Originally published online in February 2003

Chapter 1. Sunset

King Elessar was returning from a visit to Belfalas when word of the accident came to him. The Thain had fallen from his pony and lay in the Houses of Healing. He leapt down from his lathered horse and went directly to Pippin's bedside.

'Ah, Strider, I wondered when you would come.' The hobbit had briefly opened his eyes to greet him, but seemed very tired.

'I hear you have discovered a novel way of dismounting a horse.'

'Yes. I would not advise it. Though it is much faster than the usual way.' The silence stretched out, then Pippin sighed.

'Is there anything I can get for you?'

The hobbit lay so quiet for so long that the King wondered if he had fallen asleep. Then, 'Ah, Elessar, the White City is fair indeed, but it is only cold stoneā€¦' The King waited. 'In those darkest days, when all seemed lost, all I wanted to see again was cool sunshine and green grass.' Another pause. 'It is dark, Strider. So dark.'

The King swallowed hard before he could speak. He leaned forward to grasp his friend's hand, and said, 'We will find you some of that cool sunlight and green grass, Pippin. How would you like to see Bergil again? We can go to Ithilien.'

The hobbit smiled, though he did not open his eyes. 'I would like that just fine,' he answered, and slipped into sleep.