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Gift for Pippin, A: 1. A Gift for Pippin
“Pippin?” A gentle hand touched his shoulder.
Pippin swallowed against the lump in his throat but did not turn to face Legolas. Must I hear it from everyone? “Go ahead, just say it.” He paused for Legolas’s reply. The elf’s hand still rested lightly on his shoulder, but he was silent. “‘Fool of a Took!’ There! I said it for you. Now you can go away.” Pippin curled tighter and stuffed his fist against his mouth, fighting the tears that threatened to spill.
“I don’t think you are a fool.” Legolas’s hand squeezed Pippin’s shoulder.
Merry’s voice cut in. “He took that ball right out of Gandalf’s hand and looked in it.”
“Merry,” Legolas’s voice was curt. “Go and get Pippin something hot to drink from the guards.”
Pippin heard Merry huffing, ready to argue. Go, both of you. Pippin thought.
“I’ll look after him,” Legolas added.
There was a long pause until Merry sighed and walked away. Pippin wished Legolas had followed. He didn’t want company and he didn’t want looking after. The bracken crunched softly as Legolas settled down next to him.
“Pippin?” Legolas gently asked again. “You were very frightened. Are you all right?”
Pippin rolled over to face Legolas. The sympathy he saw in the elf’s eyes undid his control. Tears he’d been holding back suddenly spilled and his body shook with sobs. Legolas gathered him in his arms and held him through the storm.
“My fault … Gandalf….even balrog… “ Pippin mumbled the disjointed words into Legolas’s shoulder.
Pippin felt Legolas stroke his hair, fingers skimming the tangled knots. “The balrog was none of your doing.”
Pippin sat back and wiped his sleeve across his face. “I made the noise that called the orcs and the orcs brought the balrog. If I had only sat still, there would have been no need to fight our way out of Moria.”
“You dropped the stone long before and many miles from where we were attacked. As well blame Gandalf for setting a great light in the hall or Gimli for crying out his grief. I may well cry, ‘fool of a dwarf’, but not for that.”
Legolas was trying to cheer him up, but Pippin knew the mistakes he made in Moria. “The hammering…”
Legolas interrupted him, “Warned us that there were orcs nearby. Things might have gone much worse if we were caught unprepared.”
Pippin looked down and squeezed his eyes shut against a fresh flow of tears. “I looked in the ball, whatever it is. I saw that Eye and now the Enemy knows.”
“Knows what? You told no secrets. Gandalf believes you.”
“Knows…” Pippin stopped and fought to control his voice but his words came out choked. “Knows… me. He saw me and He… knows… me.”
“There are few who can make that claim and still be free. It was a great deed, Pippin.”
“What?” Surprise dammed the flow of tears. Pippin slid back to get a better look at Legolas’s face. Expecting sarcasm, he saw only concern. “Frodo’s off doing the great deeds, not me.”
“Frodo’s deeds are different, but yours are no less worthy. It was chance that you picked up the palantir and no shame to you that you were overmastered by a great compulsion. The Enemy wanted someone to look in the ball and put forth His will to make it so.”
“I knew I should not take it. Weak, stupid, a fool. Merry is right.” Pippin turned his face to the dark, his body braced against the next blow of evil fortune. He blinked, expecting tears, but his eyes were hot and dry.
“Merry is harsh only from fear for you. He has not been tested against The Enemy. He cannot know that he would have done as well as you did if the compulsion had fallen on him.” Legolas’s voice was urgent. “Even if you did not plan it, it is better that the Eye is turned here and not closer to Mordor. Your heart knew what your mind did not.”
Pippin’s shoulders slumped. He wanted to believe Legolas.
“You did well, Pippin. There are many who are called strong and wise who would look into the Eye and offer all they know unasked. Though the Enemy hurt and pressed you, yet you told Him not even your name.” Legolas’s voice softened with wonder and admiration. “When I get back to my father’s halls, the bards will craft the song of Pippin the Greathearted, and the elves will remember.”
Pippin turned to Legolas, openmouthed, believing at last. “The elves will remember me?”
“We are very good at remembering.”
Pippin savored the idea for a minute. “Better write it yourself,” he said. “You might forget to tell them to put in ‘fool of a Took’ often enough for anyone to recognize me.”
“I am no more a bard than I am an artist. The things I make are utilitarian. Arrows.“ Legolas reached into his jerkin, pulled out a small cloth wrapped object and handed it to Pippin. “Combs.”
Pippin unfolded the cloth to reveal a wooden comb carved with elvish skill into a startling likeness of a songbird lighting on a pine branch. He turned it reverently over in his hands and traced the grain lines that delineated the eyes and the feathers. He had watched Legolas working on the carving all during the trek through Eriador but he had not seen it since Moria.
“It’s beautiful, Legolas, and nearly done. Just needs a finishing coat of oil.”
“My part was done five nights ago. You do the oiling when you get the chance.”
“Me? You want me to have this?” Pippin had coveted the carving since he had first seen it, but always assumed that Legolas was making it for himself.
“It fits your hand better than mine.” Legolas smiled and Pippin realized Legolas must have scaled it hobbit sized from the beginning. “Though it does not seem to me worthy to be an heirloom for your house.”
Pippin felt his cheeks crimson. He had spoken that wish only once, to Merry, when the carving was barely started. He saw the beauty emerging from the rough shaping and knew that it would be worth preserving.
“I tried to get Aragorn to use it,” Legolas confessed, looking over at an uncombed Aragorn holding the palantir in a fold of his cloak and still in earnest conversation with Gandalf and Theoden, “Thinking that a king’s use would give it value for you, but I finished it at dawn while we were chasing you across Rohan and there was no time. But now I see that for it to have been yours alone will surely hallow it enough for your grandchildren and their children.” He reached over and ruffled Pippin’s disheveled hair. “Remember, I made it to be used.”
A shadow passed over the moon and fear flowed over the dale.
“Nazgûl!” Gandalf cried. “The messenger of Mordor. The storm is coming. The Nazgûl have crossed the river! Ride! Ride, ride! Wait not for the dawn! Let not the swift wait for the slow! Ride!”
“Already? He said He’d send for me!” A new stab of fear pierced Pippin as Gandalf hastened across the clearing towards him.
“You’ll ride with me this time, Pippin,” Gandalf said.
Pippin stowed the comb away in his pocket just before Gandalf swept him up and carried him to Shadowfax. Aragorn lifted him onto the great gray horse, and Legolas came up to him on the off side.
“Always follow your heart, Pippin,” Legolas urged him quietly. “It will not lead you astray.”
Gandalf mounted behind Pippin and Shadowfax ran swiftly into the dark.
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