1. Scarlet Leaves
By Ithiliel Silverquill
The promise of winter hung in the afternoon air.
Pippin shivered as he adjusted the scarf around his neck. The cold breeze tugged at his curly brown hair. Normally he would have just gone inside, to where surely he could find a warm mug of something warm to take away the chill, but for some reason he could not convince himself to leave the front gate.
He was waiting for something. He was not sure what he was waiting for, exactly, but he was sure that it was something important.
Life had changed so much since the Quest had ended. He had gone from being Master Peregrin Took, Knight of Gondor, to simply Pip Took again. He still lived with his parents, since he had yet to find a suitable home of his own. Merry had his own house and was now well on his way to becoming the most important Brandybuck in Buckland. Sam had married Rosie Cotton and was now starting a family of his own. And then there was Frodo.
Frodo had departed over Sea with the Elves in just September, along with Bilbo. True, they were only two hobbits out of hundreds, but the Shire just seemed so much emptier without them. Even at the Havens, Pippin had not realized just how awful it was of Frodo to leave. Sam had said something about an old wound, and the fact that Frodo would be happy with the Elves, but Pippin couldn’t help but think that it was all very cruel. Frodo was a hobbit. He belonged with hobbits. That was just the way of things.
A faint rustling sound drew his attention. “Pardon me, Master Hobbit,” said a heavily accented voice.
Pippin turned around and stared at the voice’s owner. It was an Elf, vaguely familiar, with a black hooded cloak and startling blue eyes. Suddenly he recognized him. “Erestor!”
The Elf looked at him quizzically for a moment before breaking out into a calm but genuine smile of his own. “Ah, so we meet again, Pippin Took.”
“Won’t you come inside?” asked Pippin, smiling as the Elf dismounted and gave a polite bow of greeting.
Erestor eyed the round door with a bemused smile.
Pippin suddenly understood. In Rivendell, hobbits were too small, but in Tuckborough, Elves would be too big. “On second thought, why don’t we sit in the garden?”
“Oh, I do not wish to intrude, I merely stopped to ask for directions to the nearest inn.”
“Inn?” repeated Pippin incredulously in spite of himself. Even if Erestor would manage to sit comfortably inside the inn, it was highly unlikely that hobbit ale would suit his Elvish tastes. “Do you need a place to stay, or just a drink?”
“Actually, I wondered if the inns here in the Shire might serve good tea,” answered Erestor. “I was told once that hobbits enjoy afternoon tea, and since I do not have the materials to make tea for myself, I thought that since I was nearby, I might find an inn where I could acquire a cup of good mint tea.”
Pippin’s mouth fell open. It was one thing for Erestor to share a pot of tea with him in Rivendell, but it was quite another thing for the regal Elven counsellor to come to the Shire, to Pippin’s very doorstep, for the sole purpose of a cup of afternoon tea!
“Well,” began Pippin hesitantly, “the nearest inn is the Green Dragon, but you’d be hard put to find a good cup of mint tea there. Most hobbits just have tea at home. Unless you want a mug of ale, I wouldn’t recommend the Green Dragon for you.”
Erestor frowned. “I see.”
“But I was just about to have some tea myself, and you’re welcome to have it with me,” said Pippin earnestly.
Erestor looked startled. “Oh, I do not wish to intrude…”
Pippin grinned and opened the garden gate with a flourish. “Nonsense. You’re not intruding; I’m inviting you. It would be wonderful. Like in Rivendell.”
A faint shadow flickered across the fine Elvish features at the mention of the Last Homely House. But just as quickly, Erestor brightened. “Very well, Master Peregrin,” he said in a formal voice, bowing with a glint in his blue eyes. He cast back the hood of his black cloak. “It would be an honor.”
Luckily for Pippin, his mother and father were not at home, so he could bring the tea outside and avoid questions completely. The back garden faced the woods—apparently the direction from which Erestor had come—so no busybodies would be a bother. It was simply the Elf, the hobbit, and a small afternoon tea.
“I looked for you when I saw Lord Elrond depart,” said Pippin once both of them were comfortably settled among the shrubberies and fragrant herbs. “I wondered why you weren’t there.”
Erestor seemed surprised that he had been missed. “I had a bit of business to attend to in Rivendell,” he answered. “Since Lord Elrond left for Eressëa, the lordship of Rivendell passed to his two sons, Elladan and Elrohir. I stayed for a few weeks to help organize the adjustment. Lord Glorfindel will remain with them until they depart—if they decide to depart, that is.”
“You’re leaving, then?” asked Pippin, pausing with dismay in the middle of reaching for a biscuit.
“In a week’s time. I received a letter from Lord Círdan informing me that he had readied a ship for a group of his people at the Havens, and that I was welcome to join them if I wished to sail.” He fingered the edge of his tankard—Pippin owned no teacups of adequate size, unfortunately—and then gave a vacant, sad smile, as if at some bittersweet memory. “Glorfindel convinced me to leave, and so I made ready and set out. I have kept to the woods, mostly, so the journey has been uneventful.”
“Aren’t the woods lovely this time of year?” asked Pippin, gesturing to the forest in its glory of gold and scarlet.
“Lovely, perhaps. But so full of death.” As if to prove his point, a crimson leaf flew overhead, a long crack marring what was once a living green leaf. Erestor caught it neatly between his finger and thumb. “The leaves are turning in Rivendell as well. Some see it as beautiful, but others of us only see the naked trees preparing for the cold grasp of winter.”
Pippin watched as the wind picked up a few leaves on the garden path, and the bright leaves crackled and swirled as they took to the air in a flash of color. “I think the best tree is the one at Bag End, though. The Lady’s tree, that she gave to Sam. It turns gold without the leaves falling, and then they only fall when the new ones sprout.”
Erestor looked from the leaf to Pippin. “There is a mallorn in the Shire?”
“Lady Galadriel gave it to Sam.” He smiled as he thought of the tree, and its giver, and the noble hobbit that tended it. “Some folk call it strange, since it doesn’t drop its leaves at the same time as the other trees, but Sam says it’s just like the Elves. They don’t die. They just make room once they know that everything will be all right once they leave.”
Erestor turned over the scarlet leaf in his hands, a thoughtful look on his face. “I suppose it is all a matter of perspective. Some see death, while others see life to come. Some see the dead leaves on the ground, while others see the new green leaves ready to greet the spring.”
Pippin swallowed, remembering the smile on Frodo’s face as he stepped onto the ship bound for the Elves’ home. Frodo would never come back. Neither, he realized, would Erestor. “I wish you didn’t have to go, though,” he said sincerely. “The world would be a hard place without Elves.”
“We are not all leaving,” said Erestor, in a slow tone that indicated that he had yet to decide whether or not it was a good thing. “The Wood-elves in Eryn Lasgalen—Thranduil’s people—are not leaving; they love the land too much. Lord Celeborn has a colony of Lórien’s Elves in the southern part of that forest as well. And you still have Glorfindel.” He sighed, a soft sound barely perceptible above the autumn wind. “This is a world of Men now. The Elves must pass away, or fade. Just as the leaves must fall.”
“To make ready for another spring,” said Pippin sadly. “But I suppose that the Elves will be happy in the West.”
There was a short silence, in which Erestor looked thoughtful and less sober, and Pippin stared sadly into his empty cup. All good things had to come to an end.
Erestor stood. “This has been wonderful, Pippin, but the road to the Grey Havens is long, and I do not wish to keep Lord Círdan waiting.” He bent to one knee so that he was eye-to-eye with Pippin. “I thank you for your hospitality and pray that the Valar will keep you safe in all that you do.”
Pippin sighed. Erestor was leaving, for good, and Pippin knew that they would never see one another again. Even though he had only a casual acquaintance with the Elf, the thought still hurt. “Have a good trip, and tell Frodo and Bilbo that we miss them.”
Erestor gave him a warm smile. “Thank you for your concern. I will carry your message; you have my word.” Then he stood. “That reminds me; I was told to bring you something.”
Pippin watched with undisguised curiosity as Erestor reached into his cloak, fished through the pockets, and then produced a folded sheet of paper. “Meretheryn, the head cook at Rivendell, left this on the table when she departed for the Havens, along with a note instructing me to give it to you.”
Pippin took the sheet of paper and unfolded it, then smiled and laughed aloud. “It’s a recipe for those biscuits you had in Rivendell,” he said, wonder in his voice. “She says that she would be glad if hobbits could enjoy an Elvish treat, even if the Elves were gone.”
Erestor chuckled. “The world is not left wholly desolate.”
Pippin slipped Meretheryn’s recipe into the pocket of his waistcoat. “I’ll be sure to make them for tea tomorrow. Thank you for bringing it, and give her my thanks too.”
The Elf gave a polite dip of his dark head. “Anything for one of the five brave Periannath.”
Pippin’s eyes widened. “Do they still call us that?”
“They do, and even so you will be called when your tale is told to the Ancient Ones.” He smiled. “And none shall ever doubt the courage of Master Peregrin Took, mighty among both Periannath and Edain—wise among fools.”
Pippin would have answered if he had not been grinning from one ear to the other.
Erestor stood and went to the edge of the pasture where his horse was grazing. He whistled once, just to get the animal’s attention, and immediately the horse came to where Erestor waited.
“Farewell, noble Master Took,” said Erestor as he mounted his horse in one graceful leap. “May the stars shine on your path.”
Pippin waved as the black-cloaked Elf rode away into the sheltering gold and scarlet of the forest.
He took a deep breath of the clean, fresh wind. It was still autumn, but already the air held the promise of a glorious spring to come.
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.