Pippin had escorted him to his room after their tea and insisted he have a lie-down since Frodo refused to go to the Houses of Healing. Because the room was dreary, wreathed as it was in gray afternoon shadows so like the veil that descended upon him at whiles, he retired to his bed gladly. Pippin seemed satisfied to see him tucked into bed and set a bottle of sweet wine and the rest of the biscuits from tea on a table near to hand, which Frodo promised he'd eat once he'd rested. He had no such plans, but he'd seen the worry lift a little from Pippin's brow, and that comforted him more than any food could.
Soon as Pippin left him, Frodo sat at his desk, for he could not face his dreams, and so he tried to write what it had been like for a young Took in the chilly halls of the Citadel, but all he could write was pain, like knives. He abandoned the papers and quill and eventually found escape in a volume of history that Faramir had lent him.
From the great armchair in his room, Frodo heard Sam's footsteps outside his door when the dinner hour approached. Sam's noises paused outside the door, and Frodo could hear another tread and hushed voices -- Pippin was, it seemed, reporting the afternoon's odd fit, and if Sam's tone meant anything, he was also catching it hot for not sending for Sam right away. Sam's concern beneath the ire warmed Frodo, yet he disliked the thought of disturbing his friends with worry only because he had fallen a little faint in the sun, especially Sam.
Sam shooed Pippin off with a final reproach. Before he could open the door, Frodo laid the thick history book of Minas Tirith face down on his chest, folded his hands over the spine, and closed his eyes. The door opened with a quiet inrush of air, and then closed with a sigh. Sam's feet whispered on the floor. "Mr. Frodo?" he said softly. The pungent scent of crushed herbs he could not identify came to Frodo, and he felt Sam's warm hand pass over his brow. He considered feigning sleep rather than face a scolding for his behavior this afternoon -- gently diplomatic compared to what Pippin got, he was sure, but a scolding none-the-less -- or worse, face the worry he could hear in Sam's voice. But Sam called his name again, and he could not help but to open his eyes.
"Hullo, Sam; did you learn much of herb-lore during your visit to the Houses of Healing?"
"This and that, and a smidgen more besides, Mr. Frodo," replied Sam, and the spark in his eye confirmed Frodo's suspicion: this was indeed a scolding, "but there was naught to learn there so important that it warranted you keeping quiet if you needed a healer. You could have sent Mr. Pippin to fetch one, or fetch me; I would have waited on you."
"If I had needed a healer, I would have come to the Houses, Sam." Frodo sat straighter in his chair and let the book slide into his lap where he closed it, taking care so none of the pages wrinkled. The chair, built for the comfort of Men, took some traveling for Frodo to cross it, stand, and set the book on the table. "And there was hardly any reason to trouble you."
"Now, Mr. Frodo, you've never been any trouble for me, and it's small of you to suggest that you are now," said Sam, but he smiled as he spoke. He picked up the woven covering Frodo had spilled to the floor and folded it. "Would you like your supper up here tonight? I could bring you a tray."
"No, I'll come down to table." Frodo stretched, feeling his blood speed up, and then his stomach grumbled loudly with sudden insistence. "Well, that settles it. I hope supper's ready soon."
"Berlind's putting it up now, a venison roast with new onions and bread that smells as good as Mr. Bilbo's did in the Shire, if I may be so bold." He set the folded blanket over the arm of the chair.
"I can think of no better reason to come to the table than that." Frodo stepped to the washbasin and readied himself for the meal, tugging the wrinkles from his vest and washing his hands. He frowned at his reflection in the mirror, unsatisfied with his mussed curls. When he reached for his brush to tidy his hair, Sam stayed his hand.
"Let me, Mr. Frodo," he said.
Frodo met his gaze in the mirror and was stilled by the expression of hurt determination on Sam's face. He nodded.
Sam picked up the brush and applied it with gentle competence. He straightened the back of Frodo's shirt and dusted the line of his shoulders. "There. Now you look proper."
"Did I look that much the ragamuffin?" The jest felt weak to Frodo even as he said it.
"Never, Mr. Frodo. It's just my job to take care of you, naught but simple as that."
A rush of warmth at feeling cared for warred with a prickle of shame. Frodo wanted to demand that Samwise Gamgee deserved his own service and honor as the bravest hero in all of Middle-earth, for he knew Sam was the hobbit who had endured the bitterest quest and insured its success even to the cruel end. Yet, he wanted also to ask that Sam never stop taking care of him. Rather than voice either of those thoughts, Frodo laid his hand over Sam's on his shoulder and said, "Thank you, Sam."
At supper, Gandalf kept the hobbits company. Aragorn, as he had been since claiming the Kingship of Gondor, remained busy on his throne, and Legolas and Gimli were absent, away with Prince Imrahil and his scouting party on a foray east of Osgiliath to make secure the outlying lands there. Pippin tucked into his food and kept pace with Merry as he ate four servings of everything, but when he wasn't making contrite offers of small comforts, he kept shooting forlorn glances at Frodo until, once they'd adjourned from the table to sit in a cozy semi-circle of deep chairs on a small balcony to smoke and look at the stars, Frodo was vexed with him. Even in the quietude, Pippin asked Frodo if he wanted a blanket, or if he wanted a pipe, or if he wanted another sweet, or a drink, all of which Frodo declined with lessening courtesy.
Finally, Pippin ceased his offers, and the companions sat together in silence. After contemplating the lights of the city and the night sky for long, satisfied moments, Merry broke the quiet with mild talk of pipeweed with Sam and Gandalf, recounting what the hobbits knew from their longfathers and what they had learned during their time in the Houses of Healing with knowledge the wizard had gathered when he'd first encountered the Shire and its peculiar relationship with the plant.
At last Merry sighed and emptied pipe and said, "All that for a few moments pleasure and ashes."
Pippin, sitting on Frodo's right, leaned over the man-sized arm of the chair to hold out his own pipe, filled and ready. "It's Longbottom Leaf. Are you sure you wouldn't like a bowlful, Frodo?"
"Oh, burn it, Pippin -- you've asked me twice already," Frodo said sharply. "You've been hovering all over me, and I'd appreciate it if you'd just leave off and give me some peace."
In the soft light coming from the open door behind them, Frodo watched Pippin's expression crumple, hurt, and was filled with sudden regret. Gandalf said his name mildly, and Frodo felt thoroughly rebuked. He reached out and patted Pippin's knee and said, "I'm sorry, Pippin."
"He's worried, Frodo dear," Merry said softly. "We all are, just a little. You seemed to have taken so seriously to this writing project of yours."
"Isn't that what you wanted?" Frodo felt an odd blush of anger, though he knew he was wrong about the motivations of his young cousins.
"No!" said Merry, and his voice grew cutting with an anger that he seldom expressed. "What do I care about it, other than the fact you've latched on with your usual tenacity and taken it to the extreme?"
"Oh, come now," said Frodo.
"Don't dare deny it," Merry continued. "Such things are important to Bilbo, and when have you ever been able to deny him anything that he asks?"
"I do things that Bilbo think are important because they are important," said Frodo. "And this is important. Of course I want to do this for him."
"He would not want you to do this if it hurt you," said Gandalf. "Not if it were not needful."
"But that is ridiculous -- it doesn't hurt me," Frodo protested, to which Gandalf nodded solemnly and replied, "I know."
"It takes a toll on you," Pippin declared. "This past fortnight, I've seen it wear you. This afternoon --" His voice caught, and he stopped.
"It is not the recording of his trials that you are seeing, young Pippin," said Gandalf gently. "Time was dammed nearly eighteen years for Frodo, and with the passing of the Ring, the dam has burst, and the days flood him."
Frodo slumped back in his chair wearily. He knew the truth in his bones that ached and the frost that crept into his hair, just as he knew when he ignored the twinges in his knees and the silver threads that grew in number each time he looked into a mirror. He knew even when he behaved like the young hobbit he'd been for so long, and paid for it with restless nights. He knew another truth, too.
"I don't think Bilbo will write the end of his book, if he writes anything at all," he said. Merry and Pippin and Sam all looked uncomfortably at Frodo or the floor by turns, grieved. Gandalf drew thoughtfully on his pipe and emitted streams of smoke that flowed shapelessly, like water, into nothing. Frodo added, "If I don't mark down our tale, who will? Certainly not the lore-masters of Gondor -- you heard their version."
No one could offer an answer, and the evening ended on that unsettling note. Later, Sam helped Frodo prepare for bed, shaking out his clothes and hanging them, and then offering a clean, soft nightshirt. Dressed for bed, Frodo brushed the day's dust from the thatch on his feet and asked Sam his opinion. "Sam, what do you think? Should I write of our adventures?"
"All great tales should be remembered so they can be told to those as never saw them, or who would forget them," said Sam, and he shrugged. "But does it have to be you? Only you, and no one else but you to do the writing of it?"
Frodo lowered his foot to the floor from the edge of the chair and lifted the other to apply his brush with rigorous strokes. He slowed, and set his mind to thinking about it as he worried his lower lip with his teeth. Sam knelt in front of him. He took the brush from Frodo's hand and gently finished taking the dust from his foot before guiding it to the floor.
"It seems clear to me that this," said Sam, "doesn't hardly have to be a task for you alone, Frodo."
"It's rather a bad habit I've picked up, isn't it," Frodo said ruefully.
"Not but I've ever noticed," replied Sam. "You're just the same as you've always been." He stood, and Frodo looked up at him. In his face, Frodo saw loving affection and the wisdom that had always been there and was growing deeper, like roots of a great tree. Frodo had a sudden flash that seemed like a memory, but was more like a reflection in still, clear water: Sam, with gray streaks in his curls and brass buttons on a green vest covering a fine, round stomach, standing between two angry hobbits, mediating firmly and fairly, an older boy standing near. In his vision, Sam turned and told the boy, Frodo-lad, tell yer Mum I'll be along soon. This won't take but a minute.
"Goodnight, Mr. Frodo," said Sam, and his voice drew Frodo back to his gray room in Minas Tirith, feeling brittle but oddly content. Sam hesitated and laid his hand on Frodo's shoulder. "There's time enough to tackle this particular knot proper, you understand. Put some sleep under your ear, and once Mr. Pippin has done the same, he'll come round. Things that look grim at black night always look better in the morning."
Prince Imrahil returned to the city in the morning with encouraging tidings for the King, and the Companions of the Ring had a merry reunion with Legolas and Gimli. The elf and dwarf were full of tales and good cheer, and for several days that seemed enough reason for the fair people of the city to invite all the Companions of the Ring to feasts and celebrations. During the day, Gimli and Legolas took the hobbits to walk through the streets of the city, where the dwarf would pause to examine stonework here and there and mutter, and the elf would point out the little nooks where trees or gardens could be convinced to grow. Frodo had no time to sit at his desk during all that week, and though his cousins avoided him that first morning, they forgave him before luncheon and treated him with their usual teasing affection.
By the end of a week's worth of feasts and parties, Frodo was tired of having his health and praises toasted while sitting on cushions at tables made for big people. He retired early from the long feast held by the Prince Imrahil for his knights and members of the scouting party, and snuck off to his bed. Sleep refused to roll over him, daunted by deeper waves of weariness and pangs like ghosts of old pain hunting under his skin. For long hours he watched moonlight, sharply edged where it came through the window, slowly traverse his room until it failed, covered by clouds, and the soothing sound of falling rain lulled him to soft dreams.
The morning dawned bright, but rather than rouse Frodo to industry, the vigor of the day apparently carried on happily without any effort on his part, and so he stayed in bed. The air smelled fresh and the light was merry, yet the sheets were softly mellow against Frodo's skin, and he could hear the people of Minas Tirith as they greeted each other and began the day's labor. Just under his open window a deep, bass voice instructed his workers in the methods of re-paving a section of walkway using old cobbles, and it seemed he was displeased with their performance though Frodo understood only little of the conversation, for though he spoke Sindarin, the man's accent sounded odd to the hobbit's ear, and he used words Frodo had never encountered. With hands behind his head while he lounged and eavesdropped, Frodo smiled and wondered if the elven-tongue could possibly contain coarse words.
When Sam tapped on the door and entered, Frodo asked for some tea and a muffin on a tray because it seemed too much effort to get out of bed. Before Sam could inquire, Frodo said, "I just feel lazy today, though maybe that rain last night has reminded me I have joints." He burrowed into his pillow contentedly. "This is as good a day as any to sleep. To rest."
Nonplussed, Sam nodded at him, and when Frodo had finished with his breakfast, he removed the tray and brushed away the crumbs before he withdrew and left Frodo with the sunlight and his open window. When he grew bored, Frodo rose from his bed and slipped into his clothes before he settled at the desk. Loose leaves covered the surface: many blotched and messy, written while he'd regained his handwriting; some neat with blocks of words and illustrated with little maps or drawings. He shuffled through them and made no move toward his quill.
There was a brisk tap at the door, and before he could call out an invitation, Merry and Pippin entered.
"You abandoned us early last night, cousin dear," said Merry. "We had plans for you, and before dessert, you were gone."
"If you had plans, it was just as well I escaped."
"Oh, it wasn't anything painful," said Pippin, and Merry added, "Mostly." Frodo laughed at that.
Merry sauntered to the desk, Pippin in his wake, and looked at the mess of papers littering the surface. "Back to it, I see."
"I still consider this a task that needs doing," said Frodo, and he shrugged, unwilling to relapse to an uncomfortable exchange with his dear friends.
"You know, Frodo," Merry said, "you've always been a stubborn, disreputable, independent sort."
"Hm. Thank you," said Frodo dryly. "I've always tried."
"Well, it certainly wasn't clean living and pure thoughts."
Frodo laughed. "No, rather not."
"Makes me wonder what sort of inns or taverns they have round this city," said Merry. "I doubt the barmaids are much to look at, but maybe someone brews a good beer. There might be some tabletops to dance upon, at least."
"What bothers me most is that I know you're serious."
"Too good for all that now, cousin? Or just too old?"
"Never mind him," said Pippin as he pushed Merry out of the way and stepped forward. "We brought you something, Frodo." He held out a book, wide as an open hand and twice that tall, bound with soft, blue leather. Frodo took it and looked up at Pippin. "Go on -- open it."
Frodo opened the book, and on the front page was written in Pippin's careful script:
Official Notes and Tales of
The War of the Ring
as told to Frodo Baggins by
and Peregrin Took
"Keep going," Pippin urged, and Frodo turned the page. "See, there are three sections. Merry and Sam wrote on their own pages, and I added some just this morning, too -- sorry, the ink smeared." He brushed at a page. "It was all Sam's idea. We found the book down in the markets in the second circle of the city, and we've all taken turns working in it all week. It's nothing fancy or finished, mind, but we can add to it as we recollect things, and maybe you can use what we wrote for when you report to Bilbo and write the official version in his big red book. And there are plenty of blank leaves to write your own notes and look; you can tuck your drawings and loose papers between the pages, too. See?" He pulled at the book. "There's a flap inside each cover and a strip of leather sewn into the spine so you can tie it closed."
"Oh, Pippin," said Frodo, and thick emotion stopped his voice. He closed the book and ran his fingertips over the fine grain of the leather cover.
"I picked the color," offered Merry. "And I'll have you know that I took every effort to insure my penmanship is completely readable."
"I- I don't know what to say," he said. "Except thank you."
"Not all of us can give speeches like Bilbo, you know, and just as well, or we'd be forever late to meals," said Merry.
Pippin nodded. "Just make sure that when you write about me that I sound brave."
"Oh, and make sure I sound wise," said Merry. He jerked his thumb at Pippin. "Wiser than him, at any rate, though that shouldn't be too hard a task."
"Bilbo had an ending he favored." Frodo clutched the blue book to his chest.
Pippin frowned. "Yes, I think I can recall he spoke of it. In Rivendell."
"'And they all settled down and lived together happily ever after,'" quoted Frodo. He opened the book once more and spread it in his lap. "It's so much more than I ever thought would come to pass."
"See, that's why everyone loved Bilbo," said Pippin. "Always handy with the appropriate thing to say."
Merry added, "That and the kegs of beer in his cellar, and the four pantries, and his stock of Old Wineyards."
"Oh, that's hardly fair," said Pippin, but he laughed. "You can't say Bilbo was only as good as his larder."
"Ah, he was better than that, of course, but not all his guests were, you know: coming to Bag End only to eat Bilbo out of cake and ale."
"You're turning this around to defame my character again, aren't you?"
His cousin's banter continued over Frodo's head as he turned the pages, his heart full. More leaves were filled than he expected. When the book opened to Sam's section with the spare, strong letters, his eyes fell to the last paragraph, and he sank into the words:
"I saw many deeds both wonderful and terrible, but I am minded most of the times I watched Mr. Frodo sleep. He slept whenever he could, for his burden was heavy, and it wore him like a river eats stone, but so much quicker. It broke my heart to take him from his dreams because he was beautiful and unafraid when he slept. The sight at him at peace gave me peace, too, just as it gave me strength to carry on, as if his face were plain light and clean water in the deserts of Mordor. I saw a light in him that did not go away until I took his hand and called him to wake, and I hated every time I had to call and douse that light. He's like that still, and sometimes it shines through, somehow. But I love him, whether or no."
Frodo closed the book and held it clutched in his hands as he stood slowly and stepped to the window. Sunlight shafted steeply down. He raised his face, eyes open, and for a moment he was flooded with painless heat that left no room for shadow. He closed his dazzled eyes and saw behind his lids a curtain shimmering with runnels of gray rain that brightened to white. He no longer heard Merry and Pippin but listened instead to a gentle, deep voice of water: waves lapping a distant green shore, another memory of the future.
Before returning for a little while to the brittle container of his life, he drew a deep breath and poured himself into the pleasure of sunlight.
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.