It made Pippin smile to recall how one day he and Everard got the best of Luci when they lengthened the thin threads that fastened the bits of glass to their hooks. Up until nightfall they had the poor maid wondering how it could be that the chimes, which were hung up high to roots sticking out above the windows, had suddenly grown so long that the beasts and -- the Hills' glory -- the bairns could reach them.

That night Pippin and Merry managed to lie close together for the first time since the Orcs had captured them. They talked in voices carrying only breath not sound, for fear that the huge brute Uglúk would separate them again as he had every other night. Later, Uglúk had noticed their whisperings and had them moved so wide apart that Pippin for a whole long night could not even see Merry from afar. But for that short time before they were found out, they could actually talk. Of course Merry had to tell Pippin what a fool he had been to make for a run with a band of Orcs behind him. But Pippin saw the admiration in his cousin's eyes, when he explained about the Elven brooch.

Touching the smeared rag on Merry's forehead, Pippin realised that Merry could have easily been killed. He had looked back when the Orcs had carried them away from Parth Galen; he had seen Boromir lean against a thick tree, his face white as ash and black arrows in his breast and throat. Boromir, the tall man from Gondor, was dead, that much Pippin knew. He had not let himself think on it until this night, and maybe it was being able to talk to Merry that brought his memories back to Boromir and to the Green Hills and the chimes. Lor knew, they had more important things to talk about but Pippin whispered the tale of Luci and the low-hanging chimes in Merry's ear, how she tried with a broom to keep the chicken from picking at the fragile bits of glass. And Merry listened with a smile so broad that Pippin could feel, nay, he could see it shine in the dark. When he was done talking about childhood pranks, Merry touched Pippin's fingers. Only then he felt how hard his hands were shaking and he clasped Merry to make them stop.

It was then that Merry whispered, 'Did you ever see the sun when it fills the entrance of Great Smials and the light catches in the chimes? In summer, late afternoon or so?'

'I must have,' Pippin answered, wondering whether he had ever really looked at the chimes at the Smials' entrance. He recalled their sound, surely, clinking like the smallest of cymbals whenever the Great Door opened. For Uncle Adelard they jingled happily, almost touching his grey head, for he was the tallest of Pippin's uncles on the Took side of the family. Fairy Queen calls me, Uncle Adelard would say with a curious smile that had always made Pippin hope that one day the Elves would show up right on the doorsteps of Great Smials. When he was as big as Uncle Adelard, he had thought, then the chimes would jingle for him too, but he, he would be going to where the Queen of Fairy was calling him.

Lying amidst the Orcs Pippin whispered that tale, too, into Merry's ear, and he could but hear Merry pondering it in the dark. 'In a way you did, Pip,' he then said softly, 'you've gone and seen the Lady Galadriel. There's no greater Fairy Queen in all of Middle-earth, I should think.'

And that was when Pippin remembered stepping into Great Smials, its low entrance hall ablaze with burning light. It had been a hot summer day, one you would want to spend at Rustling Pond up in the Hills, or at the Shirebourne where it leaped swiftly over the rocks. He had turned in wonder to see the sun sink over the hills rising up the other side of Tuckborough. Its last rays were caught by the chimes, holding on to the day's light for as long as possible. He almost ran into Merry, a Merry who had been taller than him then, and his voice high like a young boy's.

Pippin must have made a noise or moved without care. But that huge brute Uglúk turned his ugly face to them from where he sat at the fire. Pippin felt Merry move away, and already Uglúk leapt at them and screamed in the Orcs' foul language. Of that language Pippin on this whole desperate trip had but learned one word, and that was 'Run!' Which was not what Uglúk was shouting at their tired, unlucky guards. Pippin was picked up at both his ankles. His legs burned like fire from being bound for hours and were still raw from the whip. He couldn't help screaming, and Merry's anguished voice called out in the dark. For the rest of the night Pippin was tied with outstretched arms to a bush, his face to the ground, and two vicious-looking goblins at his side.

All that time the Lady's belt had been warm and safe around his waist, and ever so often on their cruel trip Pippin put his hands to its golden clasp. The Orcs had not touched the silver belts, nor even seemed to notice them. Whether some Elvish charm was stencilled into the soft leather, hidden perhaps in the intricate silver pattern, Pippin did not know. But it had given him courage in those long dark nights without Merry at his side, and had held him on his feet somehow during such grey and hopeless days when he'd felt he could not go another step.

The fog was lifting from the firs, the bright green tips of their branches stretched towards the light of the approaching day. Still a gentle wind was blowing up from the valley and moved the chimes to sing their brittle tunes. Pippin got up swiftly with the tinkling in his ears. This was the day when he would bring the Hills' chimes over to Bag End where a child had been born a month ago. He put on Galadriel's silver belt in honour of the girl with the Elvish name, its golden clasp formed in the likeness of the flower elanor.

Pippin rarely wore the Lady's gift, for all the tales of bloody knife-work the many scratches and stains in the leather told. So like the Elves it was to adorn even a tool of war with such skilful ornaments. The silver paint shifted like mist; the golden clasp shone from it like a star. War was an art to the Elves, that much Pippin had understood when he had seen Legolas fight with such deadly grace. The memory of war bound him to Merry too, closer than any of the Shire folks could know. Such a strange longing it was that Pippin could not rightly put into words, but he had seen it in Merry's eyes as well, when his friend for once had been at a loss for words. There are things deeper and higher. When Pippin closed the clasp and stroked the belt as it stretched over his belly, he wondered about the full meaning of the Lady's gift.

Ah, but today he would wear the silver belt for its beauty alone, and in memory of the new-born girl's name-sakes in beautiful Lórien.

* *

After a hearty breakfast Pippin walked through the hall.The glassblowers' customary gift lay in his pack wrapped tight in dark-blue velvet. He stopped and looked up to where the chimes were swaying in the air. If he stepped through the door, they would touch his head, so tall as he and Merry had grown on their journey.

'Mother used to tell me how Uncle Paladin brought the Tooks' chimes to Buckland when I was a wee baby,' Merry had told him when they were spending such glorious days in the White City. And Pippin had seen the chimes hanging in a quiet corner in Brandy Hall, right outside a small window that looked down towards Haysend. Made from bright green and golden shards of glass they were, as was the glassblowers' choice of old for a child born in the midst of winter.

He opened the Great Door and stepped out into the morning bowing his head slightly so the chimes would not touch his hair. Instead he listened for their sound. The early morning wind had died down, taking its wetness to another part of the Shire, maybe even as far as Buckland. Was Merry in Crickhollow now, waking to another quiet day with his books? Or was he in Brandy Hall, paying a visit to family and friends as Pippin was doing in Tuckborough? Maybe Merry was passing the small window now and listened to the chimes as the west wind reached Buckhill. For a moment Pippin heard a soft tinkling but when he turned, the chimes hung motionless above the Great Door.

The missing grew on him, he knew, and likely played tricks on his hearing. The Green Hills had been covered in snow still when Merry had gone back to Buckland. Not a morning passed that Pippin did not wish he'd gone with him. He was counting the days until he would follow to spend all of summer in Crickhollow.

The gardens still lay in shade when Pippin walked through them with a brisk step. A slight pull in his right arm told him of a change in the weather ahead, same as the wind told, and the clouds in the sky. Such weather pains were all that was left of his injury. The arm had been broken at wrist and ell, but not a scar remained -- a recovery owed to the skill of Aragorn and the curers in the Houses of Healing. They had not fared as well with Merry whose sword-arm remained paler than his left and colder to the touch, although he had long regained his old strength. It worried Pippin. And yet he felt such a thrill whenever he touched Merry's arm with his own healed hand, as if by his touch he could feel the Nazgúl's poison like skin gone numb and raw, thick as troll's hide, sharp as troll's blood as it spilled dark over his hand and face. It bound them together, like Orcs' ropes. Like the silver belts the Lady Galadriel had given them.

Pippin grabbed his walking stick and felt the wood warm his hands. He couldn't stay much longer in Tuckborough, he knew. He had never thought he could be so lonely at Great Smials, he, the son of the Took and Thain. His father must have seen it even before Pippin knew for he let him move to Crickhollow without even a word of advise to better stay at home after so long and dangerous a journey. It would take some time yet before the Thain's heir returned home for good.

Still, today he went to Bag End both as the Thain's son and as one of the Travellers. It had been Pearl who first suggested that it would be well fitting the Tooks to present the Hills' chimes to Samwise Gamgee's first-born. Not that it was a habit with the Tooks to give such gifts to a commoner, and if tradition was to be kept -- as some within the Smials insisted -- then only the new-born of the noble families should be thus honoured. But when the news reached Tookland and Pearl talked to him, Pippin at once understood, likely better than Pearl herself. What made all four of them the Travellers went beyond breeding and one's place in Shire society. Sam was a brother to him; surely the least he could do was to bring the wind's blessings for his daughter. Fair, folk called her, and many said her looks were as outlandish as the name Sam had chosen for the girl. Elanor …

'It's a good ame for a hobbit lass,' Pippin had told Pearl as they'd walked through the orchards covered in late snow. 'From a flower that grows in the Lady's realm, on the enchanted hillock in the middle of Lórien.'

'The Lady Galadriel, you mean? The Elven queen?' Pearl moved the wool cloak from her face so she could see him clearly, and Pippin couldn't help but take a step back. All his life he had been a bit afraid of his oldest sister who had ever been so serious and grown-up well before her coming of age. Pippin never could make sense out of Pearl and her peculiar ways. Even now he dared not guess at her thoughts and what it meant to her that the Gamgee's first child was properly treated by the Tooks. Did she know Rose Cotton, Rose Gamgee, he should say? And what was the Lady of the Golden Woods to her? Pearl reminded him of Belladonna Took from the olden days, or at least, he always imagined Belladonna like Pearl.

Merry once had said that of all his sisters Pearl was the one most like Pippin, and for a while he'd watched for similarities. And it was true, they both had inherited their colour hair from their mother's side, dark as the black weasels that roamed the woods over at the Banks' side of the Hills. And but for Treebeard's draught, they would be the same height, almost, which was some height for a hobbit lass, Took or not Took. But then again, Pearl was quiet when Pippin was loud, she was slender like a willow and he big, she favoured soft brown and reds for her clothing when Pippin chose shining blues and greens. Pearl stayed in the girls' rooms when Pippin haunted the tunnels and kitchens of Great Smials, listening to old tales and singing songs all through the night. Pippin doubted Pearl ever got drunk, drunk as pigs like Merry, Everard, Ferdibrand and he had been at the welcome party his cousins had given for him and Merry coming over from Buckland. He smiled at the thought of a drunken, singing Pearl, and then he could not help grinning at her raised eyebrow because of his smile.

'The flower elanor grows in the land of the Lady Galadriel,' Pippin said, smiling still. 'It is simple and a soft yellow like cowslip, and beautiful in a small and gentle way. And it shines, oh like golden stars in the mist under the Silver Trees.' Pippin stopped, then he whispered, 'Ever bloom the winter flowers in the unfading grass: the yellow elanor, and the pale niphredil.' For a moment he heard Haldir's voice as clearly as if the tall Elf was standing before him, and they were again in the Blessed Realm.

Then Pearl laughed, a clear laugh much like their mother's, one that Pippin rarely heard of his sister. 'You've turned a poet on your journeys, little brother.' She stepped swiftly towards the big walnut at the end of the kitchen garden. There she turned to him. 'But I suppose if a flower can inspire such poetry, then it makes a good name for a hobbit lass. It would be wise, though, to tell folk about elanor being simple and the colour of cowslip.'

Pippin nodded at that, no need to burden the bairn too much with the strangeness of an Elvish name. Shire folk did not take light to things unknown to them and they were especially slow to approve of anything from the other side of the Bounds. And so much peril and death had entered the Shire from the outside world in the last years, strange tales, too, stranger even than Bilbo's. Yet no dragon could have done such damage to the land as did Saruman and his Men. Pippin knew that Merry worried at times what might yet come of the memory of hobbit betraying hobbit, the memory of the slain on Bywater Road, of the wizard's death on the very threshold of Bag End.

But it was no use to linger on such thoughts, not when the Shire's glory laid spread before him in such marvellous sights. The western hillside was glowing in a thousand shades of green, flocks of titmice welcomed the new day with their high-rising song. Sunbeams jumped from one hobbit hole to the next and lighted the colourful doors so that Tuckborough looked as if it had gone to washing day. Flutters of joy rose from Pippin's stomach, and he laughed out loud, well aware of the two old gaffers over at the fence in front of the Pitter's hole.

Ah, but Pippin was set to beat the sun to the big old larch. He couldn't stop now, not with the dewy grass so cool below his feet, and the sun was only at Mrs Scutel's cottage and he just a quick dash from the old tree. He put all his strength in the race, down, down the path, with the sunlight licking at his heels. Woodman Jock held his hand up in greeting, then snapped his fingers in the air and turned back to Old Rip Pitter. 'Tis useless to strike up any kind of sensible talk with this youngest of the Thain's, his crooked smile said as clear as words. What a blessing to come from a family with a reputation for madness!

The larch broke Pippin's race, saving him from a fall down the slope as he slipped on the shady patch underneath the tree. His fingers held on to the knurled ridges where the lower branches had been sawed away. Out of breath, Pippin pressed his face against the tree's rough skin. It was soaked with the warmth of the last days that had been full of the taste of the Hill's summer, the fragrance of the blue wolf-beans all around. Pippin turned and leaned his back against the trunk, waiting with closed eyes for the sun to reach the larch. And there it was, the soft rustling when the branches turned towards the warmth, the scratching underneath the bark from the beetles starting to move, the heaving deep within as the sap rose. A certain hesitancy too, as if the old tree did not yet trust the sun. The air still had the bite of winter in it, and Pippin could feel the tree hold back, breathing shallow, not like summer when it was hard to see where tree's skin ended and sunlight began.

Woodman Jock's raspy voice carried down from where he was still chatting up the morning. 'I'm not to wager anything yet on this turning into another sunny day. Might yet bring rain, seeing as the wind's just taking a nap.'

Pippin opened his eyes to look into the branches above him. Bright golden stars of sunlight pierced the tree's shade, each one shimmering in circles of reddish purple and a gleaming green where the rays touched the needles.

He slid down onto the ground below the tree. Ever since Pippin could recall, folk were resting here after the steep climb up the footpath through Tuckborough, enjoying the splendid view over the sloping hillside and the lands below. The larch at his back felt old and so alive, much like Treebeard and then again, not like him at all. Briefly Pippin wondered where it had come from, such a dark, high tree that hardly belonged into a village but deep into the woods. Then he turned to the clouds drifting like tattered rags through the sky, unravelling into wisps of smoke like it rose from Mrs Scutel's chimney. The sky was undecided yet whether it would turn to rain or sunshine.

The road up from Whitwell was gliding like a brown snake through the fields and along the dark hedges, the Water flashed silver in the distance on Pippin's right. The beauty of the Westfarthing stretched all the way towards the White Downs. Behind them, the Far Downs rose in a misty blue from the haze. Such a sight it was that Pippin rose and grabbed his walking stick. This surely was enough for any Took to leave home and hole behind and set out for the road, might it lead just across the Water or far away to such wondrous places where the Queen of Fairy dwelled.

the end (for now)

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.

Story Information

Author: Vaysh

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Post-Ring War

Genre: Other

Rating: General

Last Updated: 12/26/13

Original Post: 01/27/11

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