The Second Night

*All the characters mentioned here are the property of J.R.R.Tolkien's estate. They are used without permission but I'm not getting any money from this.*

*The phrases Pippin quotes are from, respectively, "A Journey in the Dark," "The Ring Goes South" and "A Journey in the Dark" in FotR. The phrase Gandalf quotes is from "The Palantir" in TTT.*


As he had done only one night before, Gandalf caught up Pippin's sleeping form in a blanket and bore him swiftly from the floor of the hut to Shadowfax. They ought to reach Minas Tirith by morn of the next day, barring any unforeseen incidents.

As night wore on, Gandalf became increasingly aware that his small charge was in the throes of some unpleasant dream. He hesitated for a moment. In Rivendell he had probed Frodo's mind but the hobbit had been quite vocal in his illness. Though Pippin thrashed about as best he could in the blanket, he gave no indication of what his nightmare entailed. Gandalf took but a moment longer to make his decision, and bent his white head closer to the hobbit's curly one. "Peregrin Took, I charge you - show me what is the matter!"

A tremor went through Pippin's body, reminiscent of the previous night, and all at once the wizard was on a dark meadow beneath a sky so black not even the stars could shine through. Before him, Pippin and Sam sat on the edge of still pond, not noticing his presence. The younger hobbit's face was contorted with pain. "Oh, Sam, Elrond was right. I am no good at this. Why did I not stay in Rivendell or return to the Shire? Fool that I was, naught but a fool of a Took!"

Gandalf frowned at that and was faintly aware that Pippin's sleeping form, outside of this nightmare world, shifting in his arms. Pippin's tone of despair gave the wizard's exasperated words from Moria a new and harsher meaning than what he originally meant.

Sam gave Pippin a sorrowful look and faded from existence. Gandalf approached the solitary hobbit and to his surprise, cast a reflection in the pond's surface. He had been sure he would go unnoticed. Immediately Pippin tensed and leaned towards the water.

"Gandalf? Is it truly you? I am so sorry, Gandalf, for the rock, for your death, for everything!" He turned quickly and his eyes frantically scanned the darkness. "Gandalf? Are you here?"

The wizard shook his head as the hobbit stumbled past him. "By Gilthoniel, Pippin," he murmured, "I had no idea you blamed yourself for the Balrog."

Pippin showed no sign of having heard Gandalf but continued his search. In desperation he glanced upward and froze, transfixed by the sudden sight of a glowing full moon high above him. "I have never seen the moon look so round and clear," Pippin whispered. "It calls to me." As Gandalf watched, the moon descended towards them, growing in size. But the pure white darkened to a deep red. Pippin's eyes grew wider as the sight of Isengard and the winged Nazgul became clearer. "No, please! Not again!"

The scenes within the red-stained orb grew more terrifying, as the great Eye of Sauron filled Pippin's vision. He cowered back, until his shaking limbs could no longer support him and he collapsed in the black meadow. "Please - help me, Elbereth!" his thin voice pleaded, hiding his face in the ground. "I cannot bear it a second time!"

Just as Gandalf was about to intervene, a shining circle of white shown in the center of the Eye. It grew larger and larger until at last the palantir orb could take no longer and it exploded into a thousand bright pieces of white light.

Gandalf had shielded his eyes from the blaze but when he lowered his arm, he was stunned by what stood in front of Pippin. It Gandalf the White, but a Gandalf as the wizard had never seen himself. His double's eyes were stern and uncompromising and he looked down at Pippin with a gaze of judgment.

The young hobbit curled into a ball under the weight of guilt and grief. "I did not mean it, I swear to you! Please, please forgive me. I meant no harm when I dropped the rock, truly. I'm so sorry, Gandalf. I did not know my foolishness would bring about your death! Please, Gandalf . . . ah, no! Gandalf! Please, sir, mercy!"

The Dream-Gandalf remained unmoved by Pippin's terrified babbling. He raised the white staff, about to pronounce some terrible sentence, when the true Gandalf stepped forward.

"Enough! Peregrin, awaken! Come back from the land of dreams."

Gandalf returned to himself, still astride on Shadowfax, still cradling the small hobbit. Pippin awoke with a start, his limbs all a-tremble. His wide eyes took in the wizard's concerned look and he immediately struggled to get away. Gandalf tightened his grip on his flailing charge. If Pippin were to fall off now, he would surely be trampled by Shadowfax's swift hooves.

"My dear Pippin, put your troubled mind at ease," Gandalf spoke gently. "I do not blame you for my death any more than I blame apple trees for not bearing acorns. It was through my own arrogance that my fall came about. I should have known the Balrog would not surrender so quietly."

"What of the Stone?" Pippin whispered, still looking away. "Would you call me a fool if I were in truth not one?"

"If I call you foolish it is because your actions show a regrettable tendency to be not thought out," Gandalf admitted. "But in the courts of Man he who is the Fool is often regarded as having divine madness or slanted wisdom. Others might have looked into the Stone and faired worse than you, Pippin. Naiveté and ignorance, perhaps, would be more accurate than foolishness. Be at peace, my dear hobbit."

"Then you don't hate me?"

"Hate you? Certainly not! You have become quite dear to me, Pippin, as have all of the Fellowship." He allowed for the revelation to be pondered, then asked quietly, "Are you afraid of me, Pippin?"

"Oh!" The hobbit squirmed, embarrassed. "Well, that is to say . . . you can be terribly imposing sometimes, Gandalf."

"Do you say imposing when you mean fearsome?"

Pippin hesitated and even in the darkness Gandalf could see him blushing. "Certainly at times I do fear you. Or rather, the power you are able to wield. But what I feared most of all was your anger and hatred, Gandalf. I remember listening to your stories late at night when you used to visit Bilbo at Bag End."

"I remember that as well. Most often you were caught halfway through for being awake when you should have been asleep."

Pippin smiled at the memory but quickly sobered. "And you seemed so kindly towards us then. I feared the quest had changed you. You have been more cruel and impatient towards me than you ever were in the Shire."


In a low voice, Pippin repeated the hurtful remarks that had been directed towards him. " 'Fool of a Took! Throw yourself in next time and then you will be no further nuisance.' 'Then you certainly will not be chosen, Peregrin Took!' 'Knock on the doors with your head, Peregrin Took. But if that does not shatter them . . .' "

"Pippin, Pippin, you read too much into the words of a crotchety old man with more worries on his mind than politeness!" cried Gandalf, amused and yet saddened by the accuracy of the hobbit's memory.

"Just the same," Pippin protested, "it is not very pleasant to be in constant fear that one will be blown to bits by an irate wizard."

"I daresay it is," Gandalf replied soothingly and tucked the blankets around Pippin again. "And I am sorry for causing you such anguish. Yet may I say you gave quite as good as you received?"

"I am sorry for that as well," Pippin murmured. "It seems trouble follows me as inevitably as a shadow on a sunny day."

"Ah, well, it is a trait of the Tooks and you cannot help your bloodline," Gandalf said. "No, no protests! You know it to be true. Bilbo has it, Frodo has it, and even Merry has it to a certain extent. It is one more thing to keep a wizard on his guard. Are you quite recovered now?"

"I think so. But Gandalf . . ."

"You must wait a while longer before you know 'the names of all the stars, and of all living things, and the whole history of Middle-earth.' Now go back to sleep, my lad. We have as yet a long journey ahead of us."