3. A Clear Light
Aragorn straightened up from where he had been bending over Sam, seeming to listen to something only he could hear.
“Not quite yet.” He sat down next to Gandalf. “What are you thinking about?”
Gandalf smiled. “I was remembering when Frodo first awoke in Rivendell. I thought, then, that this Quest might burn away everything but a clear light, for eyes to see that can. He had not yet agreed to take the Ring, but somehow I knew there was more ahead for him.” He sat back, musing. “I learned much from these two during these weeks, Aragorn, more than I have told you. Sam has learned to see that light in Frodo. For him, Frodo became the embodiment of Galadriel’s phial, although he didn’t think of it in those terms. He saw Frodo, at times, for what he truly has become --- perhaps, what he was all along.”
Aragorn smiled. “And Frodo? What did he see?”
“For him, for so long, there was only fire, Aragorn. Fire and shadows. And Sam. Frodo looked to Sam for everything he had lost and thought never to know again --- hope, strength, what was steady and good from the Shire………” The wizard looked thoughtful. “Frodo became the phial, filled with light --- and Sam, the hand which held it up so that it would not be lost.”
“Truly an enviable friendship,” Aragorn said in wonder.
“They prevailed over the Darkness, Aragorn, but much may yet lie ahead for Frodo.” The wizard sighed. “I told him, long ago in the Shire, that even then, if I had tried to take the Ring from him by force it would have broken his mind. And here, on this Quest, he had it taken from him twice, both times in pain and terror. I do not know if he can truly heal from what has happened to him. As I said before, only time will tell.”
Aragorn stood up. “There are things I must see to. Frodo and Sam should have a welcome befitting their deeds, with all the honor and splendor I can arrange. The silver circlets Gimli has been fashioning for them should be ready by now.”
“It might be a bit overwhelming for them,” said Gandalf with a smile, “especially clad in nothing but these shirts.”
Aragorn knelt and brought out a small pile of folded garments from underneath Frodo’s bed. “Merry gathered what he could from the children of Minas Tirith before he left; they will have to do. I would rather see Frodo and Sam arrayed as princes, but unfortunately, we cannot attire them in silks or velvets……… yet. In Minas Tirith I will have made for them a more suitable wardrobe.” He frowned. “I will not have these two thought of as children.”
“They will not be,” Gandalf said. “Go now. I will stay here, and wait for Sam to wake.”
“So will we,” said a determined voice behind them.
Gandalf didn’t turn around. “Aragorn, you must order that all hobbits be equipped with bells, to be worn at all times.” He chuckled. “Perhaps you could release Frodo and Samwise from the edict, but certainly no one else.”
“Hmmph.” Merry had one hand on his hip and the other clamped around Pippin’s arm. “I waited long enough for Pippin to wake up, Gandalf, and I don’t think I have another day of waiting in me.” He looked over to where Frodo and Sam lay side by side. “We both heard Frodo laughing, Strider. Did you put him back to sleep?”
Aragorn stood up and sighed. “Pippin, if Merry let go of you, I believe you would fall flat on your face. Did I not say you needed one more day of bed rest?”
“I’m fine.” Pippin said. “And Merry doesn’t have to hold me up. Look at that, a perfectly empty bed!” He pried Merry’s fingers from his arm and sat on Frodo’s bed.
Merry walked over to the other bed and looked down at Frodo. “Is he all right?” he asked.
“I think so, Merry.” Aragorn was about to say something else when Frodo stirred and opened his eyes.
Frodo’s face lit up at the sight of his cousin. He sat up, then got slowly to his feet. Suddenly his eyes widened and his smile faded.
“What………” Frodo looked confused. “Have I shrunk?”
Merry chuckled. “You’re certainly thinner, cousin, but you haven’t shrunk!” He flung his arms around Frodo. “We all have a lot to tell each other, don’t we?” Merry closed his eyes against the rush of emotions suddenly washing over him. His own cousin had saved them all. They had done it. What had happened out there? So thin………
“Welcome back, you silly Baggins,” said Merry softly.
Frodo pulled back and looked up at Merry, tears glistening in both their eyes.
“Oh, Merry,” he said quietly. “I never thought I’d see you again.” He frowned. “Why are you so tall?”
“To keep up with me!” said Pippin, pulling Frodo out of Merry’s arms and grabbing him. “My goodness, Strider, can we bring him some food? He hardly weighs anything!”
“I’ll wait for Sam,” Frodo said. He looked from Pippin to Merry, unable to believe his eyes. “Gandalf, are you *sure* we’re not dead, or dreaming? No living hobbits are this tall. Although………” He fingered Pippin’s uniform. “……… I could never dream up anything like this.”
“Or this,” Merry chuckled, pulling at the huge shirt covering Frodo.
Pippin kept one arm wrapped protectively around Frodo, and with the other, he pushed Frodo’s hair out of his eyes. “I can scarcely see you, cousin! You need a haircut desperately. Wasn’t Sam taking care of you out there?”
Frodo gasped. “Taking care of me? Peregrin Took, do you have any idea what Sam---”
“And this is just appalling,” continued Pippin. He picked up Frodo’s right hand and laid his fingers gently over the empty space. “Do you have to chew your nails down quite *this* much?”
Frodo’s mouth dropped open in shock, then saw the look on Pippin’s face. That dearly familiar, playful, mischievous look.
“Pippin.” Frodo reached up to touch his cousin’s face. “It’s really you, Pip, isn’t it?”
“It’s really me,” said Pippin softly. He pulled Frodo back into his arms. “Welcome back, you silly Baggins.”
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.