1. The Greatest Is Love
"The Greatest Is Love"
A/N: A one-shot I typed up while listening to Alan Jackson's song "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)". Dedicated to the memory of September 11th, and the many thousands of people, civilians and firemen and policemen alike, who lost their lives.
The rubble lying in the road was a pitiful sight, strewn about in a shattered, pitiful parody of what it had once been.. Smoke still furled out from the ashes of the fires that had blackened the white of the stones' surface. Heaps of rubble sat in organized chaos where the Men had gathered it up to be carted away, but there was still so much left to deal with… not to mention the bodies still trapped below, crushed to death when the towers fell in Sauron's attack.
Pippin had already seen a few of the bodies that were found, and although he was a veteran in battle—he had served under the King's Banner during the Battle at the Black Gates, had he not?—and had witnessed true horror seeing the bodies of the dead and dying. He knew that he would be forever haunted by the sights and sounds of battle, not to mention the smell of bodies as they started to stink in the air. Blood soaked the ground and filled his nostrils with its coppery scent, and the sight of the soldiers' mashed-in faces, gutted bodies with intestines hanging from their stomach cavities, or their throats torn out by Orc teeth. But nothing, absolutely nothing, could have prepared him for the sight of the bodies of the children and women who had been unlucky enough to be beneath the stones when they fell.
Children shouldn't have been near the battle to begin with, nor the women, but in the chaos of the battle and its preparations they had not been really thought about until it was too late. Therefore, some of the most innocent of lives had been lost in a war that was not really even their's.
Pippin had lost his breakfast already seeing a particularly battered youngster's body taken from the rubble, a young lass no older than four, blonde-haired where it wasn't stained red by blood. Part of her cheek was caved in, and one eye was smashed to a bloody pulp—the other, a chocolate brown turned milky in death, stared up at the sky, her pretty little face twisted with surprise and fear. The Hobbit could only hope that the lass had died quickly, without agony. No child should ever feel pain, not to such a degree. Her mother had been found beside her, almost on top of her—it seemed the women had been holding her daughter and had tried to shield her when the stone fell upon them. Pippin had not had the courage nor the strength to look at the mother.
He wanted to sit down and just weep into his hands. How much longer were they going to find the remnants of war in the ruin it left behind? How long were they going to continue to sob for those lost? How much longer were they going to tally the dead?
"Ho!" he suddenly heard a man cry out from where he stood in the shattered stone. The man looked shockingly excited, his eyes wild with hope and fear of disappointment, and he was digging vigorously through the dust and ash, deep into the pile. Pippin looked up but did not approach yet, even as four more men converged at the point, helping the first soldier dig. Hope suddenly began to beat deep in his chest. Could it be that there was perhaps a survivor? He prayed that there was, prayed with all his being that there was yet someone still alive in the ashes of death.
"No," one of the men said then sadly, and Pippin's heart sank as he watched him shake his head. "There is no one yet alive. See? His chest does not move, there is no breath stirring his lungs." And Pippin bowed his head again.
But then it shot up again, his eyes widening when he thought he heard something. He shot to his feet and rushed over to the pile and the men as much as his still-healing hip would allow. "No!" he cried, desperate. "No, do not step away! There is someone beneath, far beneath, trapped! I heard a voice!" His sharp hearing, better than a Man's, had heard a pleading moan, faint but unmistakable as a living being. The men there turned, startled, but obediently stayed where they were, surprised and equally honored to be in one of the perian's company.
"Master Perian," said one, the one who had first called out, "are you certain of this? You have heard something?"
"I heard someone," Pippin corrected him. Hastily bowing, he hurriedly walked forward. "Please, continue to dig, and we may see if I was correct."
So they did, continuing deeper into the pile in hopes of finding Pippin's source of noise. Finally, they came upon a small hole, but nothing else was visible. A particularly heave stone was there, and the men could not lift it by themselves. Pippin, however, thought he could slip through the hole that was there.
"I'll climb in," he proposed firmly, "and I will look. Go find help, get something to lift this rock up." And although the men there protested allowing one of the honored perian crawl into a hole and into danger, Pippin would not be gainsaid. Without further ado he wriggled through the cramped opening, gasping softly when his healing leg protested the strange movements. But the hope that there was yet a survivor was too far too strong incentive to continue on, and steeling himself he slipped completely through the hole. It was dark in the closed space, but faintly illuminated by the gritty sunlight shining through the opening. Allowing his eyes to adjust, he realized that he was in fact in a larger space than he had first thought—this piece of stone had been a carved arch of something, perhaps a window, so although it was upside down, the arch had allowed a small space and some shelter from the rest of the falling rock.
And there was the moaning he had thought he heard. It was coming from a few feet away from him, and it was a young voice, pleading, asking for someone, anyone, to come and help. Pippin felt his heart skip a beat as hope surged. Wriggling on his stomach, he slowly crawled to the person's side, and feeling blindly in the dark came upon a hand in the dirt. There was a sharp intake of breath and he heard that same voice tremble as they asked,
It was a boy's voice, young, perhaps a teen's, thick with pain, but now suddenly strengthening with hope. A savior was at hand, finally.
"Hush," Pippin said gently, and grasped the youngster's hand in his own, feeling blood crusted on the slim fingers. "Hush, I'm here. You're going to be alright, people are going to get help."
There was a sigh, almost a sob, of relief, but he felt the fingers relax slightly, although they still gripped Pippin's in a strong grip. Comforting. Drawing strength. And Pippin couldn't help but half-sob with relief himself.
He made his way up the levels of Minas Tirith an hour later, half in a daze, until he finally came upon the small house he shared with the other Hobbits, his cousins and friends. He pushed open the door and stumbled through, and came face to face with his cousin Frodo, who stood looking out the window. Hearing Pippin's footsteps, Frodo turned and relief broke out on his still-haggard face.
"There you are, Pip!" he exclaimed, rushing forward and pulling Pippin toward him. "We were so worried about you, you've been gone for over three hours…!" But then he really took in his young cousin's appearance. Pippin was dusty and dirty, and his clothes were rumpled, and his bright green eyes were bright with unshed tears, and he seemed dazed. "Pippin?" he asked softly, almost fearfully. "Pippin, what is it? What's happened?"
Pippin shook his head. "I was helping the guard sort through the rest of the ruins near the Eastern gate," he finally whispered.
Frodo's face softened as he realized what he must have seen. "Oh, my dear," he sighed, and drew Pippin close in a warm embrace. "My sweet lad…"
"It was awful, Frodo," Pippin whispered, shaking. "So awful… so many bodies, so much death… I wanted to close my eyes and pretend that nothing ever happened. But it did! It happened, and so many people are dead!"
It was ironic, he thought to himself, when he heard Frodo shush him gently, just as Pippin had himself to the child he had found. "Quiet, dear lad. It won't help to dwell on memories."
Pippin closed his eyes tight, then drew himself up and stepped back slightly. "But it happened," he answered. "It happened, the death, the bloodshed… all of it. While in the battle here, I thought the whole world was aflame, burning to ash and nothing more, and seeing the tall towers falling… it was frightening. So terrible. And the bodies… oh, the families who have had to deal with their losses. And the children! So many dead! So many without their parents… And the soldiers. There were so many of them, buried with the civilians."
"They were doing their duty, Pippin," Frodo said softly, sensing his cousin needed to speak of this. "They fell defending their city, and the civilians here. It's tragic they died, I can't deny, but there are worse ways to die than in duty."
Pippin swallowed. "And there's hope," he said.
Frodo looked at him closely again. "Is there, Pip?" he asked curiously.
Pippin nodded. "I found someone still alive in the rubble, Frodo," he explained softly. "A boy, trapped beneath the rubble. I held his hand there in the dark until the men were able to move the rubble away. It was like a miracle, Frodo, seeing him alive after seeing all the death." Frodo said nothing, but Pippin could see his eyes light up. He felt the joy Pippin did. "You know, it was horrible seeing it all, but war really does teach you what's important."
Frodo smiled softly. "And what is that?"
Pippin returned the smile, even if it was more tired. "Family. Friends. Faith. Hope." His smile widened. "Love. It teaches you what really matters."
"I think that the strongest of those is love, Pip," Frodo agreed. "Maybe death and tragedy happen to remind us of that." He motioned with his hand further into the house. "Come now, my dear, sweet Took. We'll draw you a bath, and you will be clean and as relaxed as you can be. Then you can rest—you look exhausted."
Pippin chuckled, and he gripped Frodo's hand in his own—the right hand, the one with only four fingers. He did not shy away from the feel of the stub of his cousin's missing finger. Why should Frodo having only four fingers on his hand matter? He had been honest—tragedy showed what was really important, a fact he had discovered as soon as he saw the towers and walls of Minas Tirith fall.
"I think, Frodo," he answered, "that after my bath I would like to share stories about the Shire."
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love
~Alan Jackson~ Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)
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.