3. Chapter Three
Aragorn did not let them rest for more than an hour or so, then he insisted that they move on. The sun was westering, and they still had several hours swift walk to the edge of the Lothlorien woods.
Groaning, the hobbits stood and reshouldered their packs. All except Frodo, whose pack was taken from him by Strider.
“I’ll not have you carrying that until those ribs have a chance to begin knitting. No, Frodo, don’t argue with me. I can carry it well enough for a bit, and if I don’t do it, then Sam will try to.”
Sam smiled just a little despite himself. It was true. He was the one who had spoken quietly to the Ranger when Frodo was getting a drink from the stream, and sure as he would carry both packs if his master could get ease no other way.
Frodo looked suspiciously at Sam, but sighed and gave in. The truth was he welcomed the reprieve. In his effort to punish himself, he had embraced his pain, both the physical and the emotional, all the way from Moria, and he was not sure that he could bear the weight of the pack even for one afternoon.
They started off at Strider’s brisk pace, the hobbits at a trot near the back of the company, and Legolas bringing up the rear. The elf paused occasionally and cast his bright eyes backwards, towards the north and west, then always catching back up effortlessly. He saw no sign of pursuit.
Aragorn led them on for nearly three more hours, pausing only once, and that briefly, for night had fallen. The hobbits said very little during this leg of their journey, partly because they were moving at a pace that prevented casual conversation, and partly because grief still clogged their throats with sorrow like sour milk. Their tears had stopped, for now, but their hearts still sobbed within them.
At last they reached a great forest, and the night-wind blew chill up the valley to meet them, rustling the leaves of many trees.
“Lothlorien!” cried Legolas, “We have come to the eaves of the Golden Wood. Alas that it is winter.”
“Lothlorien,” answered Aragorn, “Glad I am to hear again the wind in the trees! We are still little more than five leagues from the Gates, but we can go no further. Let us go forward a short way, until the trees are all around us, then we will turn aside from the path and seek a place to rest in.”
They moved quietly under the gray trees, perhaps a mile or so, then came to the Nimrodel. Crossing the fair stream, they found a level place, and made camp.
It was Sam and Merry’s turn to prepare the small meal, and while they were at it, the others spread out blankets and sat or lay upon the chilly earth. All but Legolas, who stood listening to the voice of the water and keeping watch.
Frodo lay down and rolled himself into a blanket. He did not sleep just yet – his ribs were stiff and aching – but it felt good to be off his feet, and the wade through the Nimrodel had been very refreshing.
Pippin was restless. He wandered about the perimeter of the camp, wanting to talk yet not wanting to, feeling drained in body and torn in spirit. His stomach was pinched with hunger, but he did not offer to help Sam and Merry with the supper, for there was no room for more than two over the tiny campfire, and Pippin could hear them, speaking softly about the virtues of herbs in cooking.
“How can they do that?” Pippin asked himself seriously. “How can they sit and speak of Bay leaves and such when we’ve just come from…” He caught himself midthought and shook his head violently, to clear his mind.
No, Pippin did not want to talk. He wanted to be alone.
The hobbit wandered towards the water. Perhaps he would sit awhile and dabble his feet in the cool stream, and think. Or, even better, perhaps he could find a way to escape his thoughts.
He found a perfect spot, behind a tumble of rock, near enough to the company to hear a call or to give one, but out of sight of the compassionate eyes of the others. Pippin lowered himself to the leafy ground and dropped his tired feet noiselessly into the Nimrodel.
-------“Fool of a Took!”
Pippin flinched. His mind had been ringing with that rebuke for hours. Clear and cold as audible words it was, keening against his heart like bitter winter wind. He was not sure how much longer he could bear the torment.
--------“Throw yourself in next time, and rid us of your stupidity!”
Pippin whimpered, digging his fingers into the damp earth beside his thighs and struggling to turn his mind in another direction. He pushed his thoughts towards home, towards Tookburough, striving in vain to think of pipeweed, of food and fire, of his mother’s face…
-------“Foolish boy! How can you expect to be Thain one day with no more
-------sense in your head than a speckled toad!”
His father’s voice now. Echoing halfway across middle-earth like a dark arrow from a bow. It struck him hot and deep and filled his heart with black despair like orc poison.
Pippin bent double, pressed his face to his knees, and wept.
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.