3. Chapter Three
Half an hour later Paladin emerged back into the sunlight, frowning. He had known Pippin had fled here even before spotting Stars, but his search of the barn and the house had turned up no sign of him. He felt a wave of overwhelming frustration as he stood gazing about the yard deep in thought. “Where else could you be, boy?” Slapping a fist into his palm with sudden enlightenment he set off for one of his son’s favourite places.
As he approached the pond Paladin slowed his steps. He spied him at last, huddled beneath the willow tree tossing pebbles into the smooth surface of the water. It was such a familiar scene he felt as if time had stood still. It would be so easy to believe they were living here again and that all the horrible things had never happened over the last year.
Paladin headed for him calling his name softly. “Pippin?” He didn’t think Pippin heard him at first and then his son turned his weary face in his direction. He wore no expression at all; his look was simply blank. “Pippin? Are you all right lad?” Paladin felt a slowly growing sense of alarm. He tried again. “Son?”
There was no response as Pippin favored him with the same empty stare as Paladin joined him. He knelt and touched the cinnamon curls gently, almost reverently. Paladin noted the red swollen eyes and the dark circles beneath them and his heart ached for the suffering his boy had seen. Uncertain just what course to take he followed his instincts and sat down beside him, leaning against the tree. Shifting, he placed his arms around Pippin and eased him closer, finally pulling him into his lap as he had when he was but a tiny lad and needed comforting.
Paladin held him for some time, neither of them speaking. He knew Pippin was aware because he felt the tension in him begin to lessen and his breathing become more deep and regular. His son’s pounding heartbeat slowed. Paladin marveled again at how much taller he was and wondered for the thousandth time what magic had made this possible. No matter. He had his son back again and he didn’t care. Pippin was safe in his arms.
But what hurts had come to him on that journey to make him behave so? What horrors had he seen? And just how badly had he been injured? The boy he held seemed a stranger in some ways and he desperately needed to understand what had happened to him. What do I do now, he wondered? As if in understanding of his father’s thoughts Pippin quivered in his embrace and began to weep silently. Paladin’s arms closed about him protectively. Unsure what else to do he began speaking to him quietly.
“I knew you would return to us, lad. Did you know that?” There was no response. “I saw you on a great battlefield, clad in those strange garments of black and silver and clutching a sword against your chest.” Paladin fell silent for a moment feeling how his son had grown tense again, then spoke in a low, comforting tone close to his ear.
“You looked so unbelievably capable and mature…” Paladin’s voice grew very soft, “So determined…I thought someone else had wandered into my vision!” Pippin relaxed once more and his father chuckled. “Aye, so grown up I almost didn’t recognize you.” He squeezed his shoulders. “But yes, I knew it was you and I couldn’t fathom exactly what you were doing carrying a sword and fighting. And I saw Merry too.” Paladin rested his chin upon his son’s shoulder as he relived the visions.
At last he spoke again and there was tightness in his voice this time. “I saw you injured on one occasion. But I didn’t know how bad it was. I saw the blood on both you and your cousin and I knew you had been captured and were in great peril. It almost killed me to know I was helpless to do anything about it. I knew I had to have faith in you. And I did.”
“But it wasn’t easy, was it Da?”
Pippin sounded so wistful that Paladin’s heart twisted painfully. He squeezed his son’s shoulders again and sighed. “I won’t lie to you, Peregrin. Yes, it was very difficult. But not because of any lack of belief in you. ‘Twas the lack of belief in myself that was eating away at my heart. And the lack of faith in my own ability to weather the hardship and the uncertainty. To feel I was strong enough to bear the waiting and the ultimate fear that the news might not be good. I…I weakened at one point and told your mother about the visions. I wanted to share with her that I knew you were alive. But I didn’t want her to know the other things.”
“But Mum guessed, didn’t she?”
“You always were a very perceptive lad. Yes, of course she did, at least in part. Call it a mother’s instinct, I suppose. But afterward I was glad I’d told her because she helped me stay focused on the things that were important. That meant surviving each day, one at a time. Sometimes one hour at a time just like she was doing. And it helped us to hold true to our faith in you. It drew us closer together, actually. And ultimately, through it all we knew our son would eventually come home to us whole and sound----”
“But Da, I’m not whole.” Pippin laughed uneasily. “Not really. And I’m not exactly certain I’m sound either, for that matter.”
Paladin’s arms tightened around him. “You need time to heal. You need time with your family. You will heal, Peregrin. It’s true you will never be exactly the same lad you were before. But you are stronger for what you went through.” He pulled his son closer. “And so am I.”
Pippin nodded against his father’s chest. “Aye,” he whispered.
“So tell me, son. Just why are you here, sitting under the old willow tree instead of at home with the family that’s missed you so?”
“I needed to come home. All the way home. This is the place where I’ve always felt the most secure. And loved.”
Paladin smiled at his answer. “And are you now? All the way home, I mean.”
“Yes Da. I think I’ve finally made it.”
“Good lad.” Paladin patted him on the shoulder.
“I haven’t sat with you like this in years.” Pippin tilted his head around and grinned at his father. “I like it.”
Paladin laughed. “Come now, it hasn’t been that long has it?”
“Well, it seems like years. And I certainly haven’t sat on your lap in quite some time!”
“Is there any rule that says a father can’t hold his almost grown up son on his lap if he wants to?”
“I suppose not.”
“Just you remember that, then.”
Pippin nodded then sighed deeply. Paladin raised a brow in concern. “What is it?”
“You’re still angry with me for going. Aren’t you?”
Paladin thought hard about the question. “I told your mother that I was confused about many things at the moment. That was right after she accused me of contradicting myself. Twice.” Paladin smiled sheepishly when Pippin chuckled.
“I’ll be very honest with you, son. Yes, I was very angry with you. For leaving, for creeping away and leaving no word of your whereabouts, for putting yourself in such grave danger. And I was angry at Merry and Frodo too. For allowing you to come with them----”
“But Da, I----”
“Hush now and don’t interrupt me. Like I said, I was very angry - at one time. But your mother helped me to see the futility of it. And the reason behind my anger.”
Pippin twisted around again to look at his father. “And what was that?”
“Fear. Plain and simple. Although nothing all that simple about it really. ‘Twas a very complicated anger borne not only out of fear but also of a loss of control. You aren’t a little lad anymore and even though I’d told you that you needed to start growing up and acting your age a part of me regretted it and still wanted you to remain my wee lad. I couldn’t protect you from the harm you were facing and that tore me to pieces inside.”
”Oh Da! I’m so sorry I put you through all of that!”
Paladin hugged him firmly to his chest. “Son, when you have children of your own some day you will finally understand exactly what I’m trying to say. ‘Tis a father’s duty to protect his family, and when I wasn’t able to…well, it isn’t an easy thing to accept. I have never in my life felt so helpless as during the time you were gone. And as for the Sight, blessing or curse I’m really not certain which anymore, but it was so hard knowing what I did and not being able to change things. Do you understand, lad?”
Pippin nodded slowly. “I think so.”
“And I was quite upset that Merry had left his father a letter and you hadn’t.”
“Merry didn’t think I should. He thought the one he left was enough.”
Paladin nodded. “And knowing your cousin as I do he was most likely thinking it was better that his hot-headed uncle didn’t find out much until you were both well on your way.”
Pippin sucked in a quick breath. “How did you----”
“Peregrin, please give your father a little credit for knowing how to reason things out, eh?” Paladin laughed. “Ah, it’s amazing what I can figure out when I’m able to put my anger aside. It all makes perfect sense now. Your mother was right, as she usually is.”
“But Da? You never answered my question.”
“I asked if you were still angry with me for going.”
“So you did.” Paladin thought this over. “Well, let’s just say that I’m working on letting go of my anger, all right?” He patted his son’s shoulder. “Yes, I admit I’m still a bit upset with you, especially the more I find out about what you went through. And from what I saw today I know you have a good deal of healing yet ahead of you. I mourn for the innocence you’ve lost forever, Pippin. But I am very proud of you too. You’re not the same irresponsible lad of one short year ago and I’m stunned by the changes in you.”
Pippin smiled at his father’s words. “We have a great deal of talking yet to do, Da.”
“Aye that we do. Just remember let’s keep on talking, all right? And no more running off without letting someone know what you’re about. We don’t deserve to be frightened like that anymore.”
“And I’ll try not to do the kind of things that make you want to run off. All right?”
“Yes, all right. And Da? I think I’m ready to go home now.”
“That’s good to hear.” Paladin eased his son from his lap and stood. “Oh my, I’m getting too old for this sitting on the ground business.” He stretched his stiff back. “Shall we?”
Pippin nodded and linked his arm through his father’s.
“Pippin?” Paladin asked as they climbed the little hill leading back to the farmyard. Pippin looked at him questioningly. “I’ve been meaning to ask. However did you manage the little growth spurt?”
Pippin laughed merrily. “Oh, that. Have you ever heard of Ents, Da?”
Paladin scratched his head. “Can’t say that I have.”
“Well, after we made it out of Fangorn Forest Merry and I…”
”Aye, a rather frightening place all on its own, but there was a tree shepherd there-”
“Ah, now that’s a legend I have heard tales of.” Paladin looked at him curiously. “But, not a legend after all I take it?”
Pippin shook his head and grinned broadly. “No indeed, as Merry and I were soon to find out.”
“So, is your cousin taller too, then?”
“Yes, and he still managed to stay taller than me! Anyway, this is what happened…”
“Are you ready to rest now, son?”
Pippin leaned over and kissed his mother’s cheek before nodding. “I’m sure a few hours to lie down could only be a good thing.” He followed her down the long corridor to his room.
Pippin felt the burning sting of tears behind his lashes and tried to blink them away. He swallowed hard. “Mum, I’m sorry I ran away. It…it was a very childish thing to do.”
“We all do things we regret sometimes dear, and I dare say you’ll learn from your experiences.” Eglantine hugged him. “I’m glad you and your father are talking.”
“We…we talked about a great many things. It’s odd, but I feel like I got to know Da a good deal better today than I ever have. He spoke to me like I was an adult. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated that.”
Eglantine settled on the side of the bed and tucked the covers around her son. She smiled and smoothed her hand across his hair before planting a kiss on his forehead. “I think your father has begun to realize just how much you’ve grown up Pippin.” She studied his face for a moment before speaking again. “And I think you’ve realized just how vulnerable to hurt your father can be. The two of you are more alike then you care to admit but it’s something I’ve always known. You’re both very stubborn and you each have a great deal of love in your hearts for your family.”
Pippin nodded sleepily and yawned. Eglantine smiled. “Perhaps you’ll be able to sleep a bit better now. Remember we’re nearby if you need us.”
“You’ve both always been nearby Mum.” Pippin touched his chest. “Right here in my heart. As far as I’m concerned you were there with me all the way through my journey. Keeping me going.”
Eglantine smiled and kissed his cheek. “Good night my little love. I hope you sleep well.”
“Night, Mum. And I’m really glad the king did come back after all.”
“And I’m glad my son came back. All the way home at long last.” She closed the door softly as Pippin closed his eyes.
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.