When the King Came Back: 1. Chapter One

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1. Chapter One

Chapter One


Eglantine sat quietly on the bed in Pippin’s room. She ran her free hand across the bedspread smoothing it before turning her attention back to the stunning bracelet she clasped gently in her other hand. Raising it to her eyes she drank in its beauty and touched each of the four charms in turn. Her fingers lingered upon the tiny silver falcon that represented her son and she stroked it lovingly, almost reverently, as her eyes lost focus. Her thoughts turned unbidden back to that fateful day when they had discovered Pippin had gone missing along with his cousins.

She shivered in memory of the shock she had felt; shock that soon turned into alarm and from alarm to sheer terror as the days began to pass with no further word save the scribbled note from Merry that Saradoc had shared with them. Eglantine died a thousand deaths that first week, the waiting and the wondering almost too much for her heart to bear.

Her husband had despaired along beside her, but bore their loss more stoically. It wasn’t until much later that she’d learned of the visions he had experienced throughout the entire time Pippin was gone. Although it had continued to convince him that his son was alive, the vivid images had also frightened him witless. When he finally told her about what he’d seen she had collapsed in his arms and berated him soundly through her tears for not saying anything sooner. The stricken look on his face and his muttered explanations were enough to convince her that at those times the Sight had been more a curse than a gift.

And then, as if in answer to desperate prayers breathed into the dark on a nightly, sometimes hourly basis, she’d opened the door last evening and found Pippin standing on the threshold. Her shrieks of pure joy had brought the entire population of the huge smial, Tooks of every age and size, running.

Eglantine’s smile broadened, recalling the way Pippin had stood back looking down at her with that familiar cheeky grin and inquired what was for supper? The fact he was regarding her from a height greater than a year ago registered immediately, as it would in any mother’s mind, but for the moment she was too stunned to ask how it could be so. Quickly recovering from her shock, Eglantine had thrown her arms around his neck where he stood at the door and cried out her relief.

“Pippin! Oh, my! You’re home, you’re safe! Oh, where have you been for all this time, lad? And where is Merry? And Frodo? Oh my, why ever did you leave without a word to anyone? Where have you been all this time----?”

Pippin hugged her tightly and then gently untangled her arms from his neck and spoke urgently. “Mum, they’re back too, and safe. But where is Da? I don’t have time at the moment to answer all your questions.”

Just then, Paladin arrived with all of Pippin’s sisters, each one asking questions at the same time. Father and son’s eyes met and for a moment neither of them moved. Pippin watched the odd mixture of emotions play across his father’s face and held his breath, his worry turning to delight when his father had at last enfolded him in his arms and welcomed him home.

Their reunion was short-lived and Pippin hastily explained what they had discovered in Bywater upon their arrival. “Da, I need Tooks, as many as we can gather, and fast! We need to leave as soon as possible. The ruffians have underestimated us but we’re going to change their minds, and soon. Merry is waiting for me to return with help.”

“What, leave? But you’ve only just arrived,” Eglantine protested.

The urgency in his son’s plea prompted Paladin to put aside his anger and his questions for the time being and he nodded his head in understanding. “We can likely have all the Took archers within the Smials themselves ready within the hour. We could get more from Tuckborough but it will take a bit longer.”

“There is no time. I must leave right away with all those who can accompany me.”
Eglantine listened to the two of them talk, their plans registering in her mind in a distant way. She hesitantly touched the strange clothing Pippin wore, tracing her fingers along the embroidered white tree on his breast. “What is this Pippin? And what’s this?” Eglantine pointed to the sword at his waist, raising an eyebrow in concern. “A sword!”

“I am a knight of Gondor now, and the king’s messenger. Mum, I’ll explain everything later,” Pippin reassured her as he turned back to his father. After they shared a few more quiet words Pippin sat down to a hasty meal while Paladin hurried to make the requested arrangements.

After giving his mother and sisters hurried kisses and goodbyes, and taking leave of his father, Pippin rode away at the head of the rally, leading the Tooks back to Bywater. Paladin watched him leave without saying a word, bemused at the sight. But Eglantine knew that when Pippin returned her husband would have a great deal to say.

Paladin was still very angry at Pippin for the manner in which he had left. The seemingly unconcerned departure without a word to any of them had festered in her husband’s heart alongside his worry. She also realized he’d relied on his anger in part to sustain him through his anguish and fear. Eglantine had actually held a painful breath for one agonizing moment when father and son’s eyes met for the first time. She had watched the colour drain from Paladin’s face as if he were seeing a ghost; a myriad of conflicting emotions had marched across his weary features as he searched helplessly for words. For a split second Eglantine was uncertain if her husband would hug their son or slap him soundly across the face. Finally with a groan that was half joy and half exasperation, he had folded his son into his strong arms and allowed the tears to flow unashamed.

~~~~~~

Two days later Pippin was again back and presenting his family with the gifts he had purchased in Minas Tirith, rebuffing all attempts to get him to rest first, even opting for a walk rather than a nap, to the dismay of his parents. The dark circles under his eyes were even more apparent than they were during his earlier brief appearance, and Eglantine fretted all the more when she noticed how pale and thin he had become.

The gifts had certainly been magnificent though, without a doubt. An elaborate gold pocket watch engraved with the Took family crest had summoned that same multitude of conflict on her husband’s face as when he had first laid eyes upon his son at the door. The lovely earrings Pippin had presented to his sisters represented the flowers or jewel they were named for and had brought tears to his sisters’ and his mother’s eyes.

But it had been her bracelet that took their breath away. An exquisite charm represented each of her four children. But the tiny peregrine falcon, it’s wings and talons outstretched in flight, had brought Eglantine to tears. She caressed the figure again relishing in her heart all that it represented to her. She pulled her thoughts back to the present when she heard her husband’s voice speak softly behind her.

“Eglantine?”

“Aye, Pad,” she answered without turning. Her free hand smoothed the bedspread again.

Paladin smiled at the item in her hand and reached out one finger to touch it gently as he laid his other hand on her shoulder and then gave a glance at the bed itself. “He needs a new bed.” He nodded at the footboard behind her and chuckled. “Obviously he’s too tall to fit in it now. And how in sweet Middle-earth that happened I’d still like to be knowing!”

Eglantine patted the hand that rested on her shoulder. “We’ll know soon enough my love. He’s going to be telling us everything soon.”

Paladin sighed and sat opposite her on the bed. He took her hands in his. “Yes indeed. I want to hear it all. I must hear it. I’ve waited so long.”

“We’ve waited,” she corrected him.

Paladin nodded once and stood to pace the room. “But I wonder if it will be good for you to hear the whole thing? It will not be an easy tale to listen to, of that I’m certain.”

“Or an easy one for our son to tell. Nevertheless, I will be hearing it and every other blessed detail and there’ll be naught stopping me from it. You hear?”

“Yes ma’am,” he sighed, a wry smile on his face. “Far be it for me to hinder a mother hearing whatever her son has to tell his family, in whole or in part.”

“Well, and it’ll be in whole I’ll wager, or I’ll be knowing why,” she declared, and then chuckled at her husband’s expression of amusement. “Oh Pad. It feels so good to laugh freely again with our boy home safe and sound.”
Paladin resumed his restless pacing abruptly and she looked up in alarm. “What is it?”

He paused in front of her and knelt, placing both hands on her shoulders. “My love. Our son was injured in battle, you know this already, yes?”

Eglantine nodded mutely, unsure if she wanted to hear more as she gazed into her husband’s green eyes, so like her son’s. “We know very little of it though. He’s only barely mentioned it in passing, and then only because he was obviously in pain.”

“That’s right. We still don’t know the full extent of his injuries. Such things are bound to leave scars, both physical and emotional, and it may be something that he will find difficult to discuss. I’m speaking of the manner in which he received his injuries. “’Tis not a pretty picture, of that I’m certain. It may hurt you a great deal to hear the tale of his wounding.”

“Aye,” she whispered. “I am aware of that, Pad. How grievous his hurt we know not, as of yet. But we will. And then we can help him heal. The important thing is he’s home and safe. As are dear Merry and Frodo.”

Paladin sighed heavily and stood, crossing to the window. He rested his elbows on the sill and gazed out over the green hills. Several moments passed before he spoke again, and his tone had grown irritable. “Where is he? He was supposed to come back in and take some rest before meeting with the family tonight.” Paladin pounded his fist down on the windowsill, his frustration with the situation all too evident. “Still doing just as he pleases, I see, and not giving any consideration to the fact that we’re standing here waiting for him.” Paladin glanced over his shoulder at his wife, his eyes sparkling. “Perhaps I should remind him he’s yet to come of age, and he still answers to us in spite of all his newfound independence!”

“Now Pad.”

“Don’t ‘Now Pad’ me Tina! He’s still my tweenaged son.”

“Yes, and you’re still his father. A father who’s upset over what his son did a year ago, and who’s waiting for an answer to all his questions. And you’ve a right to those answers, dear.” She rose and went to stand behind him, laying her hand on his shoulder. “But we have to give him his due respect. Like it or not, he isn’t the same lad who left here last year.”

“I do respect my son Tina, and from what little I know already we have a great deal to be proud of for what he’s accomplished. Why, look how he took charge of leading that complement of archers back to Bywater. Seeing him do that made my heart nearly burst open with gladness. I can’t think of a single action that lad’s taken in the past that’s made me feel quite the same way. Obviously he’s changed and how could he not?”

Eglantine turned a puzzled frown to her husband as she pulled him away from the window and forced him to look at her. “Then what? What is it that troubles you so?”

Paladin sighed. “I’ve not resolved my anger with his actions and I intend for him to answer to me for what he did.”

“Pad-”

“He nearly flat out killed both of us with grief!” Paladin whirled and shrugged out of her grasp. “A letter - a note! Was that too much to ask for? Merry left word for his father. Why didn’t Peregrin do the same?”

“Perhaps he thought Merry’s letter would be enough. Perhaps he ran out of time. I don’t know. But I do know that there’s most likely a good reason behind it and you can ask him.”

Paladin grunted disdainfully and leaned back against the windowsill, crossing his arms in front of him. He nodded. “Aye, and the reason is most likely that he simply couldn’t be troubled to take the time. ‘Twas likely more to do with his reckless nature than anything else, and well you know it. His actions were already way ahead of his thoughts, I’ll wager. Just like always. He hasn’t ever fostered much confidence in us as far as his ability to think things through, at least in the past, has he now? So, when it came down to it our son did exactly as he’s accustomed to doing. He didn’t think a whit about what he was doing! He simply followed his cousin, who was busy following their other cousin!”

For a moment Eglantine stared at him, speechless. When she finally found her voice she shot back at her husband resoundingly. “I think it’s a bit more complicated than that, Paladin Took! You do realize you’ve contradicted yourself, don’t you? Several times in fact. First you say you know he’s changed, and then you accuse him of still being the same youngster he was before he left. Then you say you’re proud of him, but you’re not acting like it because you think he’s still being irresponsible.” Eglantine planted her hands on her hips and looked her husband in the eye. “Which is it Pad? You can’t have it both ways and you’re not being reasonable!”

Paladin sighed again and rubbed a seemingly tired hand across the back of his neck. Eglantine’s expression softened and she put her arms around him, laying her head upon his chest. “That sighing is getting to be quite the habit with you,” she said softly, and felt him nod.

“I’m confused, Tina, and I don’t know exactly what to do about it. And I hate admitting it, even to you.”

Eglantine tightened her arms around him. “I know, dearest. ‘Tis a great deal for all of us to absorb, after all. And I’m certain Pippin is going through the same thing. Maybe that’s why he’s not back yet. Perhaps he’s thinking things through before our talk.” She pulled back and looked up at him, noting his weary face.

“Most likely he’s either lost track of the time or taken up chatting with someone. Never mind that his family’s at home waiting for him.” He still sounded angry, but there was also a touch of sadness in his voice.

“There’s bound to be many folks who are stopping him along the way wanting to hear the news from afar.” Eglantine chose to ignore his remark.

“I’m going out to look for him. The tale and the questions may well have to wait for the morrow. It’s vital that the boy get some sleep first. He looked dead on his feet earlier.” Paladin headed out the door leaving his wife to stare after him. She was finding it very difficult to keep up with his swiftly changing moods.

~~~~~~

Pippin trudged along the road, deep in his thoughts. He didn’t want to sleep. When he slept he let down his guard and the dreams came again, sometimes one after the other. One frightening aspect was that sometimes the dreams came while he was awake and he didn’t fully understand how this was so. He paused and turned his thoughts inward. The sounds and sights never strayed far from his mind. Fire. Crushing blackness, the stench of the troll. The satisfying, yet sickening, sound of tearing flesh as his sword penetrated its hide before the huge creature fell on him. A terrifying inability to breathe that seemed to last for an eternity. The clashing of swords and the screams of the wounded and the dying that still penetrated even his deepest resolve to ignore. All haunted his waking moments although he tried to pretend they didn’t. Pippin pressed both hands over his ears to drown out the clamor.

Sometimes he relived the rain of severed heads catapulting over the walls of the city. They were Gondor’s soldiers, returning from their fateful march. One of the heads, its mouth contorted in the silent agony of death, its eyes that saw no more had bounced off his armor and landed on his feet. He thought he’d blacked out momentarily from sheer emotional overload. He had never been clear about that.

At other times he revisited his and Merry’s captivity. The dreadful hurt from the whips of the Uruk-hai visited on his back and the feel of his own warm blood as it trickled from his wounds. The sound of wretched, cruel laughter, elicited by their cries that only served to spur the Orcs on. The sheer despair as they were alternately carried, dragged, and flogged to force them to run far beyond their endurance.

Remembering his captivity turned his thoughts to Boromir and the sight of him, his body riddled with arrows, yet fighting on against all hope. Pippin’s vision clouded. There were no other events from his long journey that wrenched at his heart quite like this memory. Their friend had saved their lives but they had been powerless to help him in return. Staring into the distance he again witnessed the big man falling to his knees, watched as the huge Uruk approached him and raised his bow, saw that he and Merry were helpless to stop the inevitable outcome as they were hauled away, screaming his name.

“Boromir,” he whispered and extended one hand toward the waking dream. And then the stark feeling of pain and fear overwhelmed him until he felt like shattering. Pippin again placed his hands over his ears until the sound of the Uruks’ taunting subsided at last, then took a ragged breath. Vile, stinking creatures. He could hardly bear to think of them, and whenever they invaded his dreams he became very angry at their unwelcome intrusion.

But the worst dreams came when he remembered gazing into the palantir. The feeling of utter filth and depravity snaking its way around his thoughts, crushing his reason, forcing itself upon him…the voice of the Dark Lord demanding information, and laughing hideously at him, mocking him as he tried to withdraw from the sheer power that invaded his soul. If Merry hadn’t wakened Gandalf and the others he doubted he would have survived. And yet it had been caused by his own foolishness, his need to know, to look, to see whatever sights had been forbidden him. The shame for his actions remained a constant companion.

Such self-indulgence was certainly nothing new to him and he realized this was part of the reason his father was so upset. Pippin frowned and kicked hard at some pebbles along the roadside as he muttered to himself. “And now I must prove him correct.” He sighed unhappily. “I’d best be leaving some parts of it out.” Again a twinge of guilt nudged him but this time it was because his father was right. He had done some foolish things indeed and the results had not been good. He remembered dropping the stone down the well in Moria and cringed inwardly. No, it was best to tell the tale selectively. Better for them too, he told himself. In spite of his resolve his conscience prodded him.

Pippin stopped and sank down next to a little tree on the side of the road. He considered the recounting of his disappearance that his father demanded. He had not yet been called upon to relate such detail to those who had not gone through it and he wasn’t certain where to start. His mother would insist on hearing everything. Although he didn’t want her to know the entire tale, he knew much of it was hopeless to avoid.

Pippin rose at last and, although his feet yearned to go in the opposite direction, he headed steadfastly back, determined to do what he must.

~~~~~~

Paladin met his son and fell into step beside him as Pippin neared home. He felt odd, looking up to speak to the boy, and his perception increased his irritation. The pair walked in silence for several minutes after an initial nod to one another.

“Where have you been?” Paladin asked at last. “You told us you would be back shortly.”

“I am back, Da. I’m right here, after all.” Pippin’s response sounded mild enough, but inside part of him started to seethe. He should be able to take a walk if he wanted to without having to explain himself like a child.

“I wasn’t asking you for a clever answer, lad. I’m asking why you took so long to return when you knew we were waiting for you.” Paladin struggled to keep his tone even. His temper flared irrationally and he felt the sudden urge to grab Pippin and shake him. He clenched both hands at his sides and finally settled for stuffing them into his pockets.

Pippin was silent for a few minutes while they continued walking. He glanced away, his brow furrowing. “I needed some time. That’s all,” he finally replied.

“I see.” Paladin rubbed his chin and frowned. The pair continued for a short distance in silence. “Time to think about how much you intend to tell us? Or perhaps time to go off chatting with others while you forget your family is eagerly awaiting your return? Your lack of respect for your mother and me is disturbing to say the least, Peregrin.”

“I’m quite ready to tell you what happened now. That is, if you’re ready to hear it,” Pippin snapped. “And I’m not lacking respect for my family or for you and Mum! I needed some time alone without everyone coming at me with questions, and that’s all there was to it.”

Paladin cast a sidelong glance at him. The hurt was apparent in Pippin’s tone despite his angry response and Paladin’s heart twisted just a bit at the sound of it. He cleared his throat during the uncomfortable pause, but instead of reacting to his son’s upset, he became angry himself. “Is that what we’ve been doing? Coming at you with too many questions? That’s odd because we’ve barely had a chance to see you yet. And for that matter, what did you expect? You’ve only been gone for a year, after all. A year during which we knew little to nothing about your well being, let alone whether or not you were alive or dead.”

Pippin shook his head. “Da, that’s not fair.”

“Oh? You think I’m being unfair, do you?” Paladin stopped in the middle of the road and placed his hands on his son’s shoulders. “What isn’t fair is the misery you put your family through, Peregrin Took! You left without saying a word and we worried ourselves sick about you every day for a solid year. And added to our suffering was the occupation of the Shire by all manner of ruffians. ‘Tis a wonder we were able to survive everything laid upon our doorstep because we were so debilitated from our worries over you! Most especially your poor mother and I don’t know how you could put her through such grief!”

Paladin’s voice rose along with his accusations, and he continued rebuking his son’s actions until Pippin was forced to hang his head in shame. “You must not have paid one speck of thought to what she would go through. Why, you didn’t even bother to leave us a note before you sneaked off.”

“I’m sorry,” Pippin whispered. “I never meant to hurt any of you. If you’d only let me explain.”

Paladin’s heart softened a little as he watched his son fight back the tears. “Aye,” he said gruffly and awkwardly placed an arm around Pippin’s shoulders. “You do need to explain. Then perhaps we can all start putting some of this behind us. I just want you to understand how much you hurt us with your actions.” He squeezed his son again before releasing him, and then looked him up and down thoughtfully. “Well now, but it’s growing very late. I think you could do with some sleep first.”

Pippin’s head shot up and he stared at his father in disbelief. “But, I thought you were anxious to hear what--”

“Your mother feels the same,” Paladin interrupted. “She’s worried about you, and she’s already been through enough. If knowing you’re getting some rest helps her to rest then that’s what you’re going to do.”

Pippin looked straight ahead as they strolled. He could feel his cheeks growing warm at his father’s admonishment. “I’d rather tell you at least part of what I have to say first.” Pippin knew it was useless to insist but couldn’t keep himself from trying. Once his father had made up his mind about something he hardly ever changed it.

Paladin stopped and pulled his son around to face him. He felt a nudge of the same ridiculous annoyance at the difference in their height but managed to ignore it. “You are dead on your feet lad, that much is obvious. There are dark circles underneath your eyes and you look like you’re about ready to topple over with weariness. And, you said you’ve been injured recently although you haven’t given us those details yet. So, I think it’s best if you lie down for a while before taking on such a lengthy and emotional task.”

“How can I tell you any details if you keep stopping me?” Pippin said, his annoyance with his father’s directive increasing. “I don’t understand your reasoning, Da!”

“And why do you keep contradicting me every time I speak?” Paladin shook his head in aggravation and dropped his hands, shoving them back into his pockets. “I want you to get some rest and we will talk more about this in the morning. Think about your mum. She hardly slept at all last night while you were gone, knowing what you set out to do.” Paladin started walking again.

Pippin’s mouth twitched in amusement in spite of his mood and he hurried to catch up with his father. “How do you know that?”

“What? Know what?”

“That Mum didn’t sleep well. That is, unless you didn’t either.”

Paladin released a snort of exasperation and waved his hands in the air. “And just how well do you think I’ve slept these last months, hmm? And especially last night knowing my only son was out fighting ruffians? I was up with the hobbits guarding our home, naturally and I-”

Pippin interrupted him. “Was it difficult to sleep, Da?”

“What?” Paladin stared at his son, dumbfounded. “I just said it was, Peregrin!”

“I find it difficult to sleep these days too.”

His father stared at him intently before shaking his head in defeat. “I think I’m talking in circles with you, lad.”

“Aye. I know the feeling.”

“Are you trying to tell me I’m not listening?” Paladin frowned.

Pippin nodded slowly. Paladin sighed and gazed off into the distance, fisted hands pressed firmly upon his hips. “This is not getting either of us anywhere. You will go to your room and rest regardless whether you are able to sleep. Tomorrow will be soon enough for us to talk. And then I do expect a full explanation of your actions.”

“But----”

“You will do as I say, now, without any further objection. You still answer to me boy, and you’d best remember it! Now, have I made myself clear, or do I need to say it again?”

Pippin’s protest froze on his tongue and he eyed his father incredulously. With effort he held back the bitter retort that sprang to mind and nodded stiffly. “Aye, it’s clear all right.” Pippin turned without another word and marched towards the front door of the smial.

Paladin watched him go, his insides twisting into a tight knot. Pippin limped slightly and Paladin wondered if he’d noticed that during Pippin’s earlier visit? He ran a tired hand over his face for the third time that evening and headed inside.

~~~~~~

Pippin paced the bedroom for what seemed the hundredth time. He couldn’t help feeling like a naughty child who’d been sent to his room. In fact, the more he thought about it the more it felt that way. He laughed to himself at the sheer irony of his situation. He’d just returned from a great war in which he’d played an integral role despite his youth, and his father was treating him like a child. Moreover, his father didn’t even seem willing to listen. He’d just up and sent him to his room, after all. Thank you very much but we’ll be talking about it in the morning. Have a nice sleep now!

Pippin snorted in irritation, his impatience increasing. He felt trapped now, as if he were being held prisoner, and the feeling made him very anxious. He thought of Merry, and wished he were here. Sighing heavily he plunked down on the bed and stared at his surroundings. His father had no idea how hard this was for him. He was back in familiar surroundings but it didn’t feel like home. He flopped backward on the bed and placed his hands behind his head. He wondered how things were going for Merry right now. Surely Uncle Saradoc and Aunt Esme were making him feel at home again. He was glad for Merry, but his own heart filled with a longing for peace that just wouldn’t come.

Half an hour of staring at the ceiling prompted him to rise and circle the room once more. He went to the window and stared off into the darkening sky, feeling a sudden stark yearning for the only place that had ever felt like home. The farm. Yes, that was home. He’d spent the best, most carefree years of his life there and he wanted to know that comfort again more than anything. Without hesitation, Pippin opened the window and climbed out, taking care to favor his injured knee. He headed for the pony stables without a backward glance.

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.

Story Information

Author: Cathleen E'Shaughnessy

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Post-Ring War

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 06/05/08

Original Post: 08/23/07

Go to When the King Came Back overview

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