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The next day, Frodo began his search among the many books and scrolls available in the library of Rivendell. There was an entire section devoted to the records kept of the old Kingdoms, and of Arthedain in particular, as well as the records kept of the Chieftains of the Dúnadain. With Erestor’s help, he was soon set up to begin copying the information he needed.
Ten days. Frodo had allotted himself ten days to do the work he wanted to do, before he needed to take Merry and Pippin back to Buckland. If they followed his plan, they should return just in time for Merry to be there with Estella when it was time to sit for their gifts.
The first few days, both Merry and Pippin helped as well as they could, finding texts in Westron, and doing some of the copying. But Pippin soon grew bored and impatient, and after the third day, he and Merry found other things to do--much to Frodo’s relief. Merry was a big help, but tended to get distracted by his own interests--herbology and genealogy and maps. And Pippin not only tended to fidget, but to sing or hum or even worse, talk. Frodo found he worked far more quickly with only Erestor’s help.
Merry and Pippin wandered down to the smithy, armory and training field.
They greeted Master Dorlas, the armorer, with enthusiasm. The Elf was pleased to see the two young hobbits. He had grown quite fond of them during their previous stay in Rivendell, when Glorfindel and Boromir of Gondor had sought his assistance in making training gear for Merry and Pippin. He had watched them as they threw themselves with enthusiasm into their new skills, and had been much amused at their efforts.
“It is very good to see you again, Meriadoc and Peregrin! Do you know, I still have your padded jerkins and leather armor.” He reached up to a shelf, where the items had been stowed neatly away.
Pippin touched the items, and shook his head. “I don’t believe any of these would fit us now,” he said ruefully.
“But we have armor of our own, now,” said Merry. And indeed, in the hopes of getting in a bit of sparring, they had worn their armor that morning.
Dorlas smiled. “Indeed, it is very well made gear.” He examined Pippin’s mail shirt and Merry’s leather cuirass critically. It was obvious that although the items might have been originally made as indulgences for royal children, they were also quite functional. And while they were not so beautiful as such items made by Elves, nevertheless they were well-crafted and attractive.
“I still have your sparring weapons, as well,” he said, a smile twitching the corner of his mouth. He nodded his head to the rack of wooden swords used for training, and indeed, there were two, much shorter and smaller than the others.
The two hobbits exchanged a grin, and soon the open training ground echoed to the clack of the wooden swords.
When last they had time to train in Rivendell, they had been novices under the patient and amused tutelage of their friend Boromir. Now they were warriors themselves, seasoned by their encounters with Orcs and Ruffians, and they had been given additional training in their time away by other friends: Aragorn himself, Faramir, Éomer, Legolas and even Gimli. They had sparred with their comrades among the Rohirrim and the Citadel Guard, and learned much.
But they had discovered a true delight in sparring with one another. Nearly equal in size and reach now, and knowing one another so very well, they could easily anticipate one another’s moves. It was sport, and they played to win, though that still was more important to Merry than to his younger cousin, but it was also like a graceful dance, one that exhilarated them both.
Today, neither of them gained advantage over the other--it was instead, the summer heat that defeated them both, causing them finally to stop, winded and sweaty, in order to take a breather. They turned, surprised to see behind them Glorfindel, a grin on his face, and a waterskin in his hand. Thanking him, they each drank thirstily, and only afterwards realized they had drawn an audience. In addition to Glorfindel and Master Dorlas, they saw Elladan and Elrohir, and Finrod, who had all been watching them.
Glorfindel chuckled. “I see, Merry, that you have learned not to hold your breath.”
Merry shook his head ruefully, remembering how embarrassed he had been about that bad habit. Boromir had often had to scold him about it, and it had nearly landed him in trouble. “It’s not a problem any longer!” he said.
Pippin wiped his brow. “I think it’s time for elevenses,” he said. “Do you suppose we could get the cooks to spare us a crust?” He tried to look pitiful.
Glorfindel laughed. “I am supposing that they are already expecting you, and will have a great array of treats set out for you! They have missed having hobbits about who appreciate their art!”
Merry handed the now empty waterskin back to the Elf. “Will you join us? I’d really been hoping for a chance for a bit of conversation with you.”
Pippin gave Merry a sharp look. He knew just what Merry wanted to talk about to the Elf.
Glorfindel raised a brow. He, too, had an idea of what Merry wished to ask him. He nodded, and the three of them walked back up to the house and the kitchens.
Most certainly, the Elves in the kitchen had outdone themselves as usual. Pippin gave Merry another look, and then said “I don’t see Cousin Frodo here, of course. He’s quite possibly lost in the mists of time somewhere in ancient Eriador. Why don’t I make up a tray for him--and me--and see if I can coax him to eat there in the library?”
Merry smiled gratefully at Pippin. “I doubt if you’ll need to do much coaxing. His appetite has quite returned to normal along with the rest of him--but still, he *will* forget to eat when he is reading. Most unhobbitlike of him, but very Baggins!”
Glorfindel was not fooled. The last couple of days had seen Merry and Pippin dragging Frodo away from the library at mealtimes; it was clear that Pippin was wishing to leave Merry alone with him. As the hobbit poured tea for the both of them--Glorfindel had become rather fond of taking tea with Bilbo over the last few years--he studied Merry. It was clear that the young hobbit had been schooled through his experiences. There was the scar above his brow, taken when he and Pippin had been captured by the Orcs; there were the faint scars of rope burns on his wrists and the callouses from his sword work; his right arm bore also a very faint tracery of white scars, given when his blade had struck the Witch-king, part of the spell that had protected Angmar for so long. Most of all there was the hard-won wisdom in his grey eyes.
For a few moments they conversed about the cheese tarts and the apple pastries, to satisfy hobbit propriety, but the Elf could tell that Merry was hoping for an opening to ask his questions. He decided to spur him on.
“Well, Merry, what is it that you wished to ask me?”
Merry blinked at the abruptness of the question, and then chuckled. “For an Elf, you do come right to the point! Why old Treebeard might call that positively hasty!” He took a sip of his tea, and met Glorfindel’s eyes. His question when it came was equally abrupt.
“Did you know that I would be part of fulfilling that prophecy you made?”
The Elf put down his own teacup. “Not at first. You must understand, Meriadoc, that I did not at first truly realize what my prophecy meant: ‘Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall.’ Though Angmar was defeated by our forces, he had fled away. As we thought to give pursuit, I suddenly was visited with the foresight that caused me to say that. I saw a brief vision, of the Witch-king, confronted on a battle-field by a woman and what I thought was a small child. I knew that it would be useless to pursue him, that the doom I had envisioned would be at the end of the Age.”
Merry nodded, and nibbled absently at another cheese tart. “So you had no idea that it could have been a hobbit there?”
The Elf shook his head. “I suppose I should have done--we had a few hobbit archers there at the battle, doughty and determined, but hopelessly overwhelmed by the forces against them.” He closed his eyes for a moment, at the memory of pain, seeing those childlike figures, like broken dolls upon the field. It was an image that had never faded from his mind. “Still, it did not occur to me.”
“However, when I found you with Aragorn in the Wilderness, and knowing that Frodo carried the One, it did suddenly come to my mind, that of course! it was indeed a perian who had stood there so defiantly with the woman!”
Merry’s eyes grew distant. “I did not much feel defiant, if you must know. All I felt was despair, and sorrow, that Éowyn might die there alone and unaided. I thought the least I could do was to die at her side.”
“Still you struck the blow, my small friend.”
“And so I did begin to think, as the Companions for the journey were chosen, that it might have been one of you four, although I still had no idea who the woman was, nor how she might have been on such a battlefield with a hobbit, nor why they two would be facing so fearsome a foe alone. And yet, Merry, when the tale was told to me, I was not surprised that it was you.”
Merry looked up and his eyes grew wide, an expression of astonishment on his face.
Glorfindel smiled. “I had noticed your particularly tenacious and loyal spirit, Merry! And Bilbo had told me that you were the guiding force behind seeing that Frodo did not leave his home alone. Your heart is naturally that of a guardian.”
For a moment, Merry was silent, studying the Elf’s face, as if seeking a confirmation of his words in his countenance. Then he looked down, and murmured “Thank you.”
“Prophecies are chancy things, Merry. Angmar was overweening in his pride. He heard of my prophecy, and thought that it made him invincible.”
Just then Pippin arrived, Frodo in tow. “We polished off the tray and came to see what other goodies might remain--”
Frodo had overheard the latter part of the conversation. “It’s often so with evil, that it cannot believe it would ever be defeated.” He took a cheese tart. “That was the mistake Sauron made, when he made the Ring, in thinking it could never be destroyed.” He spoke casually, with none of the hesitation or pain that had once marked any mention of the One.
Pippin, who was pouring himself a cup of tea, said, “Actually, it just shows what a fool the Witch-king was.”
Glorfindel cocked his head in amusement. “Angmar would have been the last one to think himself foolish. And many of his defeated foes over the years might disagree with you, Pippin. He was a fearsome antagonist.”
“Still,” said Pippin cheerfully, “he *was* a fool! Why, that prophecy should have made him all the more wary, not less so!”
Merry shook his head. “And whatever makes you say that, Pip?”
“Well, the prophecy said ‘not by the hand of Man’. So it turned out to be a woman and a hobbit. But it could just as well have been a Dwarf, or an Elf; it could have been an Ent, or an Eagle, or even an Orc, if one betrayed him. Why it could have even been Old Man Willow--or a wild animal like a bear or a wolf! There are a great many beings in Middle-earth that are not Men! Or it said 'by the hand'--suppose some Man decided to kick him?”
Glorfindel chuckled. “You do have a point there. Though I do not suppose any of those beings would have had the right weapon at the right time, and while a kick in the head might have been salutary, I do not believe it would have killed him.”
“True,” said Pippin, taking a bite of an apple pastry, and then licking his fingers. “But he wasn’t to know that, was he?”
And Glorfindel threw back his head and laughed, and the others joined in.
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