He darted out of the tent and squinted upward. Yes, there were the three Great Eagles flapping slowly towards the camp with Gandalf shining in his white robes on the back of the leader - and surely they were carrying something in their great talons, two somethings - or some ones!
They landed in the open space at the center of the camp, laying their burdens gently upon the ground. It was Frodo and Sam and they looked just terrible; bloody and bruised, their faces grey beneath the dirt that covered them.... And they didn’t seem to be breathing.
“Are they alive?” Pippin pleaded, “Are they alive?”
“Yes, my lad, they’re alive.” Gandalf answered, putting one arm around him and the other around Merry. “Alive but sorely wounded.”
Aragorn was on his knees, carefully examining the two small bodies. “They are far gone, but I will do what I can.” he said and gathered Frodo up in his arms. Legolas picked up Sam and they carried them into the King’s tent to lay them side by side on the big bed, the rest of the Company of the Ring following.
“Pippin, I need hot water.” Aragorn ordered and his squire hurried to put a kettle on over the brazier. While it heated Aragorn and Gandalf gently stripped off the injured Hobbits’ ragged clothes and washed away the grime of Mordor.
Peering anxiously over their shoulders Pippin saw Frodo’s ring finger had been cut or torn away. “His hand, what happened to his poor hand?”
“I don’t know.” Strider answered. “Get the athelas Pippin, they are in the green pouch in the small chest.”
By the time he’d found them and gotten back to the bedside the water had boiled and Merry was pouring it into the big golden basin. “Are these enough?” Pippin asked holding out a handful of the long, glossy green leaves.
“More than enough.” Aragorn smiled. He took three, breathed on them, then bruised them and cast them into the hot water.
The wonderful, heady athelas scent filled the tent soothing Pippin’s fearful heart. Old Strider had saved Faramir and Merry, surely he could save Frodo and Sam too. Everything was going to be all right - better than all right with Sauron gone forever and all the Westlands free - it had to be!
Gently Aragorn laved both Hobbits with the athelas water, giving special attention to the deep and bloody line carved round Frodo’s neck and to his wounded hand. Then he took the Ringbearer’s face between his hands and softly called his name; “Frodo, Frodo return to us. You have fulfilled your quest and the Shadow has passed away. Come back, Frodo and see the victory you have wrought.”
Pippin, tensely watching his cousin’s grey face, saw no change at all. He looked at Aragorn. The King’s eyes were hooded, almost closed, but his lips moved silently forming Frodo’s name over and over again. Pippin glanced around at the others for reassurance and found none. Gandalf looked grave, Gimli and Legolas deeply worried, and Merry - poor Merry - looked as scared as himself.
Then Frodo gave a sort of a gasp, a long inhalation followed by a deep sigh. For an instant Pippin was afraid it was the end, then he saw his cousin’s chest rise in a second breath, and a third, and gave a gasp - half sob - of his own. Color came back into Frodo’s face, flushing cheeks and lips, and he breathed deeply and regularly as if fast asleep.
Aragorn rose and moved around the bed to kneel at Sam’s side. Once again he cupped a Hobbit’s small head between his hands and softly called him by name: “Sam, Samwise, faithfully you have followed your master to the brink of death, now follow him back to the light. Samwise, Frodo lives and needs you, come back to him. Come back.”
And he did come back after Aragorn had called for almost a minute. Round cheeks, not quite so round as they’d once been, flushed with life and Sam gave a great sigh, just as Frodo had, and half turned on his side - one hand reaching out to his master.
“You did it, you did it, Strider!” Pippin breathed. The King smiled faintly but his face was drawn and as deathly pale as Frodo and Sam’s had been moments before. “Are you all right?” Pippin demanded, voice sharp with concern.
Aragorn nodded. “I am but weary. They had gone very far, farther than I have ever been.”
“You look a bit worse than ‘weary’ to me.” Merry said frowning.
“Right.” Pippin agreed. “Merry is there any water left in that kettle?”
“A bit, enough for a good mug of tea I’d say.” his cousin answered.
“Mulled wine -” Legolas began, only to be firmly interrupted.
“No. Wine’s all very well but tea is what we need now.” Pippin said authoritatively. “Luckily I have some in my pack. Strider you sit down and put your feet up, I’ll have a cup for you in a minute.”
A nice strong cup of tea bucked Strider right up, just as Pippin had know it would. He looked quite like himself again once he’d finished it, but all the companions agreed he must take a little rest. Overborne Aragorn reluctantly submitted and settled himself on the narrow cot where Pippin usually slept.
Legolas and Gimli stationed themselves outside the tent flap to hold all comers at bay while Gandalf and the two Hobbits busied themselves with finding beds and bedding for Frodo and Sam and setting up the two cots in the wizard’s tent where he could keep an eye on them.
“They are likely to sleep a very long time.” Gandalf cautioned Merry and Pippin. “That is quite normal and nothing to worry about but we must get some food into them - broth and the like - they are dangerously weak.”
“But how can we if they’re asleep?” Pippin wondered worriedly.
“Just spoon it into them, they’ll swallow it asleep or no.” Merry answered. “We had to do that for Uncle Merimac after that branch fell on his head in the Old Forest. He was out for the longest time and we were afraid we were going to lose him - but old Malkin pulled him through.”
After the Tower and the Gates had fallen the Orcs and Trolls had all run away as fast as their feet would carry them - and most of the Men too. But some had gone on fighting until killed and others had surrendered and sued for mercy. These last made it clear they were as glad as the Westerners that Sauron was gone and that they had served him unwillingly out of fear. Pippin felt sorry for them, and so did Strider. He’d accepted their parole and ordered their hurts tended. Many of the Gondorim grumbled that this was over lenient, even dangerous, but of course they obeyed the King.
The No-Man’s Lands were altogether different without Sauron‘s malice brooding over them; just barrens, unpleasant but no longer horrible. Nobody’d felt the least qualm about setting up camp practically on the battlefield.
“Still it will be well to keep careful watch,” Beregond commented to Pippin as he helped the Man raise the tent he shared with four Rangers, “some of these fugitives may become bold again once they have night to cover them.”
“Maybe, but the way they were running most must be leagues away by now.”
The Man laughed. “Very likely. Still, better to take unnecessary care than not enough.”
“Oh I agree.” Pippin said fervently. “I’m done with being foolish and reckless!”
“I have never known you to be either, Peregrin.” said Beregond.
“That’s because you haven’t known me for very long.” said Pippin.
He was in the camp kitchen, stirring up some chicken broth for Frodo and Sam, when one of Lord Elrond’s sons poked his head into the tent and said, “Ah - there you are, Peregrin. Aragorn wants you.”
Pippin looked at him in alarm. “Is it Frodo and Sam?”
“Oh no, something quite different.” the Half-Elf assured him. “You might want to take off the apron.”
“Oh - yes of course.” Pippin unwrapped the oversized covering, put back on his mail tunic and surcoat and followed whichever twin it was back to the King’s tent.
Aragorn was standing in front of it, brushed and dressed in his royal best with the Elendilmir on his brow and Gandalf on one side and King Eomer on the other with all the Captains and what seemed like half the army crowded round. Pippin’s step slowed uncertainly. What was up?
Elladan or Elrohir gave him a gentle shove between the shoulder blades and he advanced uncertainly, with every eye upon him, across the open space to Aragorn. “Err - you wanted me, Str - my Lord?”
The King’s face was solemn but his eyes held a twinkle. “Give me your sword.”
Now thoroughly bewildered Pippin drew his blade and handed it hilt first to Strider, glancing aside at Merry for some clue as to what was going on. His cousin was beaming so hard his face was like to burst but that didn’t tell Pippin much.
“Kneel Peregrin son of Paladin of the Shire of the Halflings.” said Aragorn, and continued as Pippin obeyed: “Let all Men know that this Hobbit saved the life of his King on the field of battle, slaying a great Hill Troll with a single blow.” then he reversed the sword and offered the hilt to Pippin. “Take back your sword and rise, Sir Peregrin Troll-Bane, Knight of Gondor.”
Pippin took the blade automatically but, being all amazed, quite forgot to get up. “Oh my,” was all he could say, “oh my.” then: “Whatever will Dad and Mum say?”
THE END (continued in ‘The Field of Cormallen’)
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.