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From Wilderness to Cities White  by Larner

Written for a B2MeM prompt by Dreamflower.  For Armariel.

Letting Go the Fear

            The Lady Arwen Undómiel was returning to her own rooms from the chamber in which the Hobbit Frodo Baggins slept, carrying her sewing with her.  She was moved by the stricken Hobbit’s combination of vulnerability and sheer strength of will.  To hold such a malevolent thing as a Morgul shard at bay for so long was unheard of!  Only Boromir, father of Cirion of Gondor, had ever survived such a wound, and was healed only because her father had left the north to go to his aid.  But what good had that done in the end?  Had the Man not withered due to ongoing pain from his wound, living but twelve years of the Sun once the Shard was removed from his body?  Little enough good had her father’s aid proved to him in the end!  Would it be with this Frodo as it had been for that once powerful Man?  It was said that even the Witch-king of Angmar had feared Boromir of Gondor, while his wisdom and fairness as Ruling Steward for the South Kingdom was legendary.  She found herself offering up supplication to the Belain for guidance for her father’s hands as he sought to search the wound for the shard in the morning.  It must not be with this one as it had happened with the Lord Steward Boromir there before her mother was forced to leave Middle Earth.

            Using osanwë she advised Mithrandir that Aragorn had come to Frodo’s room and could undoubtedly benefit by the Wizard’s company, and then let her father know that his fosterling had been unable to sleep and had returned to continue his watch over the Perian.  Satisfied that with someone to watch beside him Aragorn might finally relax enough to sleep, she took a turn out of the hallway she was traversing to cross a courtyard to the building where her own rooms were situated, only to be arrested by a furtive sound from the region of some bushes.

            It sounded like a sniff.

            But even with the fuller sight granted to those of Elven heritage at first she could not see who it was that had sniffed.  Only a slight movement as someone lifted his hand to rub at his nose told her that someone was huddling almost underneath the bushes.  A second, more forceful rub caused the individual’s cloak to fall open slightly, and with a glimpse of a loose white garment under it she realized it was another of the Periannath who’d apparently taken refuge there, still clad in the nightshirt she’d seen prepared for their four new guests.  Opening her awareness to him, she sensed roiling layers of fear, grief, and general misery.

            “I can see you,” she said in a soft, low voice.  “I can tell that you are afraid for your kinsman, but I assure you that all will be well with him.  Do come with me where it is warmer, for you must be very cold dressed as you are, even with that cloak about you.”

            Reluctantly the small being slid forward out of his refuge and stood, still uncertain of his welcome in spite of her gentle words.  “It’s only I didn’t want to disturb anyone,” he murmured, and he again gave a sniff.  “So I came out here to cry it out so I wouldn’t waken Merry.  He’s so exhausted!  Only I forgot to bring a handkerchief, and Bilbo will be on me—he’s a big one for handkerchiefs, you must understand.”

            Ah!  The youngest of the four Hobbits, the one they called Pippin.  “Yes, he has told me his thoughts on the need for sufficient handkerchiefs,” she advised him.  She held out her hand.  “Come with me out of the cool air.  I believe that I have one or two that I will be glad to share with you.”

            He gave her a watery smile, took her hand, and followed her into the next building.

            Several maidens of the valley sat in the comfortable room that served as her workroom, one weaving a fine cloth on a loom near the north window that filled the room with starlight, and the rest sewing on various projects, enjoying one another’s company and talking in low voices as they worked.  They looked up as Arwen entered, and when they saw her guest they rose respectfully, each giving a quiet welcome as they looked questioningly to their lady.  In moments only the weaver was left, the others sent here and there to fetch refreshments and cushions on which the Hobbit might sit comfortably.  Arwen went through a chest and brought out a handful of handkerchiefs in a variety of colors, and Pippin was amazed and delighted, his tears having abated.  Now that he was in the light she could easily see his eyes were puffy from weeping and his nose quite red.  Certainly he was already benefitting from her gift as he wiped his eyes and blew his nose.

            “We’ve been so distracted just trying to keep Frodo alive and warm and finding our way through those hills—Strider called them the Ettenmoors—that it’s taken till now to realize just how frightened I’ve been,” Pippin explained, turning his handkerchief and blowing his nose again.  “We were all terrified when the Black Riders found us at Weathertop, and I know I froze!  I mean, Merry and I both just fell right down on the ground!  Neither of us was any good at all at protecting anyone!  At least Frodo tried—he tried to cut off the biggest Black Rider’s feet, although apparently all he did was to cut a slash through his black cloak.  Strider found it the next day, the cloak, I mean, and you could see where Frodo’s sword cut a gash in it.  But there was no blood on it, and Aragorn said something about a blade perishing if it actually did any damage to—to one of them.  But, how in Middle Earth does a blade perish, since swords and knives aren’t alive?  I find I don’t understand a good half of what Strider’s trying to warn us about.

            “But I’m so glad that Frodo decided to trust him back there at the Prancing Pony.  Strider does know about traveling in the wild and about how to fight the Black Riders.  He told us to each take up one of the longer sticks from the fire and use it to ward them off, but we didn’t listen.  And he’s not really slept since Frodo was hurt.  I don’t know how he’s stayed awake and alert like he has.  Although he did get us a bit lost, apparently, trying to go around instead of staying right on the road where they might find us easily again.  Not that I blame him, really.  If he’s usually stayed on the road and avoided the Ettenmoors because trolls are found there—that’s what I think he said, at least—then of course he’d likely get a bit lost when he had to go that way, I suppose. 

            “He and Glorfindel both warned us that the Black Riders were probably at the ford before we got there, and they were right, weren’t they?  But this time we all grabbed the burning sticks and used them, and Strider was right—the Black Riders and their horses went back into the river just as it rose up and swept them away!  Was that Elf magic, the river rising up like that?  Glorfindel knew it was going to happen.

            “And are you related to Lord Elrond?”

            The last question came so swiftly after the comments about the Black Riders that she was momentarily taken by surprise.  She took a breath to steady herself after Pippin’s rapid-fire speech and answered, “Yes.  I am his daughter, Arwen.  There are three of us who are children to our adar, my twin brothers, Elladan and Elrohir, and then me.  In the absence of my naneth I serve as Lady of Imladris.”

            “And you keep piles of handkerchiefs in your chest there?”

            She laughed, suddenly glad for this youngling’s curiosity.  “Once we realized how much Bilbo is reassured to have ready access to such things, I have seen to it that there is always a good supply of them ready for when he needs new ones.  They are easy to prepare, so I usually have a dozen or so at hand at any time.”

            “I’m glad,” Pippin said, and once more blew his nose before setting the used handkerchief aside and taking a new one.  “And I’m certain that Bilbo must love these.  They are quite soft and such lovely colors.  My sister Pearl used to make a dozen for him each year for Yule gifts.  She’s the seamstress in the family, Pearl is.  And he always seemed to really appreciate them, not like Ferumbras who never really sounded glad to get them when she gave him handkerchiefs.  Although he did seem to like it the time she made him a white silk cravat for her birthday.”

            He dabbed at his nose, and then twisted the cloth between his hands.  “We were so frightened, and terrified that Frodo might die from his wound.  His shoulder and his arm were so, so cold!  We tried everything we could to keep him warm.  I gave Strider my extra shirt to wrap warm stones in to lay against his side, and both Merry and Sam would lie down with their shirts off, pressing their own shoulders against his, trying to warm him that way, while I would lie against his other side.  He’d be almost all right in the morning, but after he’d been riding on Bill—that’s Sam’s pony—for a time his face would go grey and his eyes blank, as if he wasn’t seeing things clearly.  Sometimes he’d be muttering things we couldn’t make out, or almost answering their cries when we’d hear them in the distance.”  He looked up intently into her eyes.  “Will he be all right?”

            “I believe so, Pippin.  My father is a skilled and powerful healer, and has learned many things during his time here in Middle Earth.  He has saved the life of at least one person who was injured as was your kinsman Frodo, and he has learned even more in the yeni since that day.”

            “And Lord Elrond will be trying to get the piece of knife out of Frodo in the morning?”

            “Yes, he will search the wound then.  However, he might not be able to remove it the first time.  It is not always easy to find small fragments of weapons left behind.  But if he cannot remove it tomorrow he will do so when he searches the wound again.”

            Pippin shuddered.  “I just hope there is no second time looking for it,” he said.

            “Nor does he,” she answered him.  “But he is good at what he does.”

            He gave a single nod.  “I’ll hold you to that.”  He was quiet for a time, then appeared startled when he found himself yawning.  “I do believe,” he said through a second yawn, “that I’ve got the fear out of me.  No,” he said to one of the returning maidens who offered him a plate of cheese and crisply toasted bread, “I am embarrassed to say I’m not really hungry for a change.  I’d best get back to our room and go back to bed before Merry awakens to find me missing and becomes frightened for me.  Thank you so very much!”

            He accepted a drink of hot milk, thanked them all for their care and concern, and at a nod from Arwen one of the maidens led him back to the door of the room assigned to himself and Merry.

            Arwen watched after him, glad to meet still another Hobbit of the Shire.  Bilbo was something special, she knew, and it appeared the same thing could be said for young Pippin as well.


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