Frodo worked hard to reacquire the act of writing. He could hardly remember when he had done this last, formed letters and words, and he thought not of Rivendell, where he had written long pages for Bilbo after he'd recovered from the Morgul knife, but of Bag End, where he'd sat in fair weather and fine health and tallied harvests and accounts from the tenants on Baggins land. He'd always preferred to write letters to his cousins, or puzzle elvish meaning and express it in the Common tongue, continuing in a small way Bilbo's extensive translations. Now, as he faced blank paper and tattered memory, he yearned for those neat columns and numbers: days without recall because, though beyond all hope Frodo would return the Shire after his ordeal, Lobelia would never give up Bag End.
When memory opened for him, he wrote long, and felt drained and content afterward, but when it seemed all doors in his mind were locked shut, he found himself making repetitive, meaningless marks, wasting both paper and ink. Sam often appeared at his elbow at such times, urging Frodo to take a walk, or drink some tea, or lie down for a nap, and Frodo usually did as Sam asked. Frodo waited for something he couldn't yet define, and though he often imagined it was mere inspiration, he suspected it might be something quite different.
In the meantime, he drank Sam's tea, walked in the sunshine, visited with his loved ones, and eagerly followed any written accounts of the War. In Faramir, he found a grand scholar and fellow writing enthusiast, and Faramir generously shared all he wrote, as well as those documents he procured that were written by leaders and scholars of Gondor and surrounding fiefs. When the senior scribe released a scroll to Faramir, he brought it to the house of the Companions, and shared it with the hobbits one bright afternoon.
Faramir read from the scroll, his voice clear. Sam leaned forward in his chair, enthralled, while Merry and Pippin listened attentively, but with enough attention diverted to the white cakes and sweet wine near to hand. Frodo noted how Faramir pronounced some words with unexpected inflections that echoed the cadence of Prince Imrahil's speech.
"'Here let it be said that in those days the Heir of Isildur arose in the North, and he took the shards of the sword of Elendil, and in Imladris they were reforged; and he went then to war, a great captain of Men. He was Aragorn son of Arathorn, the nine and thirtieth heir in the right line from Isildur, and yet more like to Elendil than any before him. Battle there was in Rohan, and Curunir the traitor was thrown down and Isengard broken; and before the City of Gondor a great field was fought, and the Lord of Morgul, Captain of Sauron, there passed into darkness; and the Heir of Isildur led the host of the West to the Black Gates of Mordor.'" He stopped reading and looked over the top of the scroll expectantly.
Frodo nodded slowly, rolling the words in his mind as he looked to his cousins. Pippin frowned as he thought hard. Merry squirmed a bit in his seat and said, "It rather skips over the mud, and the noise, and the fear, doesn't it?"
Faramir smiled grimly. "Indeed, Master Meriadoc. That is the nature of this sort of account."
"But they left out everything that happened," said Pippin. "The city was on fire, and then the gate was battered down, and then Gandalf and Beregond saved you, and the Rohirrim came blowing their horns, and --"
"And yes, it's true that Strider's sword was reforged in Rivendell," said Merry, "but what you have read there skips over everything that happened between Rivendell and the battle at the gate, which was nearly the whole story."
"Do not forget; there is another scroll being made that will record the lays sung about Nine-fingered Frodo and the Ring of Doom. Our most knowledgeable lore-masters are writing right now." Faramir raised the scroll again. Before he resumed reading, he said, "Many people will write books about the War of the Ring.
"'In that last battle were Mithrandir, and the sons of Elrond, and the King of Rohan, and lords of Gondor, and the Heir of Isildur with the Dunedain of the North,'" read Faramir. "'There at the last they looked up on death and defeat, and all their valour was in vain; for Sauron was too strong. Yet in that hour was put to the proof that which Mithrandir had spoken, and help came from the hands of the weak when the Wise faltered. For, as many songs have since sung, it was the Periannath, the Little People, dwellers in hillsides and meadows, that brought them deliverance.'"
"Ah, here we go," Merry said quietly to Pippin.
"'For Frodo the Halfling, it is said, at the bidding of Mithrandir took on himself the burden, and alone with his servant he passed through peril and darkness and came at last in Sauron's despite even to Mount Doom; and there into the Fire where it was wrought he cast the Great Ring of Power, and so at last it was unmade and its evil consumed.'"
Frodo abruptly stood, sending his chair scudding a little distance from the table. Faramir stopped reading, and everyone looked at Frodo. Frodo stepped to the window and opened it wider. "Go on," he said, looking outside. "I just want a bit of air."
Faramir nodded slowly. "'Then Sauron failed, and he was utterly vanquished and passed away like a shadow of malice; and the towers of Barad-dûr crumbled in ruin, and at the rumour of their fall many lands trembled. Thus peace came again, and a new Spring opened on earth; and the Heir of Isildur was crowned King of Gondor and Anor, and the might of the Dúnedain was lifted up and their glory renewed.'"
For long moments silence followed his words. From the window, Frodo looked over the stone-cobbled street below. Tall houses across the way seemed to have long faces, fair but somber. Stone urns lined the street, some broken, some missing, but Frodo noticed that those remaining had been filled with rich soil and tiny seedling flowers. He heard Merry and Pippin move restlessly, and then he felt with abrupt certainty that Sam approached. Just when he expected it, Sam's warm hand covered on his where it traced the veins in the cold marble sill.
"Well how do you like that," said Pippin suddenly, breaking the somber mood. "We're not mentioned at all, and Sam doesn't even get a name. That hardly seems fair."
Frodo turned to face the others and smiled. "I agree: Samwise Gamgee's name should be included -- in all the books." Sam sputtered, embarrassed, and Frodo laid his arm along his shoulders and squeezed.
"And what about us?" asked Pippin.
"Yes, what about Pippin?" Merry said, a sly crook curling the corner of his mouth. "We mustn't forget the mighty pints of beer he defeated at The Prancing Pony, or the stone he let drop down the well in Moria -- that was a very heroic moment -- and let's not forget how you left another stone under Gandalf's elbow --"
"Hoy!" said Pippin.
"Merry!" cried Frodo at the same time.
Merry folded his arms and tilted his shoulders, grinning. "It's part of what happened, so you might as well put it in."
"And whose brilliant leadership almost got us eaten by a tree in the Old Forest?" said Pippin, putting his hands on his hips.
"Eaten by a tree?" asked Faramir. Frodo caught his glance and read a deep amusement and lively curiosity there. "It seems the minstrels did leave out some details after all."
"Oh, yes. Merry thought a few visits to the other side of the High Hay with his father made him an expert on the Old Forest, so he led us there and got us lost before --"
"Before you could say Tom Bombadil," Frodo interrupted, and then he sang, "'Old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow / Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow!'" He smiled, delighted, because he could see Tom in his memory when he couldn't see him before: the mirth in his wrinkled face and the feather that nodded above his hat. He could hear his voice, deep as a big bell and pealing like a child's with pleasure.
Frodo established a routine of writing every morning when the sunlight streamed into his room, and he found that random events from the past months came in rushes from his heart and poured out his hand, squeezed through the nib of his pen into awkward, bitter lines on the paper. He found the process of forming words and phrases and sentences with his maimed hand to be both a way to accept the pains of his long journey and a reconnection to the gladder parts of his adventure. He had been blind to many things as soon as he'd walked away from them, and he had walked away from so much, both good and evil.
Oliphaunts and Sam's delight in the seeing of one came to Frodo. Ithilien was close in his memory, since he had spent his recovery there, and those events that had happened before the end of the war returned to him easily. He inventoried the smells, the herbs, the restful cleanliness of the place, as well as the pools of defilement hidden here and there under the green, signs of the Enemy's possession. He remembered each thing: waking to Sam's voice and seeing his own hands thin and grubby rising to rub his eyes, Gollum's pathetic capering under the yellow sun, the rich smell of greenery all around, and the pan of thin, brown broth, redolent of Sam's care that made it taste more savory than any feast at Elrond's table. The memories were warm with him, clear and remote like small, beloved toys on the table before him, hovering on the edge of his vision as he followed the words he wrote. With the constant practice, his handwriting slowly regained its usual slant and flow.
"Hoy, Frodo," said Pippin. "There you are." Frodo blinked, surprised to find himself not surrounded by the whispering beauty of Ithilian but enclosed within somber gray walls and covered by the clear light of Gondor spilling through narrow windows. Pippin entered the room fully. "I hoped to walk along the wall and take in some air with a friend, but since Merry and Sam are visiting the Houses of Healing, and Beregond is busy preparing for his duty in Ithilian, I'm reduced to begging favors from stuffy cousins."
"Stuffy, is it?" Frodo set his pen down and leaned back in his chair.
"Stuffy old Frodo," Pippin agreed as he wandered to the window and peered out. "You've been in here since elevenses, you know. It'll be tea soon."
"We could take tea together on the rampart," said Frodo.
"Just the thing," replied Pippin. He came to Frodo and took his hand, urging him out of his chair. The odd clasp made with too few fingers did not seem to bother him, and Frodo was comforted by his nonchalance as the younger hobbit led him out of his room. "I heard there were tarts today, but I don't know if they're spring berry or winter apple. I'm thinking there ought to be some sort of berry to be had this time of year, it being so warm, but maybe they're still hard to get. Bergil said this is a merry time to be in Lebennon with the bushes full from April until first frost late in the year, and that's not so far from here." Pippin paused in the hall. "That would be a grand little trip, don't you think? We could visit the sea; I've never seen it, and I think I should like to."
"I want to journey north, first," said Frodo. "To Rivendell. I want to see Bilbo."
"Of course! Jolly old Bilbo." They continued to the kitchen. "You're right, Frodo. First we must see Bilbo, and then..." He stopped speaking as they entered the kitchen where the cook and his helper worked, Men from the city assigned to serve the Companions of the Ring while they stayed in their grand house. Berlind, Cook's helper, quickly packed a light basket at Frodo's request. Pippin insisted on the inclusion of tarts -- they were apple -- and then Frodo took the basket and herded Pippin out before he began his usual suggestions of more food that had been known to clean out the pantry.
They sat on the wall and looked out over the fields as they ate. Industrious men from all over Gondor labored to heal the hurts inflicted by the enemy, and there were patches of green to be seen between the scars in the land. As he watched the work, Frodo alternated bites of apple tart with sharp cheese and felt nothing but contented in the mellow afternoon sunlight. He looked to his cousin and saw that Pippin leaned on the wall, facing out; his gaze rolled along the long expanse afforded their view as he put a biscuit to his mouth absently, without thought or enjoyment.
"Hullo, Pippin," said Frodo. "You were here a minute ago; where have you gone to now?"
"What?" Pippin turned. "Oh, wool-gathering, I guess." He put more attention on his food, finished the biscuit and began nibbling a tart. "Just thinking, really."
Frodo affected a stricken look. "Before you've finished your tea?" He laughed, suddenly pierced by a memory of Pippin, aghast at the mention of deep thought during breakfast. That had been during their walk to Crickhollow, the morning after they had met the Elves in Woody End, when Pippin was still a child and Frodo had ten fingers. The tall tweenager looking so soberly over the healing field of a great battle seemed another hobbit entirely, not a tweenager at all but a hobbit come of age through ordeal and wiser for it.
Pippin smiled, but his eyes remained somber. "Well, I was keeping a thought how to distract you so I get the last tart."
"But you're thinking about more than that," said Frodo. "I can tell."
"I surprised myself, Frodo," he said reluctantly. He looked at the pastry in his hand, and then away to the south, and he continued, his words coming faster. "Just now, when I had the sudden fancy about visiting Bergil's gransire in Lebennon it was as if there was nothing more important to do than romp over hills and valleys. Yet when you mentioned Bilbo, I remembered it's been so long since I left Tuckburough, I can hardly reckon the days I've been gone." He turned his face to the north. "Now I have a wish for home pressing on me that feels heavier than a troll." Pippin smiled a little, and he glanced at Frodo over his shoulder. "And I happen to know how that feels, mind."
Frodo stood and hugged his cousin, who turned again and engulfed him in a strong embrace. Into the folds of Pippin's gray cloak, Frodo said, "I'm glad you're here to give the report of it."
"Oi, reports!" Pippin ended the hug with a thump on Frodo's back and resumed making inroads on his tart with better effort while he talked, blowing crumbs over the wall. "I have reported and reported and reported again: to the Captains of the Tower of the Guard, to Prince Imrahil, to the King, and to Gandalf -- twice, even."
"Ah," said Frodo as he fetched a bottle of pale, sweet ale and two cups from the basket and returned to the wall. "But have you told the story of it to anyone?"
Pippin accepted a cup of ale and swallowed noisily. "Well," he said, and then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, "I told Merry some of it."
"Good." Frodo sipped from his own cup and looked over the fields. "We hobbits have to stick together and settle the events that happened here into our own words and memories."
"There are parts I'd as soon not settle at all, Frodo. I'd rather root them out."
"As have I," he said. "But it's important. No one else will tell our tale, not as we lived it. We have to bring news of this to the Shire, so that they'll appreciate all that they have, all that we fought to protect."
"You're not just taking notes for Bilbo, are you? You're writing the whole story of the quest, aren't you, on those papers in your room."
"Yes, well, I'm trying to do both, really. Bilbo wants a full accounting of all our adventures to add to his book, for it's important that hobbits know what transpired here." He laid his hand over Pippin's on the wall. "It's important that people know your part in the story, even when it gets bitter. Will you tell me yours that I might set it down?"
"You know," said Pippin, and he fixed Frodo with a disgruntled look, "When I fetched you paper and quills, I thought you would write notes for a few days and be done. Now I find I have to drag you from your room to get you into some fresh air and stop brooding on things, and yet here you are, urging me to tell tales I'd rather not for you to write down the whole ordeal. I know Bilbo cares, but no one in the Shire will pay much heed to a war so far away."
"Oh, but of all our tales, yours and Merry's must be told," Frodo said, and then he laughed. "How else to explain your new stature if you don't tell the story of the ents?"
"I want to tell that, I do," said Pippin. "But there are other tales I don't wish to tell."
"I've spoken to Faramir, and to Gandalf." Frodo carefully rolled his cup between his palms. "Lord Denethor ended badly."
"His own son," whispered Pippin. "And for what?" His tone roughened. "Was it something in him that made him love one child over the other, and then go mad with grief when he'd lost his favorite? Or," and his voice grew frightened, "was he poisoned by the Enemy?"
Pippin turned away from Frodo then, and stared to the east for a long moment before he dropped his gaze and bowed his head. "I wonder how little or how much he looked into the stone before the Enemy overwhelmed him. He looked when Faramir was injured, I know, and he was defeated after; only after he looked into the stone did he act so fey." His voice lowered so that Frodo had to step closer to hear. "The Enemy, he beheld me in the Palintír. Just a few moments, and yet the terror of it hunts me when I dream, and I am naked to cruel pain, like knives, and then I wonder -- I wonder if he could defeat me even now."
Frodo stepped back, stunned to hear such fear issue from his cousin's mouth. A stab of anguish struck through him in answer to Pippin's words, and he was filled with sudden disquiet that crept in cold tendrils up his left arm and into his heart. His hand clutched the front of his shirt, grasping in vain for something that no longer lay hidden there.
Still turned away, Pippin said, "I think that's what caught me most by surprise when I thought about going home. I've been gone so long, I almost couldn't remember home, and then I could, and it was so vivid and I wanted it so much that it hurt worse than when the troll crushed me; it hurt as much as the nightmares hurt, and I wondered how it would be to go back, and then," he drew in a shuddery breath, "for one terrible moment I wondered if I ever could go back." He sighed audibly, his shoulders rising and falling with his breath, and then he turned around, smiling wryly though his eyes were wet. "Foolish thoughts, I know. The nightmares are less now than they were, and my injuries are fading to naught but bad memories. The Enemy has been vanquished -- how could he harm me now that I'm better, and the King has returned, and spring flowers round us in Gondor? I'm the fool Gandalf accuses me of being, for I've frightened myself out of my skin and ruined a perfectly good tea."
To Frodo, the very world seemed to pitch, and he felt himself falling out of it into silence -- not his body, but his hold on the earth under his feet, the bright presence of Pippin, and the air in his lungs. The contentment he'd felt all morning evaporated and revealed behind it the crippling evil that crushed him by its gaping absence. He looked at Pippin, and the young hobbit was at once familiar with his Tookishly sharp features and tousled curls, but also strange in his great height and the shadow of remembered hurts dark in his eyes. Pippin looked at him, concern breaking over his face, and Frodo forced his maimed hand release his shirt as he forced his lungs to take in a breath; it was then he realized he had spoken, but he knew not what he said.
"Oh, Frodo." Pippin's hand was on his shoulder. "Please tell me you're all right. Frodo? Should I fetch a healer?"
"No," he said harshly, panting. He found he still held his cup in one hand but had spilled the ale. He groped for the bottle to pour more and banged the neck against the rim of the cup.
"Here, let me." Pippin took the bottle from him and steadied the cup with a hand over Frodo's. His words were teary. "I'm sorry, Frodo, please don't think you're alone! Here, sit. Sit and rest. Can't you see the sun shining?"
He did not want to tell Pippin that he was alone behind a dim veil that that sundered him from the world, and so he allowed Pippin to help him to the bench and nodded as he drank the tasteless stuff in his cup.
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.