(NOTE: The wonderful song found in this chapter, "Fate and the High King's Falcon," is the work of the dazzling talented Llinos. I remain humbly in her debt for crafting such a remarkable poem, and one that encapsulates the very heart of this story. I understand that Marigold beat her with stickses to make certain the poem was completed on schedule, so I am yet further indebted to her. In addition, Marigold first conjured up the image for me of Pippin listening in wonder to a song about his deeds, thus inspiring this entire story. Please remember both of them in your feedback, as you would not be reading this story without their efforts.)
(From Llinos: I would like to dedicate Pippin's Song to Marigold, because without her muse and dedication to prodding and bullying me, I most definitely would not have written it. It is in every sense her poem -- she just graciously allowed me to write the words down.)
(From Marigold: This story and song in tribute to Pippin and his deeds has been a niggling idea of mine for well over a year, and was something that I never thought would actually be written because of it's very scope and grandeur - if it couldn't be done with the proper magnificence, better it not be done at all. But then I met Llinos, and soon after that, Baylor, two incredible, gifted writers, that both give me great pleasure by allowing me to meddle in their tales. Together they have crafted this amazing present for Pippin, for me, and for all of you.
Thank you Baylor, for the months of work that you have put into this story, and for letting me poke at it and add my own bits here and there, and thank you Llinos, for the amazing single-minded effort you put into writing Pippin's incredible Song, putting all of your other work aside until it was finished. I was there watching you through the writing of the first stanzas and know just how much this took out of you. I love you both more than I can say, and not just because you have brought this 'niggle' of mine to life. I hope the other readers appreciate the efforts of both of you as much as I do, and take the time to tell both of you so!)
Day 32 of the New Year (April 26 SR)
An early departure time and the amount of work needed to pack up camp prevented great amounts of merriment on the army's final evening at the Ithilien encampment, but as twilight swelled into night, the king sent for each member of the Fellowship until all eight were accounted for about a small fire behind the king's tent. Merry and Pippin, finally done with their duties and arriving last, found not the High King seated before them, but Strider the Ranger, wrapped in his grey cloak and smoking his pipe.
"Well, Strider!" Merry said in surprise. "If you're here then I suppose it's no supper and walking all night until we collapse."
"Only if you survive the midges and the snow and the brambles and the wind, Merry," Aragorn replied in amusement. "But if the king were here he would tell you to sit and enjoy the fire and a satisfying dinner while you take your leisure." He gestured to a small table set with dinner. Pippin was already looking it over.
"The king feeds us much better than Strider ever did on the road," he said, "though from the looks of it, Frodo and Sam have already been at this table and taken the best of everything for themselves."
"We did not," Frodo said indignantly from where he lay on his back contemplating the night sky. "That was Gandalf."
Gandalf laughed. "It was only because I have not had my pick of the platter in so long, as Master Took generally beats me to supper," he said. Pippin did his best to look affronted around his mouthful of grilled fish.
Merry and Pippin settled in to eat with relish, and the rest of the Fellowship, bellies already full, reclined where they would, Gimli and Aragorn drawing on their pipes. There was some idle talk, but for the most part the eight companions were quiet, simply enjoying being together.
Legolas, though, did not sit, and paced slowly away from the fire, watching the stars, turning to check on the Fellowship every so often. When Merry and Pippin had finished their meal and settled in next to Frodo and Sam, Legolas turned and came closer to the loose circle about the fire.
"Are we ready?" he asked Aragorn, and the High King nodded. The hobbits all turned curious faces to the elf, who was clearly preparing to make some type of announcement.
Legolas bowed to the hobbits, to their surprise, and his eyes shone as he spoke. "I have a small gift for you, Pippin, and I hope it will give to you some small portion of the joy you have gifted to me," he said.
Pippin's eyes grew wide, and he looked a little frightened. He had apologized for the drinking-song excitement, of course, and Legolas had readily forgiven him, but still . . . Before he could give voice to his growing trepidation, Legolas began to sing.
The omen came soaring in from the sea,
An untamed bird, both wild and free.
It looked down on the green and rolling land,
Far away from the ocean strand.
The innocent child gazed up in awe;
He saw a falcon -- then so much more.
He heard a promise in its eerie cry,
Promise of a love that would never die.
His heart beat faster and he knew for sure,
This was the one he had waited for.
The Peregrine Falcon’s wayward flight
Heralded the birth of the High King’s knight.
The knightling was blessed with beauty and grace,
Sweet of temper and fair of face.
He filled all others with such light and love;
The Spirits grew envious, watching above.
Death jealously stalked the frail bird from the start,
For the fledgling was small, although great in heart.
Fate reached cold fingers to ice his sweet breath,
Steal his dear heart and freeze it in death.
But his soul was too warm, Fate’s fingers were burned,
Death drew back his hand and the lesson was learned:
No matter how small, how tender, how frail,
With such goodness and love, Evil cannot prevail.
The young falcon thrived in the lush green hills,
Ignored all woes and cast off all ills.
His cousins were older and wiser than he,
They were nervous of Fate and his cold decree.
They nurtured the small one, keeping him near,
Safe from danger and free from fear.
Precious to many, but one above all,
Taught him to walk and would not let him fall;
With the twin of his heart he learned to run,
Into merry adventures, mischief and fun.
So they became each, a part of a whole
Bonded together in spirit and soul.
Whispers grew of a dark, nameless fear,
A time of terror was drawing near.
No one else listened or seemed to see,
But four hunted sparrows were forced to flee,
Away from the golden shades of the Shire,
Into peril that was dangerous and dire.
Black riders thundered along in their wake,
Pounding the earth and making it shake.
When such Evil threatened his kith and his kin,
The little bird found new courage within:
'We’ll stay by your side, right to the end;
We’ll never desert you, our cousin and friend!'
The great and the mighty agreed in debate,
Evil must be destroyed, ere it was too late.
Of elves, dwarves, or wizard, men mighty and bold,
None there dare handle the corrupt band of gold,
So an innocent childling, faithful and true,
Offered to try what the strong could not do.
A Fellowship picked from the brave and the best,
Would guard and protect him throughout his Quest;
But bow, sword or axe, magic staff and great shield,
Were as nothing beside what true love can yield,
So the little hawk ruffed up his feathers with pride,
He would fight for his kin and not be denied!
Then he fluttered his wings and learned how to fly,
Staying close to the ground and never too high.
He chirruped and twittered and sang his sweet song,
Lifting up hearts as they journeyed along.
The ice-covered mountain threw down its cruel snows,
He wanted to sing, but the tiny bird froze.
In the depths of the mines he tried to keep still,
Then the goblins awoke and he made his first kill.
But almost as soon as his courage awoke,
The great leader fell and the little bird broke.
Loved like a Grandsire and now he was gone,
But hawklings can't cry -- they just have to fly on.
Then vultures descended, the foul Uruk-hai,
Scattered the little birds, making them fly.
The tiny brave falcon knew it was his part
To lead them away, though fear filled his heart,
But the warrior eagle, mighty and great,
Could not leave his two precious chicks to their fate.
His dear little ones that he'd learned to cherish,
He could not, he would not, allow them to perish.
He fought with such rage, so that they might survive
And gave his life's blood to keep them alive.
The small falcon wept and a promise was made,
If it took all his life, the debt would be repaid.
Tied, torn and hurt the small bird was taken,
But he knew in his heart he would not be forsaken.
In that darkest hour, with his courage awoken,
He tore off his brooch to leave as a token.
Although his defiance brought whipping and pain,
The three hunting hawks knew their chase was not vain.
Hungry and weary, he held on to his hopes,
And a little bird cannot be tied up with ropes.
He beat his small wings until he broke free,
Then flew to the safety of forest and tree.
The brave half-grown falcon gave all he could give,
So Fate then decreed that the fledglings should live.
In the deep of the forest a wonder occurred,
The little ones chirruped and a strange legend stirred.
Old as the mountains, forgotten and sad,
The happy bird's trilling made their hearts glad.
Like a mighty great tree that grew from a bud,
Like the tiniest rain drops that start a great flood,
Like the first chinks of light that herald the sun,
Like the silvery motes from which moonbeams are spun,
When their light feathers touched like snow from on high,
An avalanche started, that shook earth and sky.
So the great wizard learned that two tiny birds
Could charm even the trees with their innocent words.
When floodwaters roared like the Sundering Seas,
The power of Orthanc was brought to its knees.
Those two tiny nestlings had caused it to fall,
The mighty cast down by the smallest of small.
Then the Riders rode in and found their way barred
By two stoic eaglets, who proudly stood guard.
They chirruped and had such a sweet song to sing,
Their melody charmed a great army and King,
While the three weary hunters did not chide or chafe,
Happy to see their chicks both whole and safe.
So the truants came gladly back to the fold,
With adventures, wonders and tales to be told.
But little birds have inquisitive eyes,
And a bright shiny bauble is a sweet prize.
The magpie conquered the falcon that day,
Till he became victim of his own prey.
Though the wise owl refused, he could not resist
To steal just one look, before it was missed.
But the glass held dark raptors, evil and grim,
The falcon quaked at the vileness within.
Malevolence sought to rape his pure mind,
But sweetness and light was all He could find.
Most mortals could not such Evil endure,
But the falcon's heart was too precious and pure.
Frightened and hurt the fledgling was shaken
By the power that dwelt in the orb he had taken,
But kind, gentle hands soothed the tiny bird's fright,
Then bore him to safety, through the black night,
To the shimmering City of the white gleaming towers
With roads of cold stone and scant trees or flowers.
Here dwelt the sire of the eagle who fell,
A Nobleman haunted beneath a dark spell.
Then the little bird knew that the time had arrived
To make good his debt to the one who had died.
Bravely he spoke out and offered his sword,
And pledged his allegiance to the great Lord.
But the Steward was filled with worry and care,
The Blackness had clenched his soul with despair.
All words of hope sounded empty and hollow,
One son was dead and the other would follow.
He condemned his line to a grim fiery death,
Defying cruel Fate to steal his last breath.
But the little bird knew that Fate was the liar
And the innocent had to be saved from the pyre.
Bravely he flew and brought the wise one,
And together they rescued the Nobleman's son,
He thought of the debt and the promise he'd made,
Then saw in his heart, a small part had been paid.
The war still raged on but the falcon was stronger,
His feathers now fledged, a nestling no longer.
But his heart was aching for want of his other,
Closer than friend and dearer than brother.
Then from out of the battle's turmoil and din,
Wandering alone, he found his soul's twin
Who had fought a great foe, and paid the price,
He was injured and lost and his arm was like ice.
His little heart wrenched at his precious one's plight,
He bit back his tears and held him so tight,
Keeping him close with his sheltering wing,
Until he was healed by the hands of the King.
Then the small falcon knew the course he must serve,
To fight for the King with each sinew and nerve,
And proudly he swore to follow his task,
To do all and more that his duty might ask.
Grown to a soldier, the brave little bird,
Marched to the war to hold good his word.
He fought not for glory or the hope they could win,
He fought for his friends, his country and kin.
Like a terrible ocean the enemy poured,
Wave upon wave, a great ravening horde,
Evil and death rode out through the Black Gate,
But the falcon stood firm, not afraid of his fate.
Then the battle began and death was now near,
He drew his small sword and fought without fear.
He slew the foul monster for the life of his friend,
And even in triumph, accepted his end.
The little bird knew as the dark filled his eyes
No more would he see green fields or blue skies,
No more would he sit with his ale by the fire,
No more see his loved ones or home in the Shire.
Cries heralded the eagles as they flew overhead
But crushed in the dark, he knew he was dead,
The falcon's freed spirit now soared to the sky,
'Little one, please come back! It's too soon to die!'
The battle was over and victory proclaimed,
They tended the fallen and succoured the maimed.
As a foul beast was lifted with loathing and dread,
The little bird lay there, broken and dead.
So tiny, so fragile, his hour had been brief,
Now all they could give were their tears and their grief.
They thought of his kin, but not how to explain,
For the void of his loss would bring so much pain.
Then the Valar were moved by the sadness and strife,
They let fall a small touch, one brief chance of life,
Then all of Creation seemed to pause for a breath --
As Fate pulled the Falcon from the deep well of death.
The Falcon's soul flew far away from the earth,
The furthest he'd been since the day of his birth.
Pain upon pain made his mind fly away,
Till the King called him back and bade him to stay.
Gently he whispered in the wounded one's ear,
Words soft and sweet that a small bird could hear:
Your wings are now fledged and you need to soar,
Mel tithen fileg, al-revia thar-taur!
He had to hold on, he had to stay true,
So the falcon heeded the voice that he knew:
Mel tithen fileg, al-revia thar-taur!
Remember you must find your way back once more.
The little bird turned from the lure of the sky,
Sweet voices were calling, 'Don't give up and die,
'Please stay, little one -- you cannot just leave,
'You have to hold on -- you have to believe.'
He struggled to reach his body once more,
Back to the pain that he'd fled from before.
He tried to cry out as if he would say,
'Please help me I'm lost and I don't know the way!'
But soft healing hands answered his fears,
As they mended his hurts and soothed away tears.
So gently they nursed him until he was whole,
And safe once again with the twin of his soul.
The small bird grew strong as the long days went by,
Till his wings were healed and once more he could fly.
Although he'd not looked for any reward,
He was proud to have given the great King his sword.
Now the falcon was grown both in stature and grace,
With a spark in his eye and pride in his face,
As his King named him gallant, daring and sure,
Chivalrous and brave, stout-hearted and pure.
His heart leapt a beat as he finally knew,
The omen of his beginning was true,
So proudly he knelt to receive his birthright,
For Fate had named the falcon -- the High King's Knight!
Legolas bowed again to the hobbits. Four stunned, open-mouthed faces stared back at him, and then Pippin stood up.
"But that wasn't all about me, was it?" the tween-ager asked in a trembling voice. "I didn't do all that -- I couldn't have. Is that really my song, Legolas?"
Legolas bent down to look the hobbit in the face. "It is really your song, Pippin," he said firmly. "And you really did do all that."
Pippin's face froze in bewilderment, and he opened and shut his mouth several times, without words for once in his life. Then his expression changed, and it was like the rising of the sun it shone so bright.
"Is it better than the drinking chorus section?" Legolas whispered, and then he was on his back with an armful of hobbit.
"Legolas, you sang my song!" Pippin gasped in wonder.
"Yes, but you wrote it," Legolas answered, wrapping his arms about the hobbit and uncaring of the fact that he had landed on a number of discarded dishes.
Gimli, Gandalf and Aragorn exchanged jubilant smiles, but the other three hobbits still looked amazed. "You know, I forgot it was our little Pippin that the song was about," Sam said in wonder. "It was like one of the old songs about the great heroes, wasn't it, Mr. Frodo?"
"It was just like that, Sam," Frodo said softly, amazement giving way to pride and gratitude.
Merry's open mouth had curved into a smile, and his eyes shone. "And it was a song about a great hero," he added, and then suddenly Legolas had his arms full of two hobbits as Merry caught Pippin, still on Legolas' chest, into a hug.
Frodo could only resist for another moment before he wrapped his arms around Pippin and Merry both as best he could, trapping Legolas ever more firmly on top of the unwashed dishes. Sam stood and debated with himself with a moment, but then the other hobbits all held out arms to him. As Sam lost himself in a tangled embrace of limbs and curls and one now-quite-crushed elf, he heard Gandalf laughing, and it seemed to him that the wizard's laughter was almost like a song itself.