1. Ghost Dreams
The long approach, the beckoning edge, the soft scrape of the pebble as he pulled it into his palm. He looked up to see if he had been noticed, the cold fear at his fingertips welling like drawn blood into his face.
Gandalf debated with Boromir and Aragorn. Legolas meditated, Sam bustled, and Merry was preoccupied with his own pack. Frodo ignored them all.
His eyes returned to the dreadful well, questions flitting through his mind as emotion rather than pure thought. The unknowing had nagged him since they entered this terrible room.
And in the dream, while his heart hammered for his muscles to stop, he watched his small hand, a hand he could scarcely call his own, reach out over the abyss…and release the pebble. It fell in a trail of regret.
This time, Gandalf did not hear the cold impact of stone on water. This time, Gandalf did not yank him to his feet and scold him. This time, the sound itself reached up … and up … and up…
He squirmed, trying to push away from the edge, muscles thick like treacle, but the echo became soft lights burbling from tragic depths, roiling….lights of echo?…pulsing stronger…
Pippin felt his mouth drop in wordless terror, unable to breathe or sigh, for in the rising bile of dismay, he felt the approach of a familiar question:
‘who are you?’
Perhaps it was the glowing colors of the sunset behind the mountains where Minas Tirith had braced itself that gave Peregrin Took pause for thought, or the idle chit chat between Frodo, Gandalf, and King Aragorn. He had led them to the same embrasure he and Beregond took refuge on his first day in the City, perched as it was above the spread of the city, its posture like an eagle content with its brood, now that the Dark Lord had been defeated. Gimli had excused himself to the armory, Legolas to the remaining elves, and Merry? Where was that rascal? Sam still puttered about in the gardens that sprung up in the corners and avenues of the city, encouraged by the peoples’ enthusiasm for herbs and flowers.
Peregrin did what he learned to do on that first evening and stood tiptoe upon the bench against the sill, his gaze following the rays of the sun to their end where Minas Ithil hunched, defeated and forlorn. Warm breezes of the summer wafted over the Pelennor, subtle with river-mist and sunshine, no longer tainted by the stench of war, which in the soft gold of the evening, seemed so far away in memory.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Frodo glance up at him.
No, not for Frodo, he thought. Pippin could see it in every line of his face. Haunting flashes of pain. Sam had said the old Frodo that they knew and loved was "returned", something he meant as an encouragement, to be sure; but somehow the assurance pained Pippin in a way he could not name. He could only imagine what Sam witnessed as he described their journey to the Crack of Doom.
But does Frodo still see it, the Ring in its Firey Glare?
In moments of unguarded and unexpected silence, Pippin could almost see confirmation of that. But someone would pick up the conversation and the ghosts were lost in another venue of thought.
Pippin suppressed a sudden shudder, his mind turning over the images of his dream. It had been weeks since he had dreamt anything memorable; and, since the fall of Barad-dur, it was unimaginable that evil could still reach out, veiled though it was in nightmares. This, in itself, was a bit frustrating to him, since Frodo’s trials were over, Merry’s arm was healed, Sam had the energy of a hobbit-lad in spring, and Gandalf laughed more than talked.
The dream was as livid as anything he had experienced since the palantir, exhuming fears that the victories over Mordor should have dispelled. He should be happy. He should be at rest.
What was wrong with him?
"Pip?" Frodo climbed up onto the bench to imitate his slouch against the wall, his face tilted in such a way as to suggest that Frodo recognized his unusual mood. There had been a few days of uncertainty after their reunion, each one of them trying hard to reconcile the hobbit they had known before with the hobbit that remained. Whether it was the long influence of the Ring or the blessed nature of their Elven friends, Frodo had developed a knack for honing in on more sensitive thoughts.
In response, Pippin turned on one of his brighter smiles, more out of self-defense than welcome. He loved Frodo too much right now to break the thin skin of peace.
"Minas Tirith is just as Boromir said it would be…in the sunset," he answered, then regretted it, for Frodo’s face blanched slightly at the mention of the former Walker.
Frodo covered it quickly with his old amused expression, one he always seemed to have on his face when dealing with Pippin. He used to think it was condescending, but in the joy of finding all four of them alive, Pippin decided the expression was now the most wonderful thing he could see on his cousin’s face.
"Yes, I remember his description. I remember wanting to come to Minas Tirith. That he wasn’t with us when we finally arrived makes it that much more…." He floundered, moved by the dying light of the city.
"I meant bittersweet, but yes, beautiful, too."
"In a way," Pippin replied. "I am glad he did not see it when…when the horror crossed the River." He paused, not wanting to sound plaintive. "I am glad for many things."
"Then why so glum? I have never seen you like this," Frodo pressed, voice quiet. Gandalf and Aragorn moved away, oblivious to the hobbits now in their conversation. The wizard teased the new king of falling into the speech pattern of Strider’s day, something that the people of the city found amusingly common when the hobbits were present.
"I’m not sure what I was thinking…" Pippin began, realizing that to tell Frodo of his dreams was asking for further analysis…and he was not ready for that. "Something Bilbo said Gandalf had told him at the end of his quest, about how it could not possibly be our sole ambitions that brought us where we are…that there is some greater destiny. I used to wonder at that."
"Sam said something very similar when we were in Mordor. It helped me a great deal," Frodo said, nodding.
"I think, perhaps, I am still wondering what I have to do with it all, with all that I have done." There I go. It would come out, anyway. How had Frodo learned to uncover uncomfortable thoughts since Crickhollow?
"Besides outwit an orc, converse with trees, rummage through wizard’s belongings, and defend the stricken son of a Steward? Not much at all, I would say!" Frodo jested, laughing.
"I did not tell you everything."
"No, but Gandalf did."
It was Pippin’s turn to wince.
"It won’t go from me. After all that has happened…" He trailed off. All right. Stop it, Peregrin Took.
Frodo rubbed thoughtfully at the nub where his ring-finger had been.
"You know," he admitted, voice lower now, almost wistful. "I can still feel it, like an echo of what had been. It is almost as if it is a ghost that shouts for attention."
It was on Pippin’s tongue to ask if it were the Ring or the finger Frodo referred to, but he quelled the impulse to ask.
"We’ll never be the same," he stammered instead. Frodo turned a very loving expression on him, and placed his arms about his youngest cousin.
"No, Pip. It is the end of the Third Age, and the echoes will die away, but not because you have forgotten. You and Merry will only direct them elsewhere."
"And what destiny will that have?"
Frodo clapped Pippin on the shoulder as if to nudge him out of the mood.
"That I cannot say. But! I see a brave and noble Peregrin Took before me," he said. "One worthy of the title of Thain. And that is the destiny I am looking forward to seeing."
Pippin turned away acutely reminded of Frodo’s ability to see past his words. He needed to think this one out before he spoke again.
Which would be a first, Merry would point out.
But then, Merry knew what he had been doing when he disobeyed King Theoden.
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.