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B2MEM prompt: Astron (April) on the Shirish card.
Murmurs of Encouragement
“And where is Pippin?” Gandalf asked Merry, found sitting before the tent the cousins shared, polishing the belt buckle for his dress uniform.
“Pippin? Gone to the enclosure where Frodo and Sam are still sleeping. He wants to be certain they have reason to awaken today, just in time for the feast. Lord Erchirion was escorting him.”
The Wizard noted that Merry no longer appeared as taut as a drawn bowstring. Aragorn’s assurance that morning that Frodo and Sam would awaken today had obviously relieved his anxiety for his beloved older cousin and the gardener who’d become so dear to all of them. Still, the Brandybuck must have wished to go with young Peregrin to see for himself that Aragorn hadn’t been exaggerating the condition of the two who’d come so near death at the foot of Oródruin. But Meriadoc had learned patience in the last few weeks, patience and forbearance. He’d been able to spend many hours at the bedsides of Frodo and Sam, while it had only been yesterday that Pippin had been able to rise from his own sickbed to hobble assisted to look on the occupants of two more sickbeds, two who were so precious to him that he’d sacrificed the last of his youth for them. That Merry had allowed him to go alone was an unspoken acknowledgment that Pippin was indeed now an adult who deserved his own time with Frodo and Sam.
Gandalf laid his hand on Merry’s shoulder and smiled down into the Hobbit’s eyes, proud of what each of these small ones had accomplished, and set off to follow Pippin’s trail. As he approached the enclosure, he met Erchirion of Dol Amroth returning to the camp. Prince Imrahil’s second son nodded a greeting. “I left young Sir Peregrin at the enclosure for the Ringbearers,” he said. “He brought some blooms to brighten the place for when they awaken. He tells me that Lord Samwise is a gardener in his own land.”
“That he is, and perhaps one of the greatest of gardeners in all of Middle Earth,” Gandalf agreed. “Always the gardens of Bag End have been beautiful, but he has managed to bring even more beauty there since he took over his father’s place.”
“Perhaps one day I shall be able to see such wonders for myself.” Smiling, Erchirion gave a brief bow and continued on his way.
The guard on this side of the enclosure saluted and pulled aside the fabric that served as a door, allowing the Wizard to enter. He saw Pippin standing between the two beds. One thing was unexpected—the Took was facing Sam rather than Frodo, and he was holding a bunch of flowers near Sam’s nose.
“Look, Sam,” he was saying in a coaxing voice, “look what I found. There must have been a home here at one time, just south of here. There are a lot of flowers growing there, as if there used to be a garden. Here! Here’s a stalk of bluebells, and one of grape hyacinths. And daffodils—oh, I can’t wait to see you looking down on the daffodils growing there. Narcissus, too, I suspect, although I don’t always tell them apart right, not like you do. I’m not certain what kind of lily this is, but I did bring a sprig of lily of the valley, too. Which do you like better, the lily of the valley or the other one? It’s a soft orange color, Sam, and has spots. Smells sweet, doesn’t it? And what about these apple blossoms, or these yellow ones?”
He leaned over the sleeping gardener with the flowers held carefully to one side so they wouldn’t get crushed, and pressed his cheek against Sam’s, whispering into his ear. “You have to wake up today, Sam, you have to! You can’t believe what a feast they have planned for your birthday! Yes, I know your birthday was two days ago on the sixth of Astron, and you’re thirty-nine now, but we’re celebrating it today. And soon we’ll go home, back to the Shire, and you’ll be able to kiss Rosie and finally ask her to marry you. I know you didn’t do it before we left, in case you wouldn’t—in case we never got to go home again. But now we shall! And wait until you see Strider—you won’t believe it! Strider and us! And Lord Faramir can’t wait to see you again!”
He straightened, tears streaming down his face, but smiling hugely as he said more loudly, “Wait until you see it all, Sam! Now, wake soon, for I’m hungry, and I won’t be allowed to eat until you do! This is the one birthday present we all want, you know—for you and Frodo to wake up to see all that’s planned for today!” He set the flowers down on the table between the two beds with the blossoms toward the gardener’s nose. Gently Pippin leaned over Sam again and kissed his cheek, then turned to Frodo and carefully smoothed away an errant lock of hair from where it covered his eye before leaning forward to kiss Frodo’s forehead. “You, too, Frodo,” he whispered.
Frodo stirred, turning his head a bit with a slight frown as if of concentration on his face. Then the sleeping Baggins shifted onto his back. Pippin looked up to meet the Wizard’s eyes, his own wide with hope.
“Yes, Pippin,” Gandalf said in soft tones, “even now they’re stirring. Best hurry, if you’re to be in your uniform when they come forth!”
There were more tears, but the young Hobbit’s face was shining with relief as he nodded and scurried out of the tent as quickly as his healing injuries would allow him, off to spread the word that the sleepers would indeed awaken soon, soon! Gandalf watched after him briefly with fondness, then turned to look down at Frodo, whose face had smoothed and was even smiling now as the scent of the flowers Pippin had brought reached him. He’d awaken very soon, perhaps within minutes, and he was still capable of pleasure!
As for Sam, he, too was smiling, but rather than stirring he appeared to be slipping deeper into a final dream. Gandalf allowed himself to peek at what images the gardener entertained, and realized that Sam was dreaming of Rosie Cotton smiling at him with promise. So, he realized, it is not just Aragorn who has one who loves him as dearly as life itself watching over him from afar!
With that thought in mind, he sat himself on the stool that stood between the two beds, to await the awakening of the two great heroes of the Age.
Far away in the Shire, Rosie Cotton paused in the act of slipping a covered basket into the hands of Marigold Gamgee, her head turned as if listening to news carried from afar on the renewed west wind they’d enjoyed for the last two weeks.
“What is it?” Marigold asked in an anxious whisper.
“It’s Sam,” Rosie murmured. “It’s Sam! He’ll be comin’ home! Yes, he’ll be comin’ home now!” The worry of the last few months of worsening conditions under Lotho Pimple fell away from her face. “You’ll see—our Sam, he’s comin’ home to us—to me!” And her face was alight with renewed hope as she left her friend to carry the food she’d smuggled into the village into the raw brick place into which Marigold and the Gaffer had been moved.
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