Elrond patted her nose in recognition but his eyes were on Aragorn’s strained face. He held up his long arms and Aragorn placed the blanket-wrapped bundle in them, turning back the corner to reveal Pippin’s pale face. Behind the Ranger, Granlion was lowering Frodo to the ground, where the hobbit stood for a moment, wavering, then toppled to the ground with a groan.
Elrond looked at him in fear but the Ring-bearer just shook his head and rolled over to sit up gingerly. “We are just saddle-sore, my lord – we have traveled without rest since yesterday afternoon. Please, will you look at Pippin?”
Quickly Aragorn explained what had happened, speaking over his shoulder, while Legolas handed him Merry then swiveled lithely in the saddle to release Sam. Merry collapsed and Sam joined him on the ground, his round face scrunched up in pain. Granlion clicked his tongue at the horses – his own and the small group of retired steeds who had given their aid and they came to stand with him quietly. The Elf-lord put aside his astonishment and sat down immediately on the courtyard step, cradling the bundle between his knees, skilled hands already examining the sleeping tweenager.
Merry dragged himself to his feet and duck-walked over to stand at his shoulder, followed a few moments later by a white-faced Frodo and Sam, who was visibly gritting his teeth. The Elf-lord examined Pippin’s head wound carefully, seeing more with his long, sensitive fingers than with his eyes. When he applied some pressure against the gash, Pippin whimpered and shifted but did not wake from his deep, exhausted sleep. “No bleeding since?” asked Elrond in a soft voice. “No blood in the ears?”
Aragorn crouched before him. “No, my lord. Only the bruises and his torn hands, and the swelling and …and blindness.”
‘These small folk are truly indestructible,’ Elrond thought to himself, feeling the back of Pippin’s head. ‘Such resilience bodes well for their journey, since they seem to insist on falling into trouble’. A shadow fell over him, interfering with the slanting light from the sun, and Elrond looked up into Gandalf’s frightened eyes. “He sleeps,” murmured the Elf-lord by way of reassurance. “Let us all go inside where we may examine him further.” A wave of his hand reassured those waiting and they stepped back, vastly relieved that the bandages and medicines they carried would not be immediately required.
Gandalf placed a hand under Elrond’s arm but the Elf-lord rose easily, Pippin’s small weight in his arms almost negligible. Pippin yawned as Elrond rose and his eyelashes fluttered. He sniffed deeply then his sharp face blossomed into a smile. “Gandalf! Gandalf!” he cried, holding out his arms.
The old wizard reached over and Elrond placed the hobbit in his arms. Pippin burrowed into the scratchy beard and pressed his face against the rough hair, inhaling deeply. Then he pulled back and looked up to where he guessed Gandalf’s face would be. “Thank you for my firework, Gandalf,” he said clearly. “I loved it ever so much. They were all wonderful, but mine was the best!” With that he wrapped his arms as far as they would go around the wizard and hugged him.
Gandalf’s face was a wonder. Tears stood in the wizard’s eyes for a moment then he mastered himself. “You are most welcome, Pippin. I thought you might enjoy having them given to you.” Merry, from almost under Gandalf’s feet, could not suppress a giggle at the old wizard’s reference to Bilbo’s infamous last Birthday Party. Pippin caught it too; he laughed aloud in delight then yawned again and nestled happily into the warm comfort of the great grey beard.
“Let us take him to his room,” suggested Elrond. “I have sent for Bilbo; he should meet us there. Do any of you others need attention … other than a cold soaking and bottles of liniment?” At the shaking of curly heads, Elrond swept up the stairs with Gandalf behind him. Legolas and Aragorn broke off their explanations to the Elves crowding about them to follow. Pippin raised himself up in the wizard's arms, twisting around to assure himself of Merry’s nearness by reaching out a hand that Merry caught and kept tight in his own. All the while Pippin was chattering at Gandalf, so involved in recounting his adventure that the wizard had to tighten his hold to avoid dropping him, eliciting a reproachful squawk.
The other hobbits struggled after but Frodo paused at the bottom stair, Pippin’s excited voice interspersed by Gandalf’s gravel-voiced, “Indeed?” fading as they entered the House. He turned at the bottom stair and made his way painfully over to the bay mare. He held up his hands and she lowered her greying head and lipped his fingers.
“Thank you,” whispered the Ring-bearer. “You and all your kin.” A moment later he felt a slender hand on his shoulder and Granlion repeated his thanks. Frodo looked up at the tall Elf. “Is there anything we can do for them, Granlion? In way of showing our gratitude?”
“I believe the stable master would be overjoyed to see these ones again, Frodo. He bred and raised each of them, you know.” He turned to the old mare. “Lady, would you and yours guest with us for a time? Winter is coming and the stables are warm and filled with the finest hay and oats and sweet grass.”
Whether the wise old horse understood every word or just the general gist of the invitation, it seemed to the hobbit and Elf that she did understand. The soft brown eyes looked at her small herd then slowly, she bowed her head regally in acceptance. Granlion laughed, a clear silvery peal of joy. “Good! Allow me to escort you, my lady. Frodo, can you make it up the stairs by yourself?”
Frodo smiled. “I fear I owe Merry an apology for teasing him about being saddle-sore. Yes, Granlion, I can make it on my own. When your partner returns, would both of you please come to see me? Perhaps by then I will have thought of a way to thank you both for saving Pippin’s life.”
One hand on his horse’s reins and the other on the old mare’s neck, the Elf bowed. “It was our pleasure, Ring-bearer. And please, do not think you owe Brendion and myself a debt. What you have done – and have agreed to do – humbles me. I was one of the many here in Imladris who petitioned our lord for the honor of accompanying you on your Quest. As I cannot go with you, I pray you will accept my good wishes instead.”
“Thank you,” Frodo whispered. The Elf smiled at him then turned and led the two horses away. The mare’s small herd followed after, greying heads and tails raised proudly despite their weariness.
* * * * *
When Frodo at last neared his younger cousins’ quarters, he paused to lean for a moment against the wall outside the room, fighting to control his breath. He was exhausted, worry and apprehension mercifully dulling the pain of the abraded skin under his breeches. But that was not what caught his breath and demanded a moment of private thought. ‘Perhaps it is not too late to send Pippin home,’ he reflected. ‘To send both of them home. Lord Elrond would do it, if I begged him. He didn’t want Pippin to go in the first place’. But then what? Merry and Pippin's families would have to mount a guard over the lads to prevent them from trying to follow after the Fellowship. Would they ever forgive him if he sent them home? Would he forgive himself?
‘No,’ he thought. ‘No, it’s too late. Oh, Elbereth, keep them safe.’ He pulled himself upright, ignoring the silent shriek of abused muscles. Opening the door, he discovered Pippin sitting up in bed with Merry propped up against the headboard, holding him still (or at least in one place) with an arm across Pippin’s chest. Lord Elrond stood at his bedside, moving a lighted candle back and forth in front of the tweenager’s eyes. “No, Pippin,” the Elf-lord was saying patiently, “do not turn your face towards the heat. Keep your head still and try to focus on the candle flame. Do you see light?”
Aragorn and Legolas were absent but Gandalf sat at Pippin’s head, hands clasped around his staff, watching intently. Bilbo sat in one of the hobbit-sized chairs and seeing the door open, motioned Frodo inside. His old face wrinkled into a grin as Frodo complied, feet turned outward as far as possible. “You too, lad? Sam’s just having a wash and applying some ointment Elrond gave him. You’d best be next.”
Frodo leaned over and gave his uncle a quick kiss on the forehead. “Has Elrond said anything about Pippin yet?”
Bilbo caught Frodo’s shoulder and pulled him in for a hug. “Welcome home, my boy,” he murmured into Frodo’s ear. Then more loudly, “No, not yet. And our young cousin isn’t cooperating very well, either. Seems more interested in his stomach than anything else. As usual.”
Pippin’s head turned in their direction, drawing an exasperated sigh from Lord Elrond. “I haven’t eaten since yesterday,” he almost wailed. “Hullo, Frodo. Did you bring anything to eat?”
“I just got here, you silly Took,” replied his cousin. “And would you stop making things difficult for Lord Elrond? Do what he tells you.”
Pippin hunched down against Merry, a grumpy expression on his sharp face. “I’m hungry,” he complained. “And everyone tells me what to do. I … Food!”
“Nothing wrong with his nose,” observed Aragorn wryly as Sam hurried through the door behind him and held it open. The Ranger’s hands were clamped around a large tray, dishes clattering with his movement. “If there is one thing I have learned about hobbits, it is that you had best feed them before expecting any sort of cooperation or intelligent conversation.”
“Not that you’ll get either of those from Pippin,” muttered Merry under his breath, followed by “Ow!” as Pippin’s hearing proved as good as his sense of smell.
Merry rubbed his tender stomach and helped himself from the tray as his cousins and Sam devoured their meal. Bilbo watched them all benevolently, pressing a delicacy on one or another whenever they slowed. When Pippin finished, he sat back with a sigh and smiled. Then he twisted around and punched Merry hard in one arm.
“Ow!” Merry yelped. “What did you do that for?” Frodo and Sam stopped chewing and stared at them blankly.
“That was because you tried to throw yourself in the river after me, Merry,” Pippin said.
Merry stared at him in astonishment. “How did you know that?”
“I just knew,” Pippin replied. In a softer voice he added, “It’s the same thing I would have done if you had fallen in, you ridiculous Brandybuck.”
Merry laughed shakily and wiped his eyes. “Oh, Pip,” he said softly. “I am so proud of you for saving Legolas. You were so brave …but please, please dear heart, take more care. I couldn’t bear it if anything happened to you. I simply couldn’t.” In a rush of motion Pippin was in his arms, hugging him tightly. Merry looked up to see tears in Frodo’s eyes, and a suspicious wetness in Sam’s. He kissed the top of Pippin’s head. “Surely you’ve a bit more room, Pip. Have another few bites.” He guided Pippin’s hand back to his fork and speared another sausage.
While the famished hobbits ate (Merry and Frodo sitting with their chafed legs carefully apart), Elrond drew Aragorn and Gandalf off to the side. Bilbo’s sharp brown eyes followed them but he stayed with others, hearing their accounts of the walking party. “And then,” Pippin was saying, waving a buttered roll about dangerously, “I stroked for the side of the river, because you taught me that, Merry – that the water moves more slowly on the sides –“ He could not see Merry’s eyes fill with tears again but Frodo did and leaned forward to press his shoulder.
“What is it, Elrond?” asked Gandalf, his rough voice no louder than a whisper. Silent beside the wizard, Aragorn wondered if a casual observer could discern just how much Gandalf cared for that impertinent youngster. To anyone who knew the Istari as well as he did, Gandalf’s lined face proclaimed his trepidation.
“I believe Estel has the right of it; a pressing of the delicate nerves inside the eye due to swelling from the injury. I can detect no damage to the eyes themselves. If we can keep him quiet –“ a lift of the high brows indicated doubt of that “- then he should begin to recover his sight in a day or two as the swelling decreases.”
Pippin broke off when a knock sounded at the door. Aragorn went to it quickly, before Sam could put down his plate and struggle to his feet. Low voices wove around the Ranger’s, then, “Boromir!” crowed Pippin happily. “Gimli! Legolas!”
“Or,” said Elrond, “perhaps we can limit the number of people who wish to see him for a few days -” Aragorn swung the door wider to admit Granlion, with Ralolith and Lucilena in anxious tow, and behind them, Elrond’s sons and his daughter looked in with worried expressions. “Or,” the Elf-lord continued in resignation, as more people crowded behind his children, “we can just announce a party and hope he will eventually wear himself out.”
* * * * *
“I had not realized that the hobbits had made quite so many friends,” remarked Elrond some hours later. Pippin was sleeping at last, sharing the bed with Merry. Frodo and Sam had refused to leave the room and commandeered the empty one. All were soundly asleep, their hurts washed and treated, lost in utter exhaustion.
The Elf-lord and the wizard sat back at their ease, savoring the silence. Bilbo had toddled off to his room some time ago, grinning at what he called, “the excesses of youth.” Gandalf puffed quietly at his pipe, watching as the blue smoke curled into the mid-morning air. “They are a gregarious folk, hobbits. Much interwoven in their families and relationships,” the wizard mused.
“Seeing Bilbo with them has made me admire my old friend all the more,” the Elf-lord returned. “He is quite different around them – more light-hearted and teasing. The love between them all is an amazing thing. I never quite appreciated what it must have taken for Bilbo to leave his kin and kind and all that he knew to seek solitude here. I think he will miss them very much when they leave.” Elrond paused, dark eyes idly watching the smoke drift away. “I think that perhaps I will miss them very much, also.”
“Is all in readiness?” asked Gandalf.
“Yes. The Fellowship must be ready to depart in a week’s time. We will let them rest and young Pippin recover for two or three days, then follow your suggestion. When that is over, it will be time for you to set out.”
“Don’t tell them yet,” begged the wizard.
Elrond looked at his old friend in surprise. “But they know it must be soon. Should not they have more time to ready themselves?”
Gandalf shook his grey head. “No. Frodo will worry himself into a state, you see. Sam will worry that Frodo worries. Merry and Pippin will be unhappy because Frodo and Sam are worried. No,” he withdrew the pipe and pursed his lips, forming a great smoke-ring, “it is better to let them live in the present, as hobbits do. There will be enough time for worry and fear once we are on our way.”
After a moment, the Elf-lord nodded, his expression somber. “I believe you have the right of it.” His gaze traveled to the four small sleeping forms. “Come, old friend. Let us leave them to their rest.” Silently Gandalf and Elrond rose, and moved past the sleeping hobbits.
Gandalf hesitated as he passed Frodo, and laid a gentle hand on the dark head. Frodo sighed at the affectionate touch but did not wake. “Sleep well, dear friend,” Gandalf whispered and together the wizard and the Elf-lord passed from the sun-lit room.
* 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.