Pippin was running before Merry’s first shrill cry of his name had faded. With an answering howl, he flung his sword to the ground and launched himself in the direction of the so-loved voice. Tripping over a rock, he fell flat on his face and came up spitting out a mouthful of dirt.
Then familiar arms were encircling him, and a sweet Merry-scent filled his nostrils. More arms, Frodo-scented, hugged him a second later so tight he squawked, laughing and choking and crying. His inarticulate whimpers were returned twofold, his cousins’ sobs and little cries of joy and disbelief eventually evolving into his name, uttered over and over again as they held him tightly.
Legolas swung himself down gracefully and leaned back against the old horse, joy shining from his fair features. Folding his arms comfortably before him, he glanced up at his still-mounted passenger. “Are you sure you don’t want down yet, Sam?”
Sam shook his head, grinning from ear to ear. “No, sir. I’ll say hullo to the lad in a moment, when everyone calms down a bit.”
“That might be a while,” commented Aragorn, rubbing his chest where Frodo’s sharp elbow had dug into him as they had crested the rise to see Pippin standing before them, sword in hand, prepared to do battle. And after all the youngster must have endured. Amazing. Such courage… Had he not restrained Frodo, the hobbit would have thrown himself from the high back of the old mare (and probably have broken his neck), thought Aragorn. Merry had managed to fling himself from his mount before Legolas could react, actually landing on his feet, running to gather Pippin into his arms. Aragorn shook his head in astonishment and relief.
He had thought he had seen the height of courage when Frodo defied the embodiment of evil that were the Ringwraiths, and afterwards, as the wounded hobbit fought poison and pain and despair to survive long enough to win through to Rivendell. The Ranger had watched in silent amazement as the other three supported and defended him, and fought their own battles with exhaustion and grief and desperation. Each day that had passed since brought new realizations about these small folk, and again and again he had seen valor from them that took his breath. Pippin should be dead. He should be. Aragorn had believed it in his heart, the words he had spoken to Frodo about refusing to mourn Pippin as lost until he held the lifeless body in his arms just a comfort meant to ease grieving hearts. Truly, he had not held out any hope of finding the hobbit-lad alive, faint signs of hope aside. He had expected no more than to overtake one of Elrond's folk bearing Pippin's body back to the Last Homely House.
“Aragorn!” The panic in Merry’s voice wiped all other thoughts from his mind and dismounting quickly, he ran towards the small hobbit-pile, Legolas at his side. Abandoned, Sam inched forward and wiggled down from the gelding’s bare back, using the overgrown mane to drop himself to the distant earth. The old horse bore this stoically, delicately pointed ears now laid back in distress, velvet nostrils distended to scent the sudden change of emotions.
“Aragorn, he can’t see! Pippin can’t see!” Merry was sobbing, and so was Pippin, uttering little whimpering cries that tore the Ranger’s heart. Aragorn fell to his knees besides the hobbits, carefully pushing Frodo aside. The Ring-bearer’s face was dry of tears but dreadfully white; he looked as if he might faint. Displaced from hugging his little cousin, Frodo wrapped his arms around Pippin’s knees, as if to keep the tweenager from going anyplace else.
“Merry, move back. Now!” He pried the young hobbit’s hands from cupping Pippin’s cheeks and bodily moved Merry back. “Hullo, Pippin,” Aragorn said in reassuring tones, summoning long years of a healer’s necessary dispassion to override the sudden fear in his heart. “You have given us quite a fright. Merry says you are having trouble seeing?” As he spoke, he waved a hand before the young one’s face, and was terrified to see the bright gold-green eyes did not track the movement. He looked up upon hearing a soft gasp from Legolas and saw Frodo’s white face pale even more as Merry bit down hard on his lip to prevent a cry.
Pippin was hiccupping so hard he could barely speak. Tears continued to well from his eyes and run down his face in a torrent. One small hand stayed tightly locked in both of Merry’s. Pippin’s head turned towards him as he spoke, pointed ears twitching. “Are you all here?” he asked, gulping. “Is Legolas all right?” The other hand sought about him, trying to touch them all and reassure himself of their reality.
The Elf sank to a crouch behind Aragorn, reaching out to capture the flailing hand for a moment. “I am here, little one. Thanks to you. That was most brave, Pippin dear heart, to push me back to safety as you did. Now answer Aragorn’s questions and let him examine you.” Legolas’ face was serene but Aragorn knew him well enough to see the alarm behind the calm façade.
“Sam?” called Pippin, intent on making sure that everyone was accounted for.
“Right here, Mr. Pippin,” assured Sam in a calm voice. The stocky hobbit was standing perfectly still, but his hands were clamped together so tightly that small red lines were beginning to seep unnoticed from his palms. Wordlessly, Legolas reached over and pulled his hands apart and Sam stared down blankly at the crimson half-moon crescents caused by his own fingernails.
“And everyone is all right?” persisted Pippin. “No one is hurt?” Aragorn was relieved to feel the rapid flutter of the youngster’s heart began to slow as Pippin relaxed.
“Everyone is fine, Pippin,” confirmed Aragorn, tilting the little hobbit’s head up so that the sun reflected in the blank pupils. “We did not decide to take a winter swim in a lovely subterranean river. Can you blink your eyes for me?”
Pippin laughed and obliged, then gasped as his bruises pulled over the sore ribs. Aragorn had already unwound the bandage wrapped around the curly head and was examining the ugly gash above the hobbit’s ear. Pippin winced and pulled away, and Merry caught his head and gently rested it against his breast, cradling his little cousin like he would never let him go again. Pippin snuggled against him, safe at last, and let Aragorn look at his injury.
“What is the matter with him, Aragorn?” Frodo’s eyes were huge and the stark whiteness of his face momentarily diverted the Ranger from his patient.
“Frodo, put your head between your knees or you will pass out.” Frodo glanced at him blankly. “Legolas!” snapped the Ranger, impatience and worry in his tone.
Before the Elf could intervene, Sam’s even voice penetrated Frodo’s daze. “Mr. Frodo, sir, you got ‘ta do what Strider says,” Sam interjected. Sam pushed on his shoulders and Frodo blinked and leaned forward, but his gaze never wavered from his young cousin’s face. Sam stood behind him, resting a bleeding hand on his shoulder, watching Aragorn’s every move.
Aragorn noted that Pippin’s pupils contracted and he averted the little hobbit’s face from the westering sun. Light was reaching the eyes, then. With gentle hands, he pressed on the skull just under the swelling, searching for a sign of fracture. “Ow,” complained Pippin, burrowing against Merry, taking comfort in his cousin’s murmured repetitions of, “Hush, love. Quiet now, my lad.”
Vaguely Aragorn registered that Legolas was no longer at his side. Looking up, he saw the Elf a short distance off, and with him stood another Elf, with a horse behind him, watching them with forward-pricked ears, its head raised to catch their scent. Seeing his eyes upon them, they came forward. “Granlion,” murmured Aragorn in greeting. “I had forgotten that you and Brendion would be patrolling this area.”
“Most fortunate for this little one that we were,” returned the newcomer with a smile for the staring hobbits. “You are Pippin’s kin, I assume?”
Frodo rose to his feet and bowed, clutching at Sam’s arm for support. “Frodo Baggins, sir, at your service and your family’s.” He swayed slightly and Sam steadied him. “I owe you … more than you can possibly imagine. Thank you for saving the life of my cousin.” Sam bowed after Frodo had finished, grey eyes brilliant, and the Elf smiled at them both. Merry could find no words to say to Pippin’s rescuer but his heart was reflected in his face and his gratitude shone in his tearing eyes. Granlion acknowledged his silent thanks with a long hand laid for a moment on Merry’s head. Then his eyes returned to Frodo and he returned the hobbit’s bow.
The Elf laughed, his clear eyes sparkling. “He had already saved it himself, Master Baggins. I am Granlion, a scout of Imladris. Pippin had crawled from the river onto a rock and was clinging like a limpet when we found him. Brendion and I merely warmed him and treated his hurts. I was riding back with him when you came upon us.” He turned to Aragorn and said, “Brendion has gone on to complete our rounds. I had hoped to arrive home before you, and spare you … as much distress as possible.”
Aragorn nodded shortly, listening as his sensitive hands traced the outline of Pippin’s head and gently turned his head on his neck, feeling the play of bones and tendons with the movement. He could find no obvious fracture, and no injury beyond the gash and much swelling and bruising. The hobbit’s small size and light weight would account for some of the lack of serious injury, but most was simply luck. Legolas most probably would have drowned had he gone into the icy water. He pressed farther down Pippin’s spine, ignoring the involuntary gasps as bruises pulled. Merry hugged Pippin to him tighter and the Man had to push aside his hands to check the tender ribs. Aragorn briefly examined Pippin's bandaged hands, satisfied with the work there.
“He could not see when you found him, Granlion?” Aragorn’s hands returned to Pippin’s face, and the tweenager felt them trace his eyesockets, warm and smooth.
“No,” murmured Granlion, and Pippin again felt the pain-easing caress across his brow and cheeks as the Elf stroked his face.
“I could see a little,” volunteered Pippin. “I thought it was night … very misty … then I went to sleep, and…” he faltered and Merry hugged him tighter, looking over Pippin’s head at the others with desperation in his blue eyes. Pippin took another breath. “And when I woke up, I couldn’t see at all.”
“I see,” said Aragorn neutrally. “And did your eyes hurt? Your head?”
“No,” murmured Pippin thoughtfully. “I mean, yes, after I warmed up enough to feel it. My head ached dreadfully. And my hands hurt terribly. Everything is better now,” he said reassuringly to Merry, as if trying to spare his elder cousins more grief on his behalf.
“What is wrong, Aragorn?” asked Frodo. Aragorn noted that Sam had pushed him down again, and he blessed the little gardener’s common sense. Frodo still looked like he was about to keel over at any moment.
“I do not know exactly, Frodo. It might be only pressure on the nerves that supply the eyes with sight – if so, Pippin's sight will gradually return as the swelling goes down. Elrond will know better. Pippin, are you strong enough to move on, or do you need to rest awhile?” As he was speaking, he was re-winding the makeshift bandage, tucking it securely around the tweenager’s head. Pippin grimaced.
“I… I didn’t feel very well when I was riding with Granlion,” he admitted slowly. “I felt like I didn’t know which was up, or down, and the darkness made me feel as though I was spinning all around. I think I am better now.” Pippin felt leather-clad arms pry him away from Merry and gather him up, blanket and all. He tried to wrap his arms around Aragorn’s neck and whacked him on the nose. “Sorry.”
“That’s all right, Pippin.” The young hobbit could hear the smile in the Ranger’s voice, and he relaxed a little more. “I am going to carry you, and Granlion will lead my horse. That way, you will rest horizontally in my arms and that should keep you from feeling ill.”
“Your horse?” asked Pippin. “I thought I heard horses! I was afraid it might be…” for a moment his voice faltered then continued more softly. “That it might be those wicked Men.” Aragorn hugged him gently, and reassured, Pippin nestled in the warm arms. “Where did you get horses? How many horses?” The flow of questions was interrupted by a yawn. “How … how did you…” another yawn and Pippin was asleep.
“Has he slept a great deal?” Aragorn asked of Granlion. While Aragorn had been questioning Pippin, the Elf had retrieved the hobbit’s small sword, and now carefully sheathed it in Pippin’s scabbard. The Elf nodded in reply to the Ranger’s question, his eyes on his own mount, who had been greeting the small herd that had borne the walking party.
“Yes. He has been awake only a little while, to tell us who he was and have a bit of soup and let us treat his hurts, then he slept again and just woke up a short time ago. I think he must have lost a great deal of blood from that head wound before we found him. Is this sleeping a danger?”
“It might be.” Aragorn was aware of the other hobbits crowding around him, their hands on Pippin’s blanket-covered feet, just needing to touch him. With this small escort of hobbits pressing about him, Aragorn walked to the bay mare and extended the blanket-wrapped bundle to her. “This is our lost young one,” he said softly. “We have found him, thanks to you. Will you bear us to Imladris, that we may take him to Lord Elrond?”
The old mare extended her graceful neck and nosed the blanket. Pippin murmured in his sleep, sharp face creased with pain. She looked into the small face then up into the Man’s and nodded gracefully, a single up-and-down dip of her shapely head. “Thank you,” whispered Aragorn, and heard it echoed by other soft voices. Aragorn turned and placed Pippin in Legolas’ arms, then mounted and reached down to take the sleeping hobbit back. The old horse stood very still, then under Granlion’s guidance, began to walk as smoothly as the wind over grass, mindful that her rider needed his arms to carry the hurt little one.
Frodo now rode before the Imladris scout, and riding behind them with Merry and Sam, Legolas could hear the Ring-bearer murmuring questions about Pippin and his fellow Elf answering him. Aragorn rode silently between the other horses, eyes distant with worry but his arms were ever steady around the slumbering tweenager.
They rode until true darkness fell, then Granlion turned around in the saddle and asked, without raising his voice, if they should camp for the night. They had stopped only once, to trade off horses. Now Legolas rode the black with the star on his forehead, and Aragorn a silver-grey mare. The bay leader walked beside them, stiff but unwilling to concede her place to weariness and age. All of the hobbits were sleeping in the saddle, heads lolling on their shoulders with weariness. Aragorn looked at them, warring needs on his face as he pitted their exhaustion against the severity of Pippin’s injury.
Aware that they had stopped moving, Frodo dragged himself back to full wakefulness and shook his head to clear it. He looked up at Granlion then twisted before him to peer through the murky darkness at Aragorn. “Are we there yet? How is Pip?”
“He still sleeps,” the Ranger whispered in reply. “And we are hours yet from home. All of us are weary and in need of rest. Yet I leave it to you, Frodo, for you are eldest of your kin. Do we camp or do we continue?”
The hobbit was silent for a moment, his eyes sorrowful as he looked at Merry and Sam. Merry had slumped forward before Legolas, sound asleep, laying with his face crushed into the black’s neck, his arms dangling limply. Sam too slept, his arms entwined in the Elf’s belt, effectively securing him in his seat like a sack of grain tied to the saddle. Frodo smiled tiredly at the sight and shifted, trying to ease his aching rear and legs. “Let us continue on,” he said softly, “if Granlion and our good mounts agree. Please … I want to get him to Elrond as quickly as possible.”
Aragorn nodded. “I think that is the wisest course. What say you, friends?”
Elven and equine nods answered him. “Very well. We go on.” He pressed the silver mare with his legs and she moved into a walk. “At this pace, we should arrive at the House before dawn.”
* * * * *
Elrond Halfelven stood on the balcony of his suite, the disquiet in his heart prompting him to seek this peaceful place in the pre-dawn morning. A slight breeze lifted his unbound hair and stirred the dark tendrils over his face. The world was still the soft lavender color that shades the air before the sun rises, and the first bird calls were sounding, a faint concert of pipes and woodwinds and the little trilling songs that sounded like flutes and piccolos.
‘They will be returning soon,’ the Elf-lord thought. ‘I have done as much as I can. I hope it is enough…’ He rested his long hands on the stone railing and leaned forward, his attention drawn to the southern road into his home. Keen elven eyes focused on the distant dots. ‘No, too many, and mounted. But … surely that is Estel? I know his seat – and Granlion? With Frodo mounted before him? Estel also rides with someone before him… but Granlion leads the horse, for Aragorn is carrying…’ Then in a sweep of heavy robes, the Elf-lord was striding through his quarters, calling urgently for the heating of water and the assemblage of his medicines and instruments.
* TBC *
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.