|About Us News Resources Login Become a member Help Search|
Author name: Dreamflower
Éomer looked up from polishing his elbow cops, to see his cousin enter the tent.
"Polishing your own armour?" asked Éothain. "Where's your faithful little esquire?"
Éomer did not acknowledge the lack of formality; Éothain could be formal enough in front of others, but in private he remained the cheeky younger cousin he had always been. "Merry is with the Ringbearers. They are expected to awaken today. I know that he wants to see them as soon as he can. Aragorn has said that they should wake up before noon. The hobbit will have duties enough this afternoon and evening."
Éothain sobered quickly. "They will awaken today? Is all in readiness?"
"Word is going out even now that this afternoon all the able-bodied are to muster south of the encampment to do Frodo and Samwise honour. The cooks have only been awaiting that word to begin the feast." Éomer paused in his polishing, looked with satisfaction at it, and picked up the other elbow cop and began to polish it. "I have a duty for you this afternoon as well."
Éothain changed from cousin to warrior immediately. "What would you have of me, my lord?"
"Few enough mounts have we left, but yours is among them. I must be with the soon-to-be High King and Prince Imrahil. I should like you to take charge of our Riders who are still mounted. Position them alongside those of our people who are afoot. And I should like you to take our Holdwine before you. Merry is unlikely to be able to see his friends being honoured unless he has a vantage point higher than his own two legs, stout as they are."
"That is well thought of, sire," said Éothain, still serious. "Our Holdwine deserves to see his faithful vigil over the Ringbearers rewarded." The young Rider liked to tease Merry, but he held the hobbit in the highest regard for his courage and loyalty.
"He is also to serve at the Feast of Welcoming tonight, so see that he gets there in plenty of time."
Merry led Pippin away from the beech grove in which his cousin and Sam now lay, his heart full of joy.
"Can you believe it, Merry?" Pippin asked, as they stopped briefly for him to rest. "Frodo is awake! I sometimes thought he'd never wake up!"
Merry swallowed the lump that suddenly rose in his throat. "So did I, Pip." He laughed to keep from crying with joy. "It was so good to speak to him! I wish we could have stayed with him until Sam awakened."
"He was getting sleepy again. And we are knights now. We have obligations. What duties do you suppose we shall have today of all days?"
Merry shook his head. "I've no idea. But I have a feeling it will be a good idea to have a late elevenses or an early luncheon before we start, if we are to get any food at all! I'm feeling quite hollow and a bit peckish if the truth be known."
Pippin's stomach chose that moment to second Merry's suggestion, and both hobbits laughed.
"I see we definitely have to feed your ravening beast!" Merry laughed.
The two made their slow way to the cooking area, which was all a-bustle with activity, and from which many toothsome smells were arising. They made their way to the head cook. "Master Pellas! Can anyone spare some time for a couple of starving hobbits?" asked Pippin, making his green eyes as wide as possible. At that moment both hobbit stomachs growled loudly.
The cook looked down on them, his scowl at being interrupted turning to a beaming smile as he saw who it was. "There is a mess of lentil soup in the big cauldron over the second fire; Master Meriadoc, you know where to find the bread and bowls. Help yourselves. We have little time to spare, though, for we are busy with the feast for the Ringbearers!"
Merry turned to Pippin. "Over there are mugs and a cask of small beer. You get us some of that and find a spot to sit. I'll fetch the food."
As Pippin went over to the area Merry had indicated, Merry headed to pick up two bowls and a small loaf of brown bread. The bowls were Man-sized, so perhaps they could make do with one portion a-piece, Merry thought. He ladled in the lentil soup, which smelled of onion and garlic and thyme and bay. Then carefully balancing one large bowl in each hand with the bread laid across the top of both bowls, he hugged his prize to his chest, and glanced around for Pippin. He finally spotted his cousin sitting against the shady side of a supply tent, and made his slow careful way there. Next to Pippin was a large mug filled to the brim with small beer. "I thought we'd share. It was easier than trying not to spill two of these mugs!"
Merry nodded, and passed one of the bowls of soup down to Pippin, and set the other on the grass next to him before sitting down himself. He broke the bread in half and handed one half to his younger cousin. "I thought it would be easier to sop this up with bread than to try and manage those big spoons!"
Pippin nodded, as his mouth was already full. The two applied themselves for some time with eating rather than talking, and when they did speak, it was only to decide that the lentils could have used more garlic, and rather less onion, and perhaps just a little salt. When they finished, they got up and went over to the designated water barrel and rinsed the bowls, before returning them to the stack. Then they made their way back to their tent to get into their livery.
Aragorn and Legolas were speaking together in Aragorn's tent when a voice outside said, "May we come in?"
"Yes, Elladan!" Aragorn responded, as he recognised his foster brother's voice.
The tent flap opened, and not only Elladan, but Elrohir and Gimli as well, entered. "We have something for you, Estel."
Gimli handed Elladan the cloth sack he had been holding. Elladan opened it, and took out something that shone in the dim lamplight that illuminated the tent. He handed it to Aragorn.
Aragorn looked at the gleaming circle of silver. "What have you done?" he exclaimed in shock, only to gasp as he saw another similar circlet drawn forth from the sack. Both of them were much smaller than he had last seen them. "Ada will be most displeased!"
These were the silver circlets that had been wrought for the twins, long ago, and marked them as Lords, the sons of the Master of Imladris. They wore them on all formal occasions. And now they would no longer fit the twins.
"On the contrary," answered Elrohir. "I think he would be glad that we may assist in honouring the Ringbearers. You do intend to make them Lords, as we had heard you say. Here are the trappings you need. We asked Gimli to alter them so that they would fit the hobbits."
Aragorn embraced each of his brothers in turn. “I cannot thank you enough. I was prepared to problaim them without any circlets of honour, and have those made in Minas Tirith after we arrived there. But this is much better.” He turned to Gimli. “My thanks to you as well, Gimli. The work is superb; I cannot even tell where you made the alterations.”
Legolas, who had been standing silently by, took one of them to look at. “Truly, they appear to have been made just for Frodo and Sam!”
The Dwarf blushed. “ 'Twas a simple enough matter. Ah! I nearly forgot.” He handed the sack in which he had carried the circlets up to Elladan. There clearly was still something in it. “I fashioned a couple of mementoes for the both of you from the silver I removed.”
Elladan reached in and drew forth what he found inside. Opening his hand, there lay upon his palm two miniature replicas of the circlets, fashioned into brooches.
Elrohir took one of them, and then each brother fastened it upon the shoulder of his cloak. They were beaming.
“Our thanks to you, Gimli,” said Elladan.
Gimli grinned. The brooches were his thanks to the twins for the sacrifice of their own circlets for Frodo and Sam, as well as his way to return the leftover silver. Before he could explain any of this, a voice called from without the tent: “My lords! A message for you!”
“Enter,” said Aragorn.
A young soldier came in and briefly bowed before saying, “My Lord Elessar, the Lord Mithrandir has sent to say that both the Ringbearers are awake now!”
The Sun was at her noontide zenith when Merry and Pippin returned to their tent. They were surprised to see one of the healers awaiting them.
She was a stout old dame who had attended on Pippin several times when Aragorn had been unavailable. "There you are young pheriain!" she said sternly. "The Lord Elessar asked me to strap up your knee. You should not be wandering all about!" She did not give either hobbit a chance to say a word, but pointed at Pippin's cot. Pippin sat down on its edge and stuck out his injured leg. She began to competently wrap his knee with a bandage to give it extra support, all the while lecturing him on all the orders the King had left, plus a good deal more of her own advice, as well as a long and rambling tale of a patient of hers who had failed to listen to her and had suffered a dreadful relapse.
Merry stood off in a corner, watching intently, and try not to laugh at Pippin's expression.
"There now!" The healer finished abruptly as she tucked the end of the bandage in with nimble fingers. She stood up, patted Pippin on top of the head, and sailed out of the tent.
The cousins caught one another's eye, and burst out laughing. "She reminds me of Dame Ioreth," said Pippin when he caught his breath.
Merry nodded, laughing too hard to speak.
Just then Legolas entered the tent, with Gimli at his side. "The two of you sound jolly enough," the Elf said. "What mischief have you been up to?"
"No good, I am sure," added Gimli with a wink.
Merry and Pippin tried to look wounded at the accusation, but they were altogether too happy to manage it. "You would have had to be here," said Merry. "It's one of those things that won't sound nearly so funny explained."
"Besides," added Pippin, "Today is much to happy a day not to laugh! What are you doing here?"
"We are here to help you into your armour, for it is time for each of you to report to your respective companies," said Gimli. "Pippin, you are to report to the Third Company, and Merry, you are to report to Eothain once you are both ready."
Both hobbits turned immediately to get out their gear; being knights was still a joy and a novelty to them.
It was Gandalf's laughter that wakened Frodo for the second time: laughter that lifted his heart and washed over him like a waterfall in Rivendell, brisk as a breeze through the mallorns of Lothlorien, heady as new ale in The Green Dragon. His happiness rose even higher at the sound of Sam's voice.
"How do I feel? Well, I don't know how to say it. I feel, I feel--I feel like spring after winter, and sun on the leaves; and like trumpets and harps and all the songs I have ever heard!" There was a pause and a brief sound of movement from the cot, and then the dear voice went on in a more sober tone. "But how's Mr. Frodo? Isn't it a shame about his poor hand? But I hope he's all right otherwise. He's had a cruel time."
Frodo could not bear to hear the least hint of sorrow from Sam, He sat up and laughed aloud. "Yes, I am all right otherwise. I fell asleep again waiting for you, Sam you sleepyhead. I was awake early this morning, and now it must be nearly noon."
"Noon? Noon of what day?"
Frodo listened to Gandalf explaining dates to Sam, and speaking of the King. Sam's astonished expression delighted him, and he resolved to say nothing of all he'd learned from his early morning visit with his cousins. Let the surprises unfold this day for dear Samwise; it would be a marvelous thing to see his face as each new wonder was revealed.
His attention was drawn back to the conversation when he heard Sam ask about clothes. He'd been wondering that himself. They'd both wakened in very comfortable, if slightly oversized nightshirts, and he recoiled at the thought of putting back on the things they had worn in the Black Lands. At least he could tell they had been cleaned, if not mended, for they did not stink of Orc or ash. His thoughts began to stray to the horrors of the Black Land, but not for long.
Gandalf was handing something to them, and one of them was shining brightly.
"What have you got there? Can it be?" Frodo was as astonished as Sam to see what the wizard held forth to them.
"Yes, I have brought your two treasures. They were found on Sam when you were rescued; the Lady Galadriel's gifts: your glass, Frodo; and your box, Sam. You will be glad to have these safe again."
Gandalf helped Sam out of the bed. The little gardener seemed surprised that he needed such help. "I'm sorry, Mr. Gandalf. I seem to be all weak and wobbly-like, so to speak. I can't think why."
"Can't you?" the wizard asked gently. "You and your Master came through much privation and pain, and are still weak." He helped Sam to wash and dress, and then did the same for Frodo. Frodo said nothing, but meekly accepted the help. His bandaged hand felt awkward, and he too felt "all weak and wobbly-like".
As Gandalf helped them to sit back down upon their cots, a Man came in bearing a tray. His eyes widened at the sight of the hobbits, and he gave Gandalf a grave bow. Then he placed the tray atop a chest that stood at the foot of Frodo's cot, and with another bow--this one directed at Frodo and Sam--he backed out of the tent.
"Now my lads, shall you have a bit of sustenance? The tray held tumblers of a bright orange-coloured juice, a teapot and cups, a dish of sliced peaches, some cheese, and some small bread rolls. Gandalf handed each of them a tumbler of the juice. Sam sniffed it suspiciously, and Frodo took a wary sip, and then his face lit up.
"This is delicious!" he said with delight, taking another far less cautious drink.
Sam followed his Master's lead, and his eyes widened. "It tastes like sunshine!"
Gandalf placed some of the fruit, cheese and bread upon a plate between them, and picked up one of the rolls to pick at, to keep them company and satisfy hobbit ettiquette. When the two hobbits were sated, surprisingly before they had finished all, he lead them out of the curtained beech grove and into the bright Ithilien sunshine.
Merry had been pleased to learn of Éomer's orders. Truthfully he had resigned himself to seeing nothing but knees, and to know he'd have a vantage point atop Éothain's big bay Magen was a wonderful surprise. Éothain had arranged the scarcely threescore horses on either side of the rest of the Rohirrim who were a-foot, and stood in orderly ranks in between. Eothain and Merry were right at the front of the horses on the right side, across from the Swan Knights and the troops from Dol Amroth, and just up from the Guardsmen of the City, who were all a-foot. He sighed; poor Pippin would not have such a vantage point as he did.
Just then, Éothain tapped him on the shoulder. "Sir Holdwine, look!" he gestured towards the Guardsmen. There in the middle of the third rank he saw Pippin sitting on the shoulders of a tall fellow.
Merry laughed and shook his head, then glanced back and up at Éothain. "That's a sight I've seen before, but not in many a year! When he was a little lad, he often rode atop Frodo's shoulders, just so!" He was glad to know that Pippin, too, would be able to see. Just then a cheer went up and he looked the other way to see them, looking very small and lost beside Gandalf. The three figures began the walk between the ranks of shining troops, all cheering:
"Long live the Halflings! Praise them with great praise!"
And Merry's voice joined in.
Éomer sat upon one of the high seats that had been carved from the earth. Aragorn was next to him, and beyond him was Prince Imrahil., their banners snapping in the wind behind them. All of them were watching Gandalf shepherd his two small charges between the ranks of cheering Men. They looked like tiny children, frail and wasted. Heretofore he had only seen these two in sleep—that deep and almost frightening healing sleep. Now they walked before the wizard dressed in the ragged clothing they had worn when the Eagles brought them forth from the destruction of the Black Land.
How had this all come to pass? He wondered. He was never meant to be King after his uncle; that had been Theodred's place, and he had always imagined himself at his cousin's right hand. But Fate and the Weaver had other plans, and now he sat beside his brother King, beside the High King, preparing to honour the two small beings who had braved the desolation of Mordor and risked the fires of Mount Doom to bring about the downfall of Sauron.
Men had played their part and then some, in fighting the forces of the Enemy. But the true victory had come not from mighty fighters, but from ones whose strength came from loyalty and sheer stubbornness. He smiled and glanced briefly at the ranks of the Rohirrim. There was Merry, seated before Eothain, who had taught him just what loyalty and determination meant to a holbytla.
The shouts of praise and the cheering rang out louder and louder as the three came closer. He realised that he too had joined in the shouts of praise. They were about a rod away, when Gandalf stopped moving. They took one step, another step, and then stopped as Aragorn rose.
An expression of delight appeared on both their faces, and they dashed forward, all formality forgotten, into the embrace of their dear friend. Frodo reached him first, but Sam was only a step or two behind, and as they were caught up in the King's long arms, Eomer heard Sam say: “Well, if this isn''t the crown of all! Strider, or I'm still asleep!”
“Yes, Sam, Strider. It is a long way, is it not, from Bree, where you did not like the look of me? A long way for all of us, but yours has been the darkest road.” And then, to the astonishment of many, but not of those who knew him best, the Lord Elessar bent his knee to the Ringbearers, and then he took them and turned and placed them upon his own seat, and Eomer saw the look of pride and the tears of joy and sorrow that left their traces on the High King's face, and he realised he was weeping as well.
Then Aragorn cried out: “Praise them with great praise!”
And the glorious shout of acclaim rose up like the sound of thunder.
Pippin felt relieved as Merry pushed an overturned bucket his way and pushed him to sit down upon it. Strapped up as it had been, and in the excitement of it all, he had nearly forgotten his knee; but now it was beginning to throb a bit. They were in the cook tent behind the great pavillion where the high and mighty among the host would be having their feast, along with the two guests of honour, Frodo and Sam.
Ingold, who was second cook to Master Pellas, had provided both of them with plates. “Our good King Elfstone himself bade me see you fed before you serve at table. That is not, you know, the usual way of things, small masters.”
The cousins ate, Merry standing and Pippin seated on his bucket, sharing a goblet of wine. They would have only a few minutes before the guests and their lords would be ready. As they finished up their food and wiped their fingers upon clean towels, Merry looked closely at Pippin. “You are in pain, Pip.”
“Not enough to keep me from doing my duty!” was the firm reply.
Merry took a small packet from the pocket of his trousers. “Strider gave me this with strict orders to see you take if I thought you needed it.” He sprinkled the powder it contained into the last of the wine in their goblet and handed it to his cousin.
Pippin made a face, but dashed it down. “Shame to do that to good wine,” was his only complaint. He stood up, and he and Merry went to join the rest of the squires and pages as they took up the trays and went to serve their lords.
Frodo laughed at Sam's astonishment upon seeing Merry and Pippin, and then turned his attention to the food: there had been stewed greens, and grilled fish, and roasted fowl and several kinds of bread, and a compote of stewed dried fruit. Though there was little variety, for they were after all, still in an army encampment after a long campaign, it was all quite deliciously prepared. Frodo was sure the fish was freshly caught in the river, and the birds, no doubt, had been hunted that very day.
He was beginning to grow weary, though, and sleepy with the wine. He'd eaten and drunk judiciously—Aragorn had warned them both to take it easy this first day of having solid food to eat. Frodo, though, had begun to feel sated much sooner than he thought he might. He quit eating when he began to feel full, even though his eyes and his mouth both told him he wanted more.
He was relieved when Aragorn—King Elessar, he supposed he should get used to saying—stood and gave a toast of farewell. Gratefully he followed his friends back to the beech grove where he and Sam had awakened. Someone had built a small fire, and the eight remaining members of the Fellowship sat about it, and they talked together of many things until Gandalf and Gimli chivied the hobbits off to their cots. Pippin had finally nodded off even as Gimli reminded him that he needed rest, and Aragorn picked him up like a child to carry him. Frodo thought with amusement at how much Pip would object to such treatment if he were awake.
Aragorn saw each of them to their beds, and tucked them in like a fond father.
Sleepily, Frodo spoke to him. There was something his friend needed to know.
“You know, you don't owe us anything. We did what we had to do. Besides, you gave us your best gift long ago.”
“And what was that, Frodo?”
“You gave us your love. Good night, Strider.” Frodo could stay awake no longer, as he drifted off to the soft snores of his friends.
|<< Back||Next >>|
|Home Search Chapter List|