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A while back I did the "stump-the-author" meme, and Dana stumped me. She asked for the following:
"I would like hobbits in Minas Tirith, post-quest, focusing on Frodo and Pippin - with Frodo as the wise and awesome older cousin. Let the bunny develop as it will, of course!
Here's what I came up with--
The two hobbits huddled together. Frodo drew Pippin’s weary head to his lap, and began the old familiar motion of running his fingers through his cousin’s tangled curls, and smoothing his brow. The narrow line of pain on Pippin’s forehead eased a bit, for which Frodo found himself thankful.
Frodo felt a wave of guilt wash over him. This was ridiculous, after all the danger of the Quest, to find themselves like this, when they should have been perfectly safe and out of danger. And of course it was all his own fault for suggesting this outing in the first place.
When Faramir had told him of all the ancient scrolls and books to be found in the Archives, he had been unable to resist the chance to see some of them. Merry was on duty at Théoden’s bier, and Legolas had asked Sam to the gardens at the Houses of Healing, to help him work on some of the espaliered fruit trees that had been damaged in the Siege. Pippin was bored, and not at all averse to accompanying Frodo, especially with the incentive of stopping at an ale-house on the way back.
They’d eaten a cake or two with some tea for elevenses, and then headed up to the Citadel. Faramir had told Frodo where to find the Archives, and the librarian had been most cordial to them, allowing them to browse among the many shelves at their leisure. Frodo was pleased to discover a copy of the Akallabeth with a slightly different account of the last days of Númenor than he had previously read.
Pippin was picking books at random from the lower shelves, and reading a little before putting them back. Suddenly he had given a loud bark of laughter. Frodo looked at him reprovingly. “Pippin!” he hissed.
“Oh, but Frodo, you have to see this! Remember that we found out Strider was the mysterious Captain Thorongil? Here’s a long poem all about his exploits!” He chuckled again, more quietly, and Frodo could not resist coming to see his find.
“Oh dear!” He put his hand over his mouth to stifle his own laughter. “Oh dear, this is dreadful poetry!”
Pippin giggled. “Wouldn’t I give a pretty penny to hear Menelcar declaim this to the King?”
“Pippin, you are terrible!”
He came from oh, so far away,
Pippin stopped to snicker, and Frodo bit his lip.
“No other warrior had the skill
“ ‘Man of mystery!’” Pippin snorted. “I’ll say!” He continued to read in a sing-song voice:
“From the north he came
“ ‘Dread’ and ‘raid’ don’t rhyme.”
Frodo was turning quite red with the efforts not to laugh, and his eyes began to water. “Pippin! Shush!”
Pippin bit his lip. It really was hard *not* to laugh. “I wonder what else this so-called poet wrote?” He handed the scroll to Frodo, who stared at it and shook his head, while Pippin bent to examine on a lower shelf, looking to see if he could find anything else of the sort.
Frodo kept hold of the scroll. It was probably dreadfully wicked of him, but he would give anything to see the look on Aragorn’s face when he saw this. He moved a bit further on, checking some of the other items on the shelf. Nothing else looked anything like so promising, and he came around the other end of it. “Hullo! I wonder where this goes?”
A door stood open, and a stairway led down. On a hook by the door hung a lantern, just out of Frodo’s reach. “Pip!” he called softly. “Come here!”
Pippin left off his search for more of the bad poet’s work, to see what Frodo had found.
Frodo was peering into the darkness. “I can’t reach the lantern,” he said.
Pippin grinned, and reached up to take the lantern off its hook. “Thank you, Treebeard!” he exclaimed cheerfully. “I hope you have a striker, cousin, for I don’t.”
Frodo did. Gimli had given them all new strikers not long after coming to the City. “You lost yours already?”
“No, but it’s at the house. I forgot to put it in my pocket today--I’d been carrying it in my pouch, for my livery has no pockets.”
Frodo shook his head. Pippin might have grown a few inches, but when it came to his personal possessions he was as heedless as ever. His cousin held the lantern as Frodo lit it, and then they used it to peer down the long dark stairway. At the foot of the stair, he could barely make out another room, more shelves, more scrolls. Almost without volition he started down the stairs.
“Frodo! What are you doing?” Pippin hissed.
“I want to see what’s down there,” said Frodo distractedly.
Pippin rolled his eyes. Just like Cousin Bilbo--wave a few scrolls in front of Frodo--especially if they were old, and maybe in Elvish--and he’d lose any sense he had. Shaking his head in amusement he followed his older cousin. The stairs were wide, taking two hobbit steps across, but fairly shallow, so the climb down was not nearly so laborious as some of the stairwells in the City.
At the foot of the stair was a large room, another Archive just like the one upstairs, save that it was a good deal larger, a good deal dustier, a good deal older, and not quite as neatly kept. In addition to the scrolls on shelves, there were several open wooden boxes of scrolls, and upon the large reading table, several more lay in disarray, though dusty, as though they had been left out several years ago in the middle of someone reading them.
The bench at the table was an awkward size, but Frodo went over, and clambered up to kneel atop it, which enabled him to peruse the various documents there. He put the lantern down, and pulling one of the scrolls over, blew the dust off carefully, sneezing slightly.
Pippin had found another lantern near the entrance to the room, and went over, using the first lantern to light it. “You don’t look terribly comfortable, cousin,” he said.
Frodo made a non-committal noise. Already his brow was furrowed as he tried to decipher the archaic hand. Pippin glanced over, and seeing that one of the boxes was only half-filled, he emptied the scrolls into another, and went over to the bench. “Frodo.”
“What? Oh, I am sorry, Pippin! But these are so very old--”
Pippin smiled, and putting the box upside down on the bench, he gestured at it with a flourish.
Frodo looked up ruefully. “Thank you,” he said, as he seated himself on top of the box. “That’s much better.” His attention strayed once more to the writing in front of him. Chuckling, Pippin took the extra lantern, and went to explore the rest of the room.
Frodo was right, these *are* very old, he thought, as he took out a document that proved to be an account of one of the earliest stewards. But the writing *was* too difficult to read. He sneezed himself, at the dustiness of it. He pulled out another scroll at random, though, and was pleased to see that it had drawings--sketches of the City, and of what appeared to be plans of some buildings. Now *that* was interesting…Merry would be fascinated…he tried to puzzle out what he was seeing. Pippin had not nearly the head for maps that Merry did, but it appeared to be the layout of the First Circle…there was a sketch of the Gate, as it had appeared before the siege…and what was that? He unrolled it on the floor, and knelt down on it to look more closely…
He was soon as engrossed as Frodo, and the room was fairly silent except for the rustle of parchment, and the occasional sound of one of them blowing dust away. Though Pippin looked up from time to time to check on Frodo, he had lost track of the time.
Suddenly Frodo gave a strangled wordless cry, and Pippin leaped up, to see Frodo gazing white-faced and anguished at the parchment in front of him. He went over to him quickly. “What is it, Frodo?” he asked, putting an arm around his older cousin’s thin frame. He could feel him trembling.
Frodo looked at him, stricken, and then pointed to the document he had been looking at.
Pippin could not really read the archaic language, but there, in the middle of the page were two lines in graceful Elvish script, which Frodo’s finger traced. “What is it, Frodo?” Pippin repeated.
Frodo looked at him with haunted eyes and then whispered, “No, you wouldn’t know--you never saw it. That’s the inscription from--from the Ring. This must be the account Isildur wrote, which Gandalf found…”
Angrily, Pippin reached over, and shoved the scroll away, and drew Frodo close as he shuddered. “We’ve been here long enough, don’t you think?”
Frodo swallowed hard, and nodded, and took a couple of deep breaths. Pippin helped him down from his perch. Silently, they took the lanterns, and made their way to the staircase. But they looked up, and there was no rectangle of light where the door had stood open.
“Someone’s shut the door.” Pippin looked at Frodo, and with the feeling that something was wrong, they made their way up the stairs, where they discovered that their unspoken fear was quite right. The door was locked.
Pippin banged his hand against the door, and cried out “Hoy! We’re in here!” But the thud of his hand was muffled, and he felt his voice was lost against the thickness of the wood.
Frodo snuffed his lantern. “We’d better not use them both up. We may be here for a while.”
Dispiritedly, they sat down on the top step. Pippin’s stomach chose that moment to rumble loudly.
“Perhaps there is another way out,” said Frodo.
“Do you think so?” Pippin asked.
“We didn’t look through all of the room below--there could be another exit there.”
“Well, let’s go see.” Pippin clambered to his feet, and reached a hand to Frodo, and they once more made their way to the room at the bottom of the staircase. This time they did not allow themselves to be distracted by the wealth of reading material, but began to search for a way out. Certainly enough, they found a door on the far wall. It was shut, but not locked. Pippin opened it with a bit of a struggle. Man-sized doors in the Citadel were not that easy for a hobbit to open. It groaned as he pushed it. Frodo held the lantern up.
“Well, Pip, shall we see if we can discover a way out?”
“If you are altogether sure this is a good idea.”
Frodo glanced at his cousin. Pippin’s voice was a bit higher pitched than usual.
Sam and Legolas had returned to the guesthouse to find it empty. Mr. Merry would not be back till sunset and suppertime, but he was surprised to see that Mr. Frodo and Mr. Pippin were gone. Perhaps they’d gone into the City, and decided to take their tea elsewhere, though it didn’t seem likely. Sam furrowed his brow with momentary worry, and then shook his head. He’d got too much in the habit of worrying over Mr. Frodo and the others. Surely they’d just lost track of time. He heard Legolas talking to Gimli, and offered to make tea for all of them.
Gandalf came in while they were still having tea, and joined them. Sam did the washing up, and looked at the stores to see what he could make for supper. There was plenty of fresh greens and vegetables for a salad, and there was that nice sugar-cured ham that butcher in the Second Circle had given them…and he could fry up some taters…
Merry came in the kitchen as Sam was peeling the taters. He had already been to change out of his livery, and first washing his hands at the pump by the sink--Sam noticed with slight envy that though Merry had to stretch a bit to reach it, he did not use the step-stool that Frodo and Sam needed--he picked up a knife and began chopping carrots for the salad.
“Where are Pippin and Frodo?” he asked.
Sam shook his head. “I’m not sure, Mr. Merry. They were gone when Legolas and me got back from the gardens. We thought they went down to the shops or somewhat, and maybe stopped over for tea at some eating house or other.”
Merry put down the knife and looked at Sam, his brow furrowed. “That doesn’t sound like Frodo, not to leave word if he wouldn’t be in for tea.”
“Well, he *is* with Mr. Pippin…” but now Sam began to feel a twinge of alarm. It *wasn’t* like Mr. Frodo not to leave word. And he was not likely to let Mr. Pippin override him on that.
The two hobbits looked at one another, and then Merry said lightly, “Well, if they don’t show up for supper, that will be proof enough that something‘s kept them. We‘ll pester Gandalf about it then.” He chuckled, but Sam took note that the laughter did not reach Merry’s eyes, which remained worried.
Merry went back to chopping the carrots, perhaps a bit more fiercely than necessary.
Pippin took the lead, holding up the lantern, and feeling a bit bereft without his sword. Frodo came up next to him. The passageway was wide and cold and dark, and led straight ahead. From time to time there was a door to the right or left, but so far all had been locked. It seemed they had been walking for a long time, and the way behind them appeared small and far away.
“Frodo, what do we do next?” Pippin’s voice was tight, and Frodo thought his younger cousin sounded anxious. He held the lantern out, looking into the darkness.
“I don’t know, Pippin.” He sighed. “We are somewhere beneath the Citadel, so I was sure there would be another way out of the Archives.”
“Well, there wasn’t.” Pippin sounded uncharacteristically cross.
“I’m sorry, Pippin. I didn’t mean for this to happen.” Frodo held out an arm, and Pippin leaned into it as if he were much younger. It seemed a bit awkward, what with Pippin now being taller, and the younger hobbit straightened up again with a wince.
“Your knee?” Frodo asked.
Pippin nodded, and then shrugged. “I’ll get used to it.” He tried for a light tone of voice, but Frodo could tell that Pippin was still far tenser than the situation called for. “Pippin, what’s wrong? We’ve been in far tighter spots than this since we left home!”
Pippin gave a little shudder. “It’s nothing. Just me being very foolish.”
“I’ll be the judge of whether it’s ‘nothing’, Peregrin Took. Tell me.” Frodo tried to sound stern, but he felt more worried than not.
Pippin laughed, but his laughter had a hollow ring to it. “I’m just reminded of that time when I got lost in the old tunnels at Brandy Hall when I was eleven. Remember?* It was the first time in my life that I ever thought it was possible I might die, and I was very frightened. So silly of me, now. This is nothing like the same, is it?”
“Oh, Pip!” said Frodo, stricken. “It’s not silly at all! Of course I remember! We were so dreadfully frightened ourselves, and so very glad when we found you!”
“Yes. Well. I’m not eleven any more, and as you said, we’ve been through much worse lately--I can’t think why it should come back to me now, of all things.” He raised the lantern again. “And it’s not the same at all, for I’m not alone this time,” he added, a bit more cheerfully. Now that he had spoken aloud of what had been bothering him, he felt far less nervous. “Look, Frodo--another door. Perhaps this one is not locked.”
The door was on the left-hand side of the corridor, and Pippin reached for the handle, not really expecting it to be unlocked, and feeling a bit surprised when it was not.
But though the door opened, the room was a disappointment. It seemed to be just a store room of some sort, dusty, and filled with boxes of scribe’s supplies: shelves of parchment, boxes with quills and sand and all of it rather dusty, as though it had been long unused. Frodo held up the lantern, and noticed on the lower shelves how some of the parchment showed evidence of gnawing.
Pippin gave a sad shake of his head. “I think perhaps the last few years the Archives must have been much neglected, what with the City at War and all. But Strider will soon see to setting this all to rights--what was that?” he said in alarm, for the hobbits heard a rustling noise.”
“I think there are probably mice in here,” said Frodo.
“Mice?” asked Pippin nervously, “or--”
But his question was answered before it was spoken, as two red eyes glared balefully at them from beneath one of the shelves. It was not a mouse.
“Rats,” said Frodo backing up. “Pippin, come on!” he hissed urgently, for Pippin had frozen, and was trembling. Frodo pulled at his elbow. Pippin moved suddenly back, and then his leg buckled, and he gave a suppressed yelp of pain, and grabbed the door to keep from falling.
At the sound of Pippin’s yelp, the rat had withdrawn, but now it came slinking out again. Frodo transferred the lantern into his left hand and put his right hand into his pocket. The rat move forward cautiously, but Frodo’s hand flashed, and the rat gave a squeal of pain, as Frodo’s striker caught it squarely between the eyes. It keeled over, whether dead or unconscious Frodo could not tell. But there was another sound of skittering.
“Pippin, can you walk?”
“If I keep hold of the wall, Frodo, I think so.”
Frodo pulled on the door, but it was too heavy for him to close all the way--far easier to push open than to pull closed, he thought. “We’ll go back,” said Frodo. “Sooner or later they’ll find us. And I think we will be safer in the first room…” He didn’t say it, but Pippin could tell what he was thinking: where there was one rat, there were bound to be more.
“I’m sorry about your striker, Frodo.”
“Yes. Well. I’m not about to go in and fetch it. Come along, cousin.”
With Frodo bearing the lantern, and Pippin leaning against the wall, they made their slow way back. But they had not gone far, when the sounds of squeaks behind them made their blood freeze.
They moved a bit more quickly, Pippin feeling every step like a knife in his knee; Frodo turned and waved the lantern, and there was a sound of retreat--the rats moving back away from the light. “Pippin, keep going if you can.” Frodo walked backwards, alongside Pippin, holding up the lantern. He wished he had the Lady’s phial with him, but it was safe among his things at the guesthouse.
After what seemed an eternity, they came back to the door to the first room. “Frodo,” Pippin said, “why don’t you take the other lantern and go back up by the entrance to wait for help? I’ll stay here. I don’t think I can manage those stairs right now.”
Frodo shook his head. “You are a daft Took if you think I will leave you alone down here.” He gave a tug to the door, and Pippin with much effort, pulled as well. They still could not get it all the way closed--not enough to keep the rats out if they were determined to get in.
“There were rats then, too,” Pippin whispered.
“I know, Pip,” said Frodo gently. He glanced around the room, and then going over to the table, he climbed upon the bench and swept away the various papers and documents on top of it. Then he took the box Pippin had placed for him to sit on and put it on the floor.
“What‘s the idea?” Pippin limped over to where his cousin was.
Frodo climbed up on the table, and reached out. “Do you think you can get up here?”
“Not sure if my knee will hold me up, but I’ll try.” He gingerly placed his bad leg upon the box, and turned white as he put his weight on it and brought up his other leg. He gave a sharp cry of pain, before collapsing on the bench.
“Here, Pip, dearest, sit up,” said Frodo. He clasped Pippin beneath the arms and heaved. “You weigh a lot more than you used to.”
Pippin struggled to help his cousin pull him up, and soon flopped on top of the table next to him. “What good will this do?” he gasped.
“You’ll see,” Frodo said, and then climbed down.
“What are you doing?” Pippin exclaimed sharply.
Frodo and Pippin could hear the scrabbling sounds at the door. Frodo knocked the bench over with a bang, and the noise retreated. Then he picked up the box and slammed it on the floor. It splintered into several pieces, which he picked up and piled on the table. Pippin suddenly realized what the plan was.
“Very clever, Frodo Baggins,” he said, and gave a weak smile. Reaching down, he helped haul Frodo back to the tabletop.
They both flopped back, gasping and out of breath.
Frodo gestured at the lanterns. “Since we’ve lost the striker, we’d best light the spare before the first one goes out.”
Supper at the guesthouse had been a glum affair, with Merry and Sam picking at their food, and scarcely finishing, much less having seconds. Gandalf had insisted on waiting until they were finished, in hopes that Frodo and Pippin would return during the meal. But finally Merry threw his fork down in disgust. “Gandalf, they would *not* miss two meals in a row, and you know it!” he said angrily.
“Peace, Meriadoc,” the wizard replied. “I am beginning to think you are correct. I will go up to the Citadel and inform the King.”
“We’re coming, too!” Sam exclaimed.
“Of course you are,” said Legolas. “And I think that Gimli and I will come also.”
It had been an exhausting afternoon spent placating various nobles and wealthy merchants who had returned to Minas Tirith. They were unhappy with the pace of restoration to the City, more specifically to the upper levels where their own homes and shops were, homes and shops that had suffered far less damage than the lower levels where most of the work was being done.
Now the king wished to put Elessar aside, and simply be Aragorn once more. He had retreated to a small room that he had set aside for himself as a private office, taking his Steward and his Court Bard with him.
Robe and Crown had been put aside, and the three had also put aside formality. Now they sipped from goblets of red wine from Lebinnin, and Aragorn and Menelcar had lit their pipes. They had so far been unable to prevail on Faramir to join them in smoking, though he did not mind that they did so.
Aragorn breathed out a small but perfect smoke ring with a sigh.
Menelcar looked at it enviously. “I have yet to learn that trick. Pippin was trying to teach me the other day, but my own efforts were poor at best.”
“Well, hobbits originated the art, I believe. But I learned from Gandalf himself, who perfected it. You should see what *he* can do with smoke! It’s one of the few things in which he indulges his wizardry.”
Faramir nodded. “I remember when I was but a small boy, watching him in complete fascination. He would blow them out in all colors of the rainbow, and in shapes that would illustrate whatever story he was telling me.”
Just then, as though speaking of him had conjured him, they could hear Gandalf’s voice outside the door. “Nonsense! Of course the king will see us! No need to announce us!” and there was a loud rap upon the door, as though with a wooden staff.
Aragorn stood, and called out “Come in, Gandalf!”
They were surprised when not only Gandalf, but Legolas, Gimli, Merry and Sam also entered the room. It was clear that something was wrong from the expressions on their faces.
Before Aragorn could ask, Sam blurted out “Strider! Mr. Frodo and Mr. Pippin are missing!”
The two of them sat close together on the table, the pile of broken wood from the box Frodo had smashed near at hand. If the rats entered the room, they’d have plenty to throw.
“It’s after supper,” said Pippin glumly.
Frodo nodded. “That it is. Sam and Merry will be worried. I didn’t leave a message, as I thought we’d be back well before tea.”
“So, no one knows where we are?”
“I’m afraid not. Still, you know Sam and Merry. They’ll alert the king, and Aragorn will have the entire Tower Guard searching the City for us.”
Pippin straightened his left leg out, biting his lip in pain. “Strider will have a word or two for me, straining this knee again.”
“It’s hardly your fault, Pip. We had to get away from the rats.” Frodo looked at his cousin closely in the lantern light. “I am sorry.”
“It’s hardly your fault either, Frodo. I can’t imagine why someone went off and locked us in here.” Pippin sighed. “I had planned to have some of those lovely cheese tarts you made yesterday with my tea.”
Frodo smiled wryly. “Sam was going to make stuffed eggs.”
“Hmm…” Pippin smiled back wanly. “You know would be really lovely? Some of that drink made from those yellow fruits, that we had the other day at that eating house on the third circle.”
“The innkeeper called it ‘lemonade’,” said Frodo. “I can’t get over how bitter and sour the fruits are, though, to make a drink so refreshing and delicious.”
They fell silent, knowing that talking of food and drink much more would just make them hungrier and thirstier. Just then, there was the sound once more of scrabbling by the door. Frodo sat forward, and picked up a chunk of the wood. As one of the rats stuck its head through the door, Frodo’s hand flashed, and the rat withdrew with an angry squeal.
Frodo shook his head. “The wood’s too light to actually harm any of them. But hopefully it will keep them at bay for a while.” They were silent again, listening. “Perhaps,” said Frodo, “that’s driven them off.”
“Perhaps it has. You’ve a good arm, cousin.” Pippin was trying to sound cheerful, but Frodo could hear the pain in his voice.
Frodo scooted a little closer to Pippin, and eased his arm around his younger cousin’s shoulders. He was getting very weary and discouraged himself, but he wasn’t going to let Pippin know that.
It couldn’t be that bad, after all. Not like the days of the Quest. He closed his eyes, and willed away the memories that tried to crowd in on him. Seeing the Ring inscription here had shaken him. But all that was done with. All they had to do was stay safe from the rats until Aragorn found them.
Of course he’d find them.
Guardsmen, and Legolas, Gimli and Menelcar had scattered through the City, to inquire at all the inns and eating houses if the Ringbearer and the Ernil i Pheriannath had been seen recently. So far, all the answers that had been coming back were negative. Gandalf stood at a window, looking out over the City thoughtfully. Merry paced angrily about the King’s study like some caged animal. Sam sat huddled miserably, anger, fear and worry on his face and in every line of his posture, both of them casting occasional glares in Aragorn‘s direction. The King had forbidden them to join in the search. “The last thing we need are two more missing hobbits,” he had said firmly. But he did not look any too patient himself, as he waited to hear the reports of the searchers. Young Bergil had been in and out three times with the messages: no sign of the missing yet.
Faramir had gone out and then returned, having made some inquiries of his own among the staff of the Citadel.
“None have seen them today, sire,” he said, shaking his head.
“You inquired of everyone?”
The Steward nodded, and then stopped, a sudden look of hope on his face. “No! No, I did not. The Archivist does not live in the Citadel, so I’ve not spoken to him! But I do remember that Frodo expressed an interest in looking among the ancient records. Would Pippin have gone with him?”
Merry and Sam exchanged a look. “Yes,” said Merry, “if there wasn’t anything else to do. He’d want to stay with Frodo.”
Faramir stepped to the door. “Bergil!” The boy came in.
“Do you know where the Archivist lives?” At the child’s nod, Faramir said “Run and fetch him, then.”
Frodo was fairly sure it was past midnight now. Sam and Merry must be frantic. Pippin’s head was in his lap, and as he stroked the chestnut curls, he hummed soothingly, an old Shire melody. It had to be a measure of the pain Pippin was in, that he made no effort to join in.
They had driven the rats off three more times. And the first of the lanterns had now burned out. Frodo was anxious, as he noticed the second one began to gutter a little. He didn’t think the light would burn till morn--and then they’d not be able to see the rats.
In spite of his confident words to Pippin, Frodo began to wonder just how long it would be until they were found. He remembered vividly the frantic search for Pippin, years ago, in similar circumstances. How foolish he’d been to leave no word of where they were going to be!
He shifted Pippin’s head a bit. If the rats came back he needed a free hand.
Suddenly, from the direction of the stairs, they heard a thud, and the groan of hinges--the sound of a door being flung back. “Frodo! Pippin!”
“We’re here!” Frodo yelled. “Down here!”
Pippin sat up with a grin. They could see torches, and hear feet, including rapidly approaching hobbit feet. Merry and Sam burst into the room, followed closely by Aragorn, Faramir, Gandalf, Bergil and the elderly Archivist, who could be heard proclaiming his apologies on the way down. “I had no *idea* the pheriannath were still down here…”
Merry and Sam came up to the table, puzzlement on their faces. “What’s happened here?” Merry asked, looking askance at the toppled bench, and the remains of the broken box.
“We were taking refuge from rats,” Frodo said, arching a brow, and glancing significantly at Pippin before catching Merry’s eye. Merry looked at Pippin, who was grinning at him now. But he understood. “Shall we get you down from here?” he asked.
“Just a moment,” said Aragorn. He walked over and looked at Pippin’s red and swollen knee; then he glanced at Frodo’s weary and pale face. “I don’t think the two of you need to be doing any walking.” He reached over and took hold of Pippin’s knee. Pippin suppressed a gasp of pain. “You’ve put a strain on it, but it does not seem that you dislocated it again.” He lifted the young hobbit carefully, and turned, putting him into Faramir’s waiting arms. Then he turned to Frodo.
“I’m fine, Aragorn! I can walk.”
“No doubt. But you’ve had nothing to eat, and you are exhausted. Humor me.” And he scooped Frodo up as well.
Gandalf had been looking about the room, and noticed the documents that had been swept to the floor. He picked one of them up, and glancing at it, he turned to look at Frodo.
Frodo met his gaze squarely, and nodded. Gandalf rolled it up, and placed it in his robes. Suddenly, Frodo grinned, as he remembered the *other* document that he still had in his own jacket. Perhaps he’d just hold on to that one a day or so.
Faramir looked at Aragorn. “Should we carry them to the Houses of Healing, sire?”
Both Frodo and Pippin started to protest, but Aragorn shook his head. “I think they will be better off at the guesthouse.”
It was nearly dawn by the time that Frodo and Pippin were tucked up together in the big bed the hobbits shared on the ground floor of the guesthouse. They had been washed and dressed in clean nightshirts, and fussed over. Pippin’s knee had been rubbed with salve, and wrapped. Merry and Sam brought them a gigantic tray, with porridge laced with cream, butter and honey, juice, tea and toast--and a couple of the cheese tarts Pippin had spoken of earlier.
After Aragorn and Faramir left, Merry and Sam joined them, all of them ready for some sleep. Pippin dozed off quickly, tucked between Merry and Frodo, succumbing to the pain draught Aragorn had given him. Frodo turned his head and dropped a kiss on Pippin’s curls, meeting Merry’s eyes. His own eyes began to droop, when they flew open once more. He turned to Sam.
“Sam! What did you do with that scroll I had in my jacket?”
“I put it away in the clothes press with your other things, Mr. Frodo.”
“Good, good,” he said, getting drowsy once more. “Pippin wanted to show that to Menelcar. I think he deserves to.” And then he slipped into slumber.
When I wrote "The Archive Incident" there were many calls to tell what happened with that poem about Thorongil. When Shirebound answered my meme on LiveJournal with a request to tell what happened the next morning after the story, I knew the time had come to reveal all.
ABOUT THAT POEM…
Frodo sat up, and glanced at Pippin, still slumbering next to him. From the sun through the window, it looked as though they had slept straight through second breakfast, and it was coming up elevenses. Merry and Sam were no longer in the bed, and judging by the smells emanating through the open door, they had been busy in the kitchen.
He sniffed. Bacon. Potatoes frying. Fresh bread, And …
"Mushrooms," Pippin mumbled. He opened one green eye, and sniffed, then smiled and sat up. "Good morning, Frodo."
"How's your knee, Pippin?" Frodo asked, as he reached behind himself to pull up his pillows.
Pippin pursed his lips in thought, and Frodo could see him shifting his leg slightly beneath the blanket. "Better, I do believe. Still a bit twingey, but much better than last night."
Just then, Sam and Merry came in, Merry bearing a huge tray laden with enough food and dishes for the four of them, and Sam had another tray with a teapot and cups.
Soon they were all seated around the trays in the huge bed, enjoying their elevenses, and chattering away.
"I hope, Frodo," said Merry, around a mouthful of bread and butter, "that you will remember from here on out, to leave word of where you've gone while we are here in the city."
"Yes, Uncle Meriadoc," said Frodo wryly.
Sam shook his head, "No call for that, Mr. Frodo. Mr. Merry is quite right. You gave us a fright, you did!"
Frodo cast his eyes down, abashed. "I am sorry, Merry and Sam, I don't mean to make light of your worry. And yes, I do have every intention of leaving word from here on out."
Pippin, who had just polished off his plate of thirds, said "Does anybody want the last piece of bacon?"
The others laughed, and gestured to indicate that Pippin was welcome to it.
"By the way," said Frodo, "Pippin and I found a *very* interesting poem yesterday."
Pippin's sudden bark of laughter caused him to start coughing, as he nearly inhaled a bit of the bacon he was eating. Sam pounded him helpfully on the back, and he tearily took a sip of his tea. "'Interesting' is one word for it, Frodo! I would give anything to hear Menelcar recite that!"
Just then, they heard a rap at the edge of the open door. "Did I just hear someone taking my name in vain?"
"Menelcar!" Pippin exclaimed. "Come in! Come in!"
Frodo grinned. "Ah, Menelcar! There's something you need to see! Sam, would you get that scroll out of the clothes press. Let Pippin give it to Menelcar."
The Court Bard looked very intrigued.
A few days later…
Aragorn glanced behind him at the Guardsmen who followed, and sighed. He was simply going to the guesthouse where the other Companions of the Ring were staying. Would he ever get used to having guards everywhere he went?
Faramir, who walked on his right, chuckled. "It is part of being King, sire."
"I know that. I accept that. It does not mean that I have to like it." He tried to avoid sounding cross. Who would have ever thought a simple dinner invitation could be so complicated?
Prince Imrahil, who was walking at his left, changed the subject. "I thank you sire, for including me in this evening. Are you certain your hosts will not object to my presence."
The King laughed at that. "They are hobbits. The more people whom they can feed, the better they like it." The Prince had arrived in Minas Tirith that afternoon, with information the King had needed about the situation on the coast since the end of the War.
They entered the courtyard of the guesthouse. Two of the guards automatically stationed themselves at the entry to the courtyard, while two others went to stand on either side of the door--the guards would remain at their posts until the King was ready to return to the Citadel.
Before Aragorn could knock upon the door, it popped open. Pippin stood there grinning. He was dressed in his hobbit-style clothing, and he held a tray. "Hullo, Strider! Faramir!" He gave a slightly more respectful tilt of his head to Imrahil, "Your Highness," he said.
The Prince found himself amused that he received more formal respect from the pherian than did the Steward and the King himself. But of course, the young halfling did not know him so well. He inclined his head graciously. "Sir Peregrin".
Pippin blushed, but then said, "Please go in and make yourselves at home. Sam sent these out to the guards," and he stepped past them, holding the tray up to one of the Guardsmen. On the tray were several scones, still steaming hot. "Here, Borondir. They're savoury scones--they have bits of cheese and bacon in them. You have some, too, Artamir. And I'll take the rest over there to Adrahil and Cemendur…"
Aragorn shook his head and chuckled as they entered.
"You will allow them to eat on duty?" asked Imrahil under his breath.
"If I do not allow them to, Sam's feelings will be hurt, and Frodo and the others will be offended. The hobbits feed my guards whenever I come down here."
Faramir said quietly, "Hobbits take hospitality very seriously, Uncle. They would not be able to stand the thought that other folk were in here feasting while the Guardsmen stood hungry at the door."
Imrahil nodded. He was learning more and more about the pheriannath. Theirs was a fascinating culture.
Just then Frodo and Merry came up to draw the new arrivals in. Besides themselves, there were, of course, Gandalf, Legolas, and Gimli. The sounds and mouth-watering smells from the kitchen indicated Sam's whereabouts. And the sound of a harp in one corner meant that the Court Bard Menelcar, a dear friend of all of the hobbits, was also here.
Just then Pippin returned. "Remind me," he said, "to tell Sam that Cemendur wants the recipe for those scones, to give his wife."
After a delicious meal, which Imrahil was only slightly surprised to discover had been prepared by all four of the halflings, the group repaired to the main room. Though the night was mild, a small fire was on the hearth, lending light and cheer.
Once everyone was seated comfortably, Frodo turned to the King, and said "Strider, we've asked Menelcar to prepare a very special entertainment for you. Pippin and I found a poem in the Archives, which we have asked him to declaim for you!"
Aragorn studied Frodo's face. The blue eyes were opened wide and guileless, but there was a certain gleam in them that he mistrusted. "A poem?" he asked.
Frodo nodded. "Yes, and you must promise to let him recite the whole thing!"
"I can deny you nothing, my friend," he said mildly, but he let his own skepticism show. Yes--there it was, Frodo hid it well, but there was definitely a hint of a smirk on his face. Well, if Frodo had found something to laugh at, he would most certainly go along with it, whatever his misgivings.
"That's wonderful," Frodo grinned. "Menelcar, if you please?"
Menelcar stood up to his full height, and wondered if this evening's amusement would be worth the King's anger. But he had not been able to resist the appeal of the hobbits, especially when Pippin turned those big green eyes on him. Oh well, he might very well have had the briefest appointment as Court Bard ever, but if so, he'd go out laughing.
In a solemn voice, belied by the twinkle in his eye, he began:
"He came from oh, so far away,
Aragorn looked puzzled, but Imrahil's jaw dropped. Surely not!
"No other warrior had the skill
The King turned bright red, and cast a look of reproach at Frodo, who returned his look quite innocently. With a sigh of defeat, Aragorn leaned back.
Imrahil put the palm of his hand to his face. No, oh no!
“From the north he came
"I told her 'dread' and 'raid' did not rhyme." Imrahil muttered softly. The King's head whipped round, and he gaped at the Prince, who stared back, shrugged and bit his lip.
As the dreadful verse continued, praising the mysterious Captain Thorongil's many exploits in ever worse and more lurid rhyme, the listeners were trying to suppress their own laughter.
"He was so very handsome and tall,
Menelcar spoke the last line, and bowed with a flourish, and the room erupted into laughter. Aragorn's face was flaming with embarrassment, but he too, laughed along with the rest--it had been so very dreadful!
Finally, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes, he turned a reproachful glance at Frodo. "Truthfully, Frodo, you *never* found that in the Archives! You *must* have made it up!"
The offended look on Frodo's face was almost enough to make up for his own embarrassment. But before Frodo could make any hot denials, Imrahil spoke up.
"I am afraid, sire," he said, "that they did indeed find that in the Archives. You see, I hid it there myself."
There was a stunned silence. Then Faramir said in a choked voice, "You could not have possibly written that, Uncle!"
"I never said I did! I said I *hid* it. Your Aunt Ivriniel wrote it!"
"I must have this tale," said Aragorn.
"It's quite simple. My older sister had a very strong infatuation for y--for Captain Thorongil. She mooned about you--him--constantly, to my own everlasting embarrassment. I was only a lad at the time, and I loved to taunt her over it. Our mother, of course, was appalled, for at that time no one knew who Thorongil was or what his birth. Our father found it funny, but was not otherwise displeased, as it made her turn other suitors away, and he thought his first daughter still too young for courting, for all that she was seventeen. It never occurred to him that she might attempt to make a declaration of her feelings.
After another spectacular naval victory led by Captain Thorongil, our family accompanied him here to the city, where the Steward had a grand celebration planned.
Shortly after our arrival, I overheard my sister in her room, seemingly speaking to someone--yet her voice did not sound quite right. I peeked through the keyhole, and saw her declaiming a poem to herself. It did not take much thought to realize it was of her own composition, so I did what any little brother would have done: I opened the door, and offered a bit of literary criticism. She was furious, and grabbed me by the hair of my head, breathing fire and threats. In self-defense, for I knew I could not strike her, I grabbed the poem from her hand. She shrieked and let go of me, and I took off running. She chased me for quite a while, until we came near the public parts of the Citadel, and she realized her behaviour might be seen. I however, kept running. I thought of the perfect place to hide the poem."
"In the archives!" Faramir exclaimed. He was thoroughly fascinated with this bit of family history. It was hard to imagine his staid Aunt Ivriniel as a besotted young girl. It was easier to imagine his uncle as a mischievous child--he sounded as though he must have been much like cousin Amrothos at that age.
The Prince nodded. "She threatened me with all sorts of reprisals, but I alone knew where it was hidden, and *I* threatened her to show it to all my friends if she did not leave me alone. Which she did. I do not believe she ever completely forgave me, but she did give up writing poetry after that."
Aragorn, who had been listening, said "Thank all the powers that be!" He tried to imagine what he would have done if suddenly faced by a lovesick Princess of Dol Amroth. Thorongil might have had to leave Gondor many years earlier.
Frodo lay a hand on his arm. "Strider, do you forgive our little prank?"
He turned and looked into the hobbit's face--only merriment and laughter was there, and not a trace of sorrow for the moment. Even if this joy only lasted briefly, it was worth it.
"Of course I do, you scoundrel!" he laughed.
"I wonder what else might come to light in the Archives?" said Gandalf, a twinkle in his own eyes.
"Perhaps I should search some more," said Frodo.
"Just so long as nobody else gets locked in!" said Sam decisively.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: i am hoping I made no mathematical errors when I was figuring out this story. Aragorn left to go on his "wanderings" in TA 2957. According to what I could discover, Ivriniel was born in 2947 and Imrahil in 2955. Assuming that Aragorn, as Thorongil, spent about 7 years building his reputation in Rohan before moving on to Gondor, Ivriniel would have been about 17 and Imrahil about 9. Just the right age for that sort of spat.
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